For the second year in a row, ESPN's Mike Sando has put together quarterback rankings that are based on different tiers. Specifically, there are five different tiers. Tier 1 quarterbacks are viewed as players who "can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help," for example, whereas a Tier 5 quarterback means you're one of the worst starters in the NFL.
To form these rankings, Sando sought the opinions of 35 "league insiders" and had them put all 32 projected starting quarterbacks into different tiers. Those votes were then averaged, resulting in a league-wide ranking of the 32 projected starters at the quarterback position.
Just like last year, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford landed in the second tier, as did seven other quarterbacks in this year's version of the rankings. Specifically, Stafford tied for 12th in the rankings with the New York Giants' Eli Manning. Given that Stafford was 13th last year, it appears that opinions on him haven't changed all that much, although there was apparently quite a bit of disagreement among the voters on which tier should include him.
Stafford was the lowest-rated player to command a top-tier vote, but there were also eight third-tier grades from voters frustrated by the lingering gap between Stafford's physical gifts and his on-field performance.
That was also the theme from an anonymous evaluation of Stafford last year. Basically, he has all of the physical tools to be one of the game's best, but it's a matter of becoming more disciplined and consistent. Stafford did actually become a bit more disciplined on the field last year with his interception numbers dropping to a career low, but the Lions' offense as a whole wasn't very impressive, and a lot of that came back to how Stafford performed.
Basically, going into the 2015 season, the thought process on Stafford remains this: Physically, he's probably in the top tier of quarterbacks. It's just a matter of him elevating his play on a consistent basis and showing a killer instinct that we see from the game's best quarterbacks. If Stafford can bring the rest of his game up to the level of his physical tools, he could very well become a Tier 1 QB.