Posted on: September 7, 2009 1:59 pm
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced after practice today that #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford will be the starter over veteran Duante Culpepper for Week One against the Saints.
Schwartz, like the head coach of any team that used a first round pick on a quarterback, is in a tough spot. The financial commitment made to Stafford forces the team to consider using him, even if he isn't necessarily ready. This isn't to say that Stafford isn't. He is as physically talented as any quarterback I've scouted in the 10+ years I've been doing this. His mental toughness and poise consistently impressed me throughout his collegiate career and in the workouts leading up to the draft.
I believe, however, that the greatest single reason why there continue to be so many first round busts at quarterback is that too many rookies are thrown into the fire. I do not believe the success from Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco last season are reason enough to believe that rookie quarterbacks are suddenly more ready for the rigors of an NFL season. Atlanta and Baltimore had the luxury of strong running games and defenses to foster development of a young passer. Detroit hasn't yet shown either. The New York Jets, on the other hand, do have these factors working in the favor of Mark Sanchez. Should the Jets capitalize on their talent and the enthusiasm Rex Ryan has brought to the franchise by winning early with Sanchez, the pressure will only increase on Stafford to duplicate the success. Some will question if Sanchez shouldn't then have been the #1 pick rather than Stafford.
I believe Stafford has the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback -- someday perhaps even a Pro Bowl quarterback. And I certainly understand the impulse to start him now and allow him to develop a relationship with Calvin Johnson and the rest of the starting Lions.
But for a quarterback who completed 54.5% of his passes over the preseason with a touchdown to interception ratio of 1-4 over four preseason games, it might be too soon.
And starting any rookie quarterback too soon is a huge gamble.
Posted on: September 6, 2009 12:53 pm
The unfortunate shoulder injury to Sam Bradford will put some doubt into the minds of those that have previously characterized him as the likely #1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Protected by one of the greatest offensive lines I've ever seen (considering NFL talent, starting experience, and scheme) Bradford rarely was knocked down in 2008 and earned the Heisman Trophy and a berth in the National Championship game. With four-fifths of his 2008 offensive line now gone, however, one could see that Bradford will have a tougher time staying upright in 2009. Should he return healthy and go on to enjoy a great 2009 campaign, his stock could improve, as he'll answer the questions about his toughness and ability to showcase that stunning downfield accuracy with defenders in his face (my two greatest concerns about his NFL prospects).
Meanwhile, Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead, ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the second best quarterback of the 2011 class, has a chance to catch or perhaps even pass Bradford while the Heisman winner is out. Snead, like Bradford, will be missing valuable components along his offensive line this season, most notably offensive tackle Michael Oher.
Snead hasn't yet proven to be quite as accurate as Bradford -- and I firmly believe accuracy is the most important characteristic in grading quarterback prospects. He has proven, however, to have above average accuracy for his time in this offense and certainly possesses the rest of the skills necessary towards emerging as a potential early first round prospect.
There are elements to Snead's game that remind me of last April's first overall pick, Matthew Stafford. Like Stafford, Snead can fall in love with his own arm strength and will force passes into coverage. These can result in costly interceptions, of course. They also, however, give him opportunities to make some dazzling throws. Pro Bowl-like throws.
Watch him today against Memphis (ESPN, 3:30 EST) to see if Snead can take advantage of Bradford's injury to lessen the gap between the two prospects most scouts feel could challenge this year's senior class to be the first quarterback selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Posted on: August 15, 2009 6:19 pm
I've always found it interesting that for all of the pre-draft hype, there is very little reporting done on a national scale as to how rookies are actually performing during the preseason.
For this reason, I'll be watching as many preseason games as possible over the next few weeks and providing my impressions of the rookies' play in the blog.
Of course, the majority of my reports will be on the early round picks. However, I've already been impressed by several late rounders in the early preseason games and will be reporting on them here as this occurs.
That said, as the first overall pick of the 2009 Draft, it is only appropriate that my first Rookie Impression was Matthew Stafford's performance against the Atlanta Falcons today.
Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions, QB - #9 : Entered halfway through 2nd quarter against mostly second-team defenders for the Falcons. Accurate, rifle arm apparent early. Zipped passes over the middle and down the sideline, impressing early despite two ugly drops by veteran Keary Colbert. Tried to do too much with some interior pressure in his face and rushed a quick-out to the tight end Dan Gronkowski, which linebacker Tony Gilbert (ironically, a former UGA Bulldog) stepped in front of and returned for an easy 42 yard touchdown. Stafford shouldn't have thrown the pass, but in his defense, he took immediate pressure and there has been a troubling lack of separation shown by Detroit receivers throughout this game. Came back in his next series to lead Detroit to the Lion's first offensive touchdown of the preseason. Drive started at own 20. Showed good toughness and a recognition of the first down marker in recognizing tight coverage and releasing to scramble for the first down early in the drive. Ran hard and drug two Falcon defenders to get the yardage. Threw a beautiful flag route for a 25 yard touchdown to fellow rookie Derrick Williams over tight coverage. Veteran-like throw. Looked off the defense, good release and follow-through despite taking a hit from a blitzing safety to complete the pass. Put the ball over Williams inside shoulder and into his out-stretched arms where only he could touch it. Stafford, who came in roughly halfway through the second quarter, was replaced by veteran Drew Stanton after his touchdown throw, approximately midway through the 3rd. He finished 7 of 14 for 114 yards and 1 TD, 1 INT. He was considerably better than his numbers would indicate, losing at least 35 yards in drops.
