Combine height: 6-2 1/4
Combine weight: 225 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.83 seconds
Stafford threw for 3,459 yards as a junior, completing 61 percent of his passes and throwing 25 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. For his career he threw for 7,731 yards and 46 touchdowns against 33 interceptions and completed 57 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 598 yards and six touchdowns and led the Bulldogs to three bowl victories.
Stafford has been on the radar since being the National High School Player of the Year in 2005. It didn’t take him long to make a splash in the SEC, either; he moved into the starting lineup as a true freshman and led Georgia to a 6-2 record that included three victories over teams ranked 16th or better. His success in one of the nation’s toughest conferences speaks to his competitiveness and leadership skills, but that’s not what has Stafford at or near the top of most draft boards; it’s his powerful, accurate arm. Stafford can make all the throws and while his completion percentage isn’t gaudy and some scouts are concerned that he doesn’t always lead his receivers he does have good touch on the deep ball and his overall accuracy isn’t a concern.
Stafford has decent athleticism and while at 6-2 and change he isn’t right out of central casting for an NFL quarterback there are few concerns about his size. The primary knock on his game to date is inconsistent footwork and mechanics, relying on his strong arm instead of consistent fundamentals—something that no doubt whichever team drafts him feels comfortable it can correct through coaching. Stafford also has an aggressive streak similar to that of Brett Favre in that he’s been prone to thinking his rocket arm will allow him to squeeze balls into areas where perhaps he shouldn’t be throwing; again, that’s a maturity thing that should be corrected as he gains pro experience. And most teams would rather have a guy capable of making those throws who tosses the occasional pick rather than a noodle arm who wouldn’t even dream of taking such chances.
The Lions treated Stafford to a steak dinner at the Combine—by contrast, they sent their offensive coordinator to have a sandwich lunch with Mark Sanchez—so they could certainly have their sights set on Stafford with the first overall selection. With the Chiefs having traded for Matt Cassel, the next teams in the market for a quarterback might not come on the board until the Jaguars at eight or the 49ers at 10. You’d assume Stafford would be off the board at some point in the top 10, but after watching Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers slide in previous drafts, it’s possible Stafford could slide as low as to the Jets at 17, the Bears at 18, or the Buccaneers at 19. More likely would be one of those teams dealing up into the bottom half of the top 10 if Stafford remains on the board.
Because the Falcons and Ravens both went to the playoffs with rookie signal-callers at the helm, there may be a perception that rookie quarterbacks are no longer a fantasy risk. That would be incorrect: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco finished 16th and 20th, respectively, in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks, ranking in the same vicinity as Jason Campbell (17th) and Kyle Orton (18th). Combined, the rookie duo threw for as many touchdows as Kurt Warner (and fewer than Drew Brees and Philip Rivers), succeeding primarily because they were backed by the second- and fourth-most productive running games in the league.
And that’s assuming that Stafford, an underclassman, rolls into the league with the same hot start as fifth-year seniors Ryan and Flacco. So clearly banking on Stafford for short-term value is risky at best. In keeper and dynasty leagues, however, there is obviously a bit more upside. He has the big school/big conference pedigree, he has the NFL-caliber arm, and the typical NFL comparison for Stafford is to Jay Cutler who is acquitting himself quite nicely in Denver. There is upside, to be sure; how much, and how quickly Stafford can reach that potential, won’t be known until he appears on the podium and dons an NFL cap.