Should the Lions draft QB Matt Stafford with the first pick?
The Lions need a QB badly. The starter on their depth chart is Dan Orlovsky. In 4 seasons he has a QB rating of 71.8 with 8 TDs and 8 picks. Not good. Behind him is second year QB Drew Stanton but he was very inconsistent at Michigan State and has thrown only 17 passes in the NFL. Then there is the 3rd QB Drew Henson. Henson was a better baseball player than QB and was cut by a couple of baseball organizations. His football career included one start for the Pre-Romo Cowboys in 04 but he QB rating of 64.2 doesn’t impress anyone.
So according to reports the team is going to take a QB with the first pick. Maybe that sounded like a good idea when there were 4 good prospects in the race for the top QB in the draft. But Sam Bradford went back to Oklahoma and Colt McCoy went back to Texas. That left only Stafford and one year starter Mark Sanchez from USC as the candidates for the top QB.
When you go 0-16, one guy is not going to turn your team around. So don’t be surprised if they try to trade the pick. Trading first round picks doesn’t happen too often. Trading 1st overall picks almost never happens. There are several problems. First, the amount of assets necessary to give anything close to equal value for a 1st overall pick is overwhelming. According to the draft chart first used by the Cowboys but now accepted as a good guide the 1st pick is worth 3000 points. Even if you have the 10th pick this year, it would cost you your #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 picks this year your 1, 2, and 3 next year and a young veteran starter. The Lions would love to take that but no GM could keep his job and make that deal.
Even if you could get by that problem with a number of quality young starters to replace the draft choices, there is the financial investment in the top overall pick. Jake Long, the OT from Michigan taken 1st overall by the Dolphins in the 08 draft got a contract worth 57 million dollars. A quarterback would be 10 to 15 percent higher. In addition, the 1st pick in 09 will probably get a 12% increase over 08 due to the expected increase in salary cap. That would mean that a QB as #1 should get a 5 year contract worth between 70 and 74.5 million dollars. He had better be another Payton Manning for that kind of coin.
So don’t expect the Lions to trade. Now the question is who do you pick. Miami went O line because you have a much smaller chance of a total bust with that position than QB or D line. Then there is the issue of which QB is the best choice.
Stafford is currently the flavor of the month as the top pick. As a three year starter, Stafford has a lot of college game experience. He played in the Southeast Conference which is a top league. He has great arm strength. He improved his completion percentage each season from 52.7% in 06 to 61.4% in 08. But then you watch film, you come away with some serious doubts.
He makes one throw that is incredible, followed by forcing the ball into tight coverage and an interception. Part of the problem is mechanical. He struggles with footwork and his throwing mechanics are inconsistent. He also does not seem to have the feet to move away from the pass rush and keep the play alive. He will have to learn that or be in serious trouble. The Lions line is not among the best in the NFL to say the least.
There is a question of mental toughness. Several times in the games I saw, he took the sack rather than standing up against the rush. You would like your big strong QB to keep his eyes down field and make the play as he was getting hit. That raises the question does he have the vision to an NFL franchise QB? That question will be answered only as he plays in the regular season.
Mechanics can be corrected with practice. A much more disturbing facet of his game is decision making. He has so much confidence in his arm he tires to make throws in college that are doomed to incompletion or interception before he releases the ball. In the NFL, the windows are much much smaller and the risk of interception is a lot higher. The Bulldogs were much better than all but 2 of the teams they played every year. Even so, he had a very uneven performance against some better teams.
The best corners he faced in the SEC were almost as good as the weakest ones he will face every week in the NFL. As you can tell, I am not convinced he can be a franchise QB at the NFL level and to give him 74 million over 5 years would be a mistake.
So, maybe the Lions should consider taking the other QB rated high in the draft—Mark Sanchez from USC. The NFL is very cautious about drafting a QB that only started 1 season. For Sanchez, my greatest concern is that he sat 2 seasons behind John David Booty who was taken in the 5th round by the Vikings with the 147th pick. If he couldn’t beat out Booty, is he really worthy of a first round pick let alone the first overall pick? I don’t think so. I will detail the scouting report on Sanchez in the future. For now, every time I hear someone talk about Sanchez, I hear the name Akili Smith the third pick in the 1999 draft. He had one great year with Oregon in the Pac10 as well. Look how nicely that turned out.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for NFLDraftDog.com and edits fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .Should the Lions draft QB Matt Stafford with the first pick? by Bill Smith