Mon, 08 Mar 2021

2020 position breakdown: Quarterbacks

Detroit Lions
14 Jan 2021, 00:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

The good: No one can ever say Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford isn't tough as nails. The 2020 season was a difficult one for Stafford on many levels. There was the false-positive COVID-19 test early on, and then a close-contact issue where Stafford had to isolate for a week leading up to Detroit's Week 9 contest in Minnesota. Stafford also dealt with thumb, rib and ankle injuries, and despite it all, started all 16 games this season.

Stafford notched his 31st fourth-quarter comeback win this season, the most among all quarterbacks since 2009. He also recorded his eighth 4,000-yard season, and is now 16th in career passing yards (45,109) and 16th in career touchdowns (282). Stafford passed Hall of Famer Joe Montana in the touchdown category this year.

Stafford ranked in the top 10 in the league in first-down passes and passer rating on attempts of 21-plus yards in the air.

The bad: Quarterbacks, like head coaches, are ultimately evaluated on wins and losses, and Detroit didn't win enough games to be playing meaningful games in December, which is always the goal coming into the year.

Stafford threw 13 interceptions on the year, the most he's thrown in a season since 2015. Three of those were pick-sixes, and a couple others were deep in opponent territory that took potential points off the board. Stafford was also sacked 38 times, the seventh most in the league.

Stafford injured his right ankle on the first possession vs. Tampa Bay Week 16 and didn't play the rest of the contest. Without Stafford, the Lions' offense struggled in an eventual 47-7 loss, with the only score coming on Jamal Agnew's 74-yard punt return. Chase Daniel was ineffective moving the offense for three quarters, and David Blough wasn't much better in the fourth quarter. That contest put the depth at the position behind Stafford in question.

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Key stat: Stafford's final quarterback rating for 2020 of 96.3 ranked 14th among the league's QBs.

Free agents: All three Lions quarterbacks - Stafford, Daniel and Blough - are under contract for the 2021 season. Stafford is signed through the 2022 season.

Draft: Will the Lions look to find a young quarterback in the draft they can develop behind Stafford for a year or two? Will the new general manager and head coach look to reset the position entirely?

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is the likely No. 1 overall pick for Jacksonville, and some think he's a generational talent at the position, much like Patrick Mahomes has become in Kansas City.

After Lawrence, Justin Fields (Ohio State), Zach Wilson (BYU), Trey Lance (North Dakota State), Mac Jones (Alabama) and Kyle Trask (Florida) could all be first-round selections at quarterback.

Players like Ian Book (Notre Dame), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Feleipe Franks (Arkansas), Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) and Jamie Newman (Georgia) could be quarterbacks that interest the Lions in Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.

MVP: Last year, without Stafford for eight games due to a back injury, the Lions were 0-8. When Stafford left early Week 16, it was clear the Lions didn't have a chance without him.

Stafford has proven to be irreplaceable for the Lions the last two seasons, which is why the team could take a serious look this offseason at the depth at the position. Stafford certainly wasn't the biggest reason the Lions won only five games this season. In fact, it's pretty safe to say the Lions would not have gotten to five without him.

Quotable: "Difficult, disappointing, all of those words come to mind," Stafford said about missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season. "I want to win. I want to be in those games more than anything. It starts with me, I can play better, help us get there. That's the way I look at it. I want to win just as bad as anybody, if not more so, but the thing that I can control is how I play.

"I could have played better to help us win some more games in some other spots this year, and maybe that gave us a chance. My focus is on what I can control and what I can manage, and that's just doing everything I can to make myself a better player."

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