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Analytics experts weigh in on who won Matthew Stafford trade

After a couple days of analysis, experts have weighed in on the Lions’ big move.

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Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

We’ve now had a couple of days to get over our initial reactions to the Matthew Stafford trade that netted the Detroit Lions Jared Goff, and the Rams’ 2021 third-round pick, and first rounders in both 2022 and 2023. Fans and analysts alike rushed out their immediate reactions, grades and winners.

But now is the time for a little more honest reflection and analysis over short-term feelings and instincts. Over the past couple days, the analytics football community has put in their two cents, and while most agree we won’t be able to truly judge this trade until a couple years pass, they’ve also brought up some very interesting points to consider.

So let’s take a look at some of the more in-depth breakdowns of the Lions’ monumental trade with the Rams.

Recommended reading:

First is the issue of draft pick compensation. Did the Lions get enough in return for Stafford. While most agree two first-round picks plus a third-round pick this year is a healthy return, there is some question about the value of those picks, especially with the Carolina Panthers’ eighth-overall pick in this year’s draft apparently on the table.

What’s up for debate is the value of those future first-round picks. Obviously, we don’t know where those picks will land, because the Rams could win the Super Bowl and make them 32nd overall picks or they could fall flat on their face and land Detroit a top-10 pick.

Additionally, teams regularly give a full-round discount on future picks, meaning a 2022 first-round pick is worth a 2021 second-round pick. You may remember that the Lions traded into the fourth round of the 2018 draft to select Da’Shawn Hand by sending the Patriots their 2019 third-round pick.

But there are other things to consider here, and PFF’s Kevin Cole tackles a couple of them here, and suggests Detroit’s draft capital fell just short of a top-10 pick:

“There are reasons to think that the teams might value future picks more due to difficultly evaluating this offseason, or that the Lions specifically should value future, multiple picks more with a likely path of rebuilding ahead. Adding these considerations, the market value of the pick package could be viewed higher, but probably not as high as a single top-10 pick.”

Football Perspectives Chase Stuart wrote an interesting piece on the value of future picks, based on the known commodity of Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Johnson’s trade calculator. He concludes the Lions’ haul could be closer to a top five pick:

Here, the Rams are getting Stafford, a relatively known commodity. Does that argue for a higher discount rate? Perhaps so. So let’s say we use the 20% number. How do we value the 88th pick in this year’s draft plus the two first rounders the next two years? If we consider the 2022 and 2023 first round picks to be average in value, and then apply a 20% discount, those picks combined with the 88th overall selection are equivalent to the 32.6 points on the Football Perspective Draft Value Chart and 1817 points on the traditional, JJ Chart. That’s equal to between the 1st and 2nd picks on my chart, or the 4th pick on the traditional chart.

Then there’s the value of Matthew Stafford. Opinions have varied wildly on Stafford’s career, both locally and nationally. While most agree Stafford is an upgrade over Goff, Ben Baldwin of The Athletic has doubts that the value is that significant.

“In total, PFF’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) measure has Goff adding slightly more value than Stafford over the past four years, in part because he played in more games,” Baldwin wrote. “Though no one will argue that Goff is a better player than Stafford, it’s hard to find evidence of a vast chasm between the two in the past.”

Baldwin’s entire piece is worth a read, as it attempts to account for offensive line and wide receiver play, but still comes to the conclusion that most seem to simply believe that Stafford will be a huge improvement over Goff simply from coaching.

PFF’s Kevin Cole seems to agree.

“Our grading didn’t see a huge difference between the performance of Stafford and Goff since 2017 (excluding Goff’s disastrous rookie season), with Stafford posting a PFF passing grade of 84.7 and Goff at 81.6.”

Then there’s the issue of Goff and his hefty contract. Over The Cap seems to believe this is a “gamble” for Detroit that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“As I write this out that really makes no sense at all especially given the future numbers here so maybe the Rams are going to pick up some of the cost of the Goff contract,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Either that or they really love Goff.”

For what it’s worth, it does not appear the Rams are picking up any of the cost. Stuart, too, believes Goff’s contract was a burden that the Lions were willing to take on for more draft capital.

“Which means the Rams — and the NFL — must view Goff as a liability. Stafford alone isn’t worth the 3rd pick in the draft, but Stafford is worth the 3rd pick along with Goff’s contract.”

So what did everyone conclude about the trade? Here are some of the main takeaways from each article

Over the cap:

So for building for the future I like this type of draft compensation. It gives the new front office and coaching staff a chance to get their feet wet and get a better feel for what they need rather than going for the immediate rebuild and putting all their eggs in one basket so to speak.

The Athletic:

For the Lions, again, the answer is obviously yes. They did a great job here.

Football Perspective:

“I feel pretty confident in saying that such a collection of picks is worth more than Stafford alone”


“The Lions probably aren’t competing for the next couple of years, so acquiring assets with limited downside and disproportionate upside is the perfect play to raise their ceiling going forward.”

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