Now is the time of year in which we see NFL analysts make their predictions and rank players going into the 2018 season. For the most part, those should be taken with a grain of salt. While there are plenty of hard-working analysts out there, there are just as many ill-informed media members just making their best guesses.
However, ESPN took a different approach to their roster rankings this week. Instead of asking their writers and analysts to rank players, they asked 50 NFL insiders to do it.
This panel of 50 “NFL Insiders” were asked to rank 2018 quarterbacks by tiers. This panel included:
- 10 general managers
- 5 head coaches
- 10 coordinators
- 10 senior personnel executive
- 5 quarterback coaches
- 10 other coaches/managers
So this isn’t your typical set of rankings based on opinions of random people. This is the opinion of people whose job it is to watch film and analyze both their own players and those of their opponents.
As you may expect, the results are much more palatable. You’ll need ESPN Insider to view the entire rankings, but we’ll get to the good part right now.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ranked seventh overall on the list, the highest he’s been ranked in his career. The only players ranked above Stafford are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson.
15 of the 50 NFL insiders voted Stafford a Tier 1 quarterback, the same amount of votes they gave Wilson.
“Detroit is going to be at least .500 every year with that guy [Stafford] and most years you win 9-10 games and be in the playoffs,” an anonymous general manager told ESPN.
Indeed, that has been the case ever since Stafford teamed up with Jim Bob Cooter halfway through the 2015 season. The Lions are 24-17 since firing former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and Detroit has won at least seven games a season dating back to 2012.
While some executives noted that Stafford has had to carry his team and has taken on an extraordinary amount of responsibility, the author of the piece, Mike Sando, challenges that theory a bit.
“The Lions are 25th in ESPN’s defensive-efficiency metric since Stafford entered the league in 2009,” Sando notes. “[Matt] Ryan’s Falcons and [Drew] Brees’ Saints have won playoff games and reached Super Bowls despite ranking lower over the same period.”
While that’s a salient point from Sand, it also ignores a major piece of the puzzle. Both the Saints and Falcons have enjoyed very efficient running games throughout the past decade. The Lions, on the other hand, haven’t fielded a rushing attack that ranks better than 25th in Football Outsider’s DVOA efficiency metric since 2012. In fact, Stafford has only had a rushing attack that ranks higher than 24th in DVOA twice in his entire career.
Regardless, seventh seems like an appropriate spot for Stafford. He’s far from a perfect quarterback, but after the remarkably consistent career he’s had over the past few years, he absolutely deserves to be in the conversation among both the Tier 1 and Tier 2 quarterbacks.