There are a number of reasons not to take Stafford that have everything to do with Stafford himself. One reason has to do with "price." If the Lions take him with the first pick, they will likely be dishing out $15 million more in guaranteed money than they would had they chose to intentionally drop to the 5th pick and take either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. That is a substantial difference. However, there are just as many reasons—if not more—to avoid Stafford that have nothing to do with his abilities. There is a bounty of first round quarterback prospects that will be available next year including Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and Jevan Sneed just to name a few. The Law of Supply and Demand is not on Detroit's side with respect to drafting a quarterback this year. Next year, however, it most certainly will be.
Still, the Lions will likely end up taking Stafford not necessarily just because they are the worst franchise in the history of the universe (L.A. Clippers aside) but