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ESPN: Matthew Stafford is an Offensive MVP candidate for 2017

After an MVP run in 2016, one ESPN writer believes Matthew Stafford could do it again in 2017.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

If this offseason has taught us anything, it’s that the national media doesn’t have much faith in the Detroit Lions in 2017, but they do in Matthew Stafford. If you look at any offseason predictions or projections, the Lions aren’t expected to make the playoffs, and in some cases, they aren’t even projected to finish in the top half of their division.

However, Stafford has been showered with praise all over. He’ll finish in the top 40 of NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2017” list, former NFL quarterback Chris Simms named him the third-best quarterback in the league and back in May, andq ESPN claimed the Lions had the fourth-best quarterback situation in the NFL.

Both of these trends continued with Dan Graziano’s article from Wednesday. Graziano listed the 99 people who will shape the 2017 NFL season. Matthew Stafford was the only Lions player to make the list, but his appearance is notable for where Graziano placed him.

The players are listed in no particular order, but they are placed into categories. Stafford is listed along with just eight other players in the “Offensive MVP race.” What’s perhaps even a bigger sign of respect is the fact that Graziano only listed two other quarterbacks on that list: Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. (Full disclosure: Graziano was also the author of the piece that listed Detroit’s quarterback depth chart as fourth-best in the NFL.)

Last year, Stafford made an MVP run through three-quarters of the season when the Lions went on an 8-1 run and Stafford threw for 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions during that nine-game span. However, a poor finish due to a tough schedule and a finger injury derailed any chance for Stafford to earn any postseason honors.

This year, Stafford will return with a few new offensive weapons, a retooled offensive line and a healthy (knock on wood) backfield. If it all manages to come together in 2017, Stafford could certainly find his way into the MVP competition come January.

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