Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is Stafford a Legitimate Top 5 Pick?

by: William P. Tomisser

Matt McGuire over at WalterFootball.com has written an analysis of why quarterbacks bust and has listed the quarterbacks since 1972 who have been busts and why they didn't make it in the NFL. He then analyzes Matt Stafford and gives his opinion whether he is worthy of being the number one pick in the draft this season.

Matt has listed three main reasons why quarterbacks fail. The first is that they are systems quarterbacks in college and, as products of those systems, fail to learn important skills that NFL caliber quarterbacks need to excel. The second is that they lack the intangibles such as leadership, work ethic, or attitude to become the focus of an NFL offense. The third is harder to quantify, as it involves the lack of a quality offensive line to protect and give the player the time to hone his skill and develop into a good player before he loses his confidence.

Looking at some of the Seahawks' more notable quarterback busts, Kelly Stouffer (1987) was an example of a failed system quarterback, and both Dan McGwire (1991) and Rick Mirer (1993) were in the lack of key intangibles group. Seattle hasn't selected a first round quarterback since Rick Mirer sixteen years ago and indications are that they would be unlikely to select one this year except for a couple of compelling reasons. To continue . . .

First of all, Matt Hasselbeck has been injured the last couple of seasons and might be headed toward being chronically injured. Even if he does play healthy this season, he'll be 34 years old in September and it's becoming increasingly obvious that Seattle needs to start grooming a serious replacement. Seneca Wallace will be 29 in June and isn't a viable option to take over the reins as an over 30 year old quarterback himself in a couple of years. Seattle needs a much younger player to hang its "quarterback of the future" tag on.

Detroit has been listed in more and more mocks as being interested in an offensive tackle instead of Stafford, who has been the most predicted pick for them with the number one choice in the 2009 NFL draft to be held in April.

That choice will surely affect Seattle in a big way because it will make it an almost sure bet that the top two left tackles will be gone when they draft at number four if Detroit does select an offensive tackle. Conversely, that move would make it much more likely that Stafford will be available as a possibility for them at number four if the draft gurus are right that the Rams are locked into a offensive tackle with their choice and that Kansas City will select Aaron Curry.

By all accounts, Seattle wants to take the best player available (BPA). Right now that certainly seems to be a toss up between Justin Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Crabtree, Aaron Curry, and -- at least in a growing number of people's estimations -- Matthew Stafford.

As Matt McGuire evaluates Stafford against the first two bust potential categories, he eliminates the possibilities that he would become a bust that would fit into either of the first two failure categories:

1. System Quarterback: This does not apply to Stafford in any shape or form. He ran a very pro-style West Coast offense at the University of Georgia. Stafford also has elite arm strength and physical tools. He is not a product of the talent around him. He is said to have high football intelligence and can pick up an NFL playbook as well as learn the extensive playbook terminology.

2. Lacks Intangibles: From everything I have heard about Stafford, he has very high intangibles. He is a leader for the Georgia offense and willed the Bulldogs to a few wins last season in the SEC. He can overcome adversity and he's tough in the pocket.

Having a good offensive line and being able to protect an investment such as Stafford is still a question mark in Detroit as well as Seattle. Matt Hasselbeck got creamed in the second game of the year last season and missed most of the season as a result. One would hope though that if Detroit (or Seattle) did draft a quarterback with a top five pick in the draft, they would take measures to ensure that they have an adequate offensive line to protect him.

In Seattle's case, Stafford would have the luxury of sitting for a year or two at the very least before he had to move into the starting lineup and therefore the line of fire. I can't help but remember Steve Young patiently waiting for Joe Montana's career to end so he could start his stellar climb to the top of the NFL quarterback heap. That was a situation that allowed San Francisco to enjoy well over a decade of top drawer quarterback play from the two of them and it all happened because Young was able to play understudy to Montana for several years and was ready to come in and be an elite starting quarterback from day one.

So, according to Matt McGuire's analysis, Stafford has a low bust potential and is worthy of the first pick in the draft by Detroit. As a result, he remains WalterFootball.com's choice in their mock draft as Detroit's first selection overall in the 2009 NFL draft.

However, if Detroit does take a offensive tackle, there is a good chance that Stafford will fall to Seattle as a possibility to be drafted with their number four pick if the Rams and Kansas City draft as expected. That would make Crabtree and Stafford our two possible choices from among the widely accepted top five players in this year's draft, particularly if we're going for a BPA approach and decide to use the number four pick instead of making a trade.

This offseason feels like a good year timing-wise to draft a young quarterback like Stafford who at 21 would probably benefit from a year or two of seasoning behind a quarterback like Hasselbeck and then be ready to step in and excel when Hass is ready to drop into a veteran backup quarterback's role.

It is worth noting that having Crabtree and Stafford still on the board would probably entice a few trade offers as many teams would covet either player and perhaps be willing to offer up an attractive package of picks to be able to move into position to draft one of them.

Anyway, all you knowledgeable fans out here in Seahawk Addicts land are invited to bring your valued opinion to the table and discuss the relative merits of taking Stafford if he drops to us and starting the process of grooming the player to take over for Hasselbeck when the time comes. Is McGuire's analysis sound? Does Stafford have the skills to be an elite franchise quarterback, especially if he can be brought along slowly and isn't thrown to the wolves in his first year? I leave it to you guys to hash out.


Bill T