Hey guys, now that we have had a season and a partial offseason to evaluate our 2009 draft picks I wanted to know what your expectations are for year two. Taking a look at the stats of each pick from 2009, extrapolating that information along with our FA moves and the 2010 draft I hope to find out what to reasonably expect from the 2010 season.
Matthew Stafford (Round 1, Pick 1)
The first thing that stands out to me is that Stafford played only 10 games last season, that’s a serious issue right there. But for now, let’s look at the numbers: he completed 201 of 377 passes for 2,267 yards (53.3% & 6.0yd avg.). Threw 13 TDs and had 20 interceptions, was sacked 24 times for a QB rating of 61.0. (ranked 29th). Stafford threw the ball 377 times, ranking 23rd in the league, but considering he played only 10 games, this number is pretty high. Stafford is reasonably mobile for a QB, rushing for 108 yards (5.4 avg.) and 2 TDs. His passing percentage wasn’t terrible for a rookie (but still ranked last among the three 1st round QBs in the 2009 draft); nevertheless it is a clear indicator that he could have used some more consistent pass catchers and better pocket protection. The bright spot for #9 was clearly the Cleveland game where he threw for 422 yards and 5 TDs. However, that was the game he also messed up his shoulder. This leads me to the major concern that I personally have in Stafford’s development – protection. As we all know, Stafford is a smart, talented, and committed QB – but he needs to be reasonably protected and have the time to get the ball out to the receivers or dump it in the flat if necessary. On the other hand, Stafford should have made better decisions in many of the cases where he threw the interceptions. A better run game and more reliable (and talented) targets, or a defense that could allow him to play his game instead of constant catch-up would have improved these numbers. But for a rookie he performed admirably, especially considering our re-building status. Looking forward, here are the key additions that will help improve his protection and passer numbers:
Key additions to the offensive line:
Rob Sims (LG) – As all of us are painfully aware the LG was a revolving door and the addition of Sims should/will hopefully be a big improvement. By Sims holding down the fort at LG, Backus will hopefully have an easier time defending against…get ready…Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Jared Allen (in 6 games). I really hope Backus is doing some Zen training cause he is going to get rocked this season.
Jason Fox (LT – 4th round pick) – Maybe not a starter, but because of his skill set he has the ability to be a back-up right away and helps solidify the depth (and youth) at the position. If and when Backus is huddling in a fetus position, sucking his thumb, will Fox be ready? He better, Stafford’s numbers depend on it.
Key additions to the offensive skill positions:
Nate Burleson (WR) – Hopefully will be an improvement over Bryant Johnson (please god). He has shown he can be a reliable target and is a threat in the YAC area. Last year, he caught 63 passes for 812 yards and 3 TDs for a 12.9YD avg. Statistically, he is a vast improvement over B.J. Especially considering Calvin is going to tie up two defenders on almost every down, our other receivers HAVE to step up. Stafford’s progress and out total wins in 2010 depend on this.
Tony Scheffler (TE) – Probably has better hands than Pettigrew and a reliable target in passing downs. Pass and run blocking are questionable, but that’s not the main reason for bringing him on board. Last year, he caught 31 passes for 416 yards and 2 TDs for 13.4YD avg. Statistically, he had identical stats as B.J. (I don’t like Bryant Johnson). With Heller signed to a new contract and Pettigrew’s potential improvement, I actually believe that this is one of the best TE trios in the NFL (seriously).
Jahvid Best (RB - 1st round pick) – Electrifying home-run threat…if he stays healthy. Shows that he can catch the ball and has an (Barry Sanders-like) ability to gain yards even when the line collapses. As I believe that Best’s (and the RB corps overall) production will be the biggest help to Stafford next season, I hope he is Stafford’s best friend (pun intended, cause you know there are going to be many more of these coming).
In regards to Stafford, I have to point out that there needs to a focused coaching effort to get the most out him. I especially like to point to this article in the Free Press: http://www.freep.com/article/20100512/SPORTS01/5120340
Clearly Schwartz realizes that arming Stafford with enough offensive weapons is important, but as a defensive minded coach I like his approach that "defensively, if we can stay in games and not have to play catch-up, then that's going to help a young quarterback also." Linehan has to also know how to use these new WRs and RBs effectively (it certainly helps that Burleson played for him in the past) and find a way to get Stafford to be more calm, comfortable, and trusting of the O-line. I am personally putting a lot of fan pressure on Linehan - he has got almost everything he needs for his offense so I expect some exciting play calls that use our new weapons.
With all of these additional weapons and a coaching staff firmly behind him, Stafford’s play on the field surely must improve right? Well I think that still depends on how he progresses this offseason, if he is able to develop an on-field relationship with Burleson, Scheffler and Best, and if our backups and depth players are able step up if there are injuries to our starters.
Here are the numbers that I am looking at as a bench mark to gauge Stafford’s progress and whether we can evaluate his potential for improved success in future seasons. If our OL shapes up then I expect Stafford to play at least 14 games; playing only 10 games last year really hurt his growth. Nearly a full season of play will show that his shoulder injuries are not a concern and that we can truly count on him. A reduction of pass attempts per game would be great, basically letting us know that we have a more balanced offense with Stafford making better decisions when he has to throw. I would like to see around 450 attempts for the season (putting him around Ryan and McNabb) and an increase in his completion percentage to the high 50s or low 60s (again putting him around Ryan and McNabb). Along with the increase in completion percentage, his TD-to-INT ratio (0.65 in 2009) should be at least 1.00 in 2010. Personally, considering how mobile he can be, I would like to see him scramble a little more and buy more time (I think he will be forced to do this), however, it won't be as necessary with Best in the backfield to dump it to. Reasonable pass protections, a solid run game, and WRs who can get better YAC averages will all be necessary for him to improve his numbers. Will all of these things happened? Probably not, but I think we are taking the right steps and all I want to see right now is progress. Pro Bowls and other awards are out to the question in my mind for the time being. Of course your numbers and expectations may differ from mine so I encourage you to share what you would be happy to see in 2010.
This is my first fanpost, I may have gone in circles and missed some stuff but thanks for reading. I hope to do more on evaluating the other picks if you guys want to talk about them as well.