For fantasy football fans, and fans of the Detroit Lions, QB Matthew Stafford had an ultimately disappointing 2019 season. In week 9, Stafford injured his back for the second year in a row, and missed the rest of the season as a result. This fact, combined with team changes, uncertainty about the upcoming season, and back to back losing seasons for head coach Matt Patricia give fans reason to doubt Detroit and Stafford in 2020.
But there is more than meets the eye for Stafford and the Lions, and there are five big reasons why 2020 might be a big bounce back year for Stafford. He could very well be the sleeper QB of all fantasy drafts this year, and here is why.
1. MVP level play
In the 2019 season, Stafford quietly was playing at an MVP level before his injury. On pace to match one of his best seasons ever, Stafford had thrown for almost 2500 yards with 19 touchdowns before going down with his injury. With only five interceptions to that point as well, Stafford was having a fantastic year, and routinely had explosive plays that had fantasy owners cheering. From flea flickers to long bombs, Stafford and the Lions offense were finding a groove, and with him playing at arguably his best yet, Stafford should offer some great value in the later rounds as a QB pick.
During his 2019 campaign, Stafford had five games with 23 fantasy points or higher, offering generally reliable performance with multiple TD passes a game. Compared to some lower end QB’s, or boom or bust candidates, Stafford was a solid contributor who was offering fantasy owners consistent production at a valuable position. Especially with his current ADP expected to be around 115 in redraft, Stafford could be an excellent pick late as you bolster your roster with receivers and backs early on.
2. Strong supporting cast
Stafford can’t throw and catch the ball, but thankfully those he will be throwing to this season are some top tier talent. WR Kenny Golladay led the entire league in touchdowns for a WR last year, and that was without Stafford at the helm for a majority of the season. Marvin Jones also brought in nine touchdowns for the second time in three seasons. Top pick TE T.J. Hockenson should take a step forward as well, after his explosive first few appearances for the Lions.
But the Lions weren’t content with staying pat, as they added multiple weapons for Stafford through the draft. RB D’Andre Swift will pair with RB Kerryon Johnson to open up the field for Stafford and keep defenses guessing. Two additional offensive line picks look to keep the running game a constant threat, and Stafford on his feet. WR Quintez Cephus adds some youth to an already strong WR corps.
Stafford, already playing at an MVP level before his injury, will have more to work with this season, and on paper should have an electric, pass catching backfield alongside a league leading WR duo.
For a team that went 3-12-1 last year, the Lions have great pieces, and their offense should help them stay in any game they play. In fact, the Superbowl odds for the Lions are shifting positively according to Sports Betting Dime, as the Lions continue to add more weapons to an already potent attack. These additions will only help Stafford more as he looks to have a monster season in Detroit and take the Lions back to the promised land.
3. The defenses scheduled
While Stafford and the Lions do not have the easiest schedule in the world, of their 16 games, seven are scheduled against teams with fantasy defenses currently ranked in the bottom half of the league, including multiple ranked in the bottom seven.
This should bode well for the Lions, with almost half of their games against defenses that should allow Stafford to rack up the passing yards and touchdowns. Some of Stafford’s best games last year were against the division rival Vikings, and eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, so Stafford has proven he can score against strong defenses too.
With the schedule bringing some weaker defenses, Stafford is poised to bring strong fantasy production week after week with a high floor in fantasy. Who wouldn’t want their fantasy quarterback playing the likes of the Arizona, Carolina, Washington, and more?
Look for some big games from Detroit if these pre-season rankings hold true. Another big impact that should bring about more scoring in general is Covid-19, which has already eliminated preseason play. This should mean defenses should be rusty, out of practice, and more points should be scored across the NFL in a league that is already slanted towards the offense as it is. Stafford should capitalize and feast on some of the weaker secondaries.
4. Stafford’s health
In 2019, Stafford eventually missed a majority of the season as he dealt with a back injury. Stafford also missed time in 2018 with a back injury. This might raise questions for some, causing concern that the veteran might be getting injury prone as he enters his later years in the league. But what many are not aware of is that the two back injuries were unrelated, meaning this was not a nagging injury that will impact his play for years to come.
These were unrelated incidents that were just unfortunate parts of being consistently hit in football. Knowing this, Stafford, who notoriously had an iron man streak of 136 consecutive starts, is good to go for next season.
With two additional offensive line draft picks and a dynamic offensive scheme intent on implementing a strong run game, Stafford should have plenty of space and time to operate, while also reducing pressure from defenses.
Stafford has also been working out consistently with his key offensive pieces this off season, and is raring to go for another big year. He is fully healthy and his injuries shouldn’t scare anyone off considering they were unrelated.
The hesitance from many to grab Stafford as their QB1 is completely down to these injury risks. Take advantage of these “on the fence” owners by grabbing him and making him a steal of a pick in later rounds.
5. Do or Die
Matthew Stafford knows this season is do or die for the Lions. With head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on the hot seat, another losing season just might signal a regime change in Detroit. And with that, Stafford’s tenure there might come to an end. Another new coach and GM, along with a losing season and likely top pick, might mean that ownership is headed for a rebuild.
Incoming QB prospects like Justin Fields and Trey Lance could be intriguing for the Lions in this scenario. Knowing this, Stafford and the Lions front office are in a do or die season. They have no choice but to leave everything on the field, and fight for their jobs. Stafford will be fighting for his team, and doing all he can to get Detroit into playoff contention.
If everything aligns for the Lions, Stafford could have a monster season. He faces unpracticed defenses that are already among the league’s worst, is surrounded by new offensive weapons and key breakout candidates, his back fully healed and ready to go, and possesses a clear drive to will his team to wins. All of these factors point to fantasy value and success in Detroit.
Watch out for Stafford and the Lions in 2020.