Fantasy Football: Matthew Stafford is poster boy for waiting to draft a quarterback

After an injury-shortened 2019 campaign, Matthew Stafford is now the poster boy for a recommended fantasy draft strategy.

By a chunk of deeper measures, 2019 was the best season of Matthew Stafford‘s career. He posted career-bests in passer rating (106.0), yards per attempt (8.6), yards per completion (13.4), adjusted yards per attempt (9.1) and QBR (70). He also finished second in the league in passing yards per game (312.4).

But virtually any other statistic attached to Stafford’s 2019 campaign comes with an “on pace” caveat. He was on pace for just shy of 5,000 passing yards through eight games (2,499 yards), with 19 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

In a 31-24 Week 9 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Stafford threw for 406 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also emerged from that game with a back injury, later revealed to be fractured bones, and he did not play the rest of the season as the Lions went 0-8 without him and finished 3-12-1.

From Week 1-Week 9 (eight games played), Stafford had four 300-plus yard passing games and was QB6 in fantasy. He topped 340 yards through the air in each of the last three games he played (370.7 yards per game), with 10 touchdown passes (at least three in each game), a 68.6 completion rate and three interceptions in 118 pass attempts over that span. He was QB2 (Week 7), QB5 (Week 8), and QB4 (Week 9) in fantasy those weeks.

A bad Lions’ defense, in particular the league’s worst pass defense, would have kept Stafford throwing plenty had he played the second half of last season. And he appeared to be hitting a higher stride in the games before he was sidelined, so a full season finish in line with his standing in fantasy points per game (fourth-most among quarterbacks) was within reach.

Stafford’s injury-abbreviated season makes it easy to forget about him in fantasy drafts this year. His current average draft position on Fantasy Football Calculator–QB18-pick 11.04 in 12-team standard-scoring leagues puts the proof in the buy-low pudding. For further evidence, Jameis Winston is coming in at QB17 right now.

After the way his career started, it’s easy to call Stafford injury-prone. But before last year’s injury, he made every start since Week 1 of 2011, so it’s a lazy narrative.

Given the depth of the quarterback position in fantasy football, it’s generally a good strategy to wait to draft a quarterback. This year Stafford looks like the poster boy for that strategy, with legit top-10 (or even top-five) upside at a QB2 price.

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