Posted on: April 24, 2009 11:55 pm
CBSSports.com is reporting that the Lions have signed Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford to a six-year deal and will formally make him the first pick of the 2009 NFL Draft tomorrow.
There will be time enough for analysis.
More importantly, whether officially or not the 2009 NFL Draft has begun.
The Rams are on the clock.
Posted on: April 17, 2009 2:42 pm
According to two independent sources, I've learned that the Detroit Lions are actively negotiating with the representatives for quarterback Matthew Stafford, Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith and outside linebacker Aaron Curry for the right to be the first player selected in the 2009 NFL draft.
It had been suggested by some that Matt Stafford was essentially already signed, but today's news proves that this is clearly not the case.
Stafford, however, remains the favorite to be the final selection, though there is increasing speculation that the Lions, like many other teams at the top of this year's draft, are beginning to favor the safer prospects of the draft, rather than riskier boom or bust propositions like quarterbacks Stafford, USC's Mark Sanchez, and Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
Posted on: April 10, 2009 8:21 pm
According to a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the NFL is going to invite at least 10 players this year to Radio City Music Hall for draft day. The number is nearly double that which the league has invited in recent years and is likely an attempt on the league's part to give the increasingly made-for-television-event a reality-TV appeal. The decision to invite more players was made to highlight especially intriguing players, including some who aren't necessarily expected to be within the top ten picks.
Among the players (listed alphabetically) expected to attend are:
WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
OLB Brian Cushing, USC
QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State
OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, Texas
OT Jason Smith, Baylor
QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
Some notable names are missing on this list, not the least of which is USC quarterback Mark Sanchez (who, according to Mortensen's report is currently planning on spending the draft with friends and family), Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith and Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Interestingly enough, I spoke with Aaron Curry yesterday in preparation for Part 3 of the four-part "Road to the Draft" we're doing and he had not yet been invited...
The most players I recall the NFL ever inviting to New York for the draft was 11, back in 1996. The 1996 draft was memorable for many reasons -- Keyshawn Johnson was the last wide receiver selected with the top pick and no linebacker has been selected as high since the Jaguars made former Illinois standout Kevin Hardy the second overall pick. The 1996 draft was also memorable in that it featured the only player invited to NYC by the league that slipped entirely out of the first round. The Cardinals made running back Leeland McElroy the second pick of the second round (32nd overall).
Tags: Aaron Curry, Andre Smith, Arizona Cardinals, Brian Cushing, Brian Orakpo, Eugene Monroe, green room, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jason Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Josh Freeman, Kevin Hardy, Keyshawn Johnson, Leeland McElroy, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Michael Crabtree, Michael Oher, New York Jets, NFL Draft
Posted on: March 31, 2009 8:03 pm
According to multiple sources throughout the league, the Detroit Lions staff are raving about the workout put forth Tuesday by Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford.
Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz spoke to media at the owners' meetings last week and characterized Stafford's performance in Tuesday's workout as another critical element in the Lions' assigning their final grade on him. The Lions' offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was expected to orchestrate the workout -- a key difference from Stafford's Pro Day workout earlier in the month, when some suggested that Georgia quarterback coach/offensive coordinator Mike Bobo scripted the passing drills to highlight Stafford's strengths.
Schwartz explained how the Lions expected to change the workout to see if Stafford was indeed worthy of #1 overall consideration.
"You can put him in some situations and all of a sudden sort of throw some curveball, so to speak, at him -- see how he reacts, see how he handles that, see how he interacts with the other guys," Schwartz said. "Those are all things that you're probably going to see in a workout that you really couldn't see anywhere else."
Due to the fact that Stafford did not throw at the Combine, his performance at Georgia's Pro Day was important. Scouts in attendance told me that his throwing there was better than Matt Ryan's last year at Boston College's Pro Day. If the reports circulating through the scouting community are accurate -- that Stafford was even more impressive Tuesday -- the race to be the first pick of the draft could be nearing an end.
Posted on: March 19, 2009 3:28 pm
The Georgia Pro Day is wrapping up and the word out of Athens is that Matt Stafford helped his cause to be the first pick of the 2009 draft with a strong showing.
I just got off the phone with a scout from a team selecting in the first half of the draft who indicated that Stafford was "pretty much on throughout the entire workout" and "handled the pressure well."
Stafford threw for approximately 10-15 minutes, completing a variety of throws. His arm strength was obvious to all those attending the workout, but Stafford impressed scouts most with his accuracy, touch and better mobility than he's often given credit for.
The scout still thought it was likely the Lions would be considering one of the two tackles (Baylor's Jason Smith or Virginia's Eugene Monroe) with the first pick, but thought that Stafford "helped himself today."
The workout was especially important because Stafford, like Matt Ryan last year and many high-ranking quarterbacks of the past, elected not to work out at the Combine. He has scheduled several private workouts with teams already, with the Lions among them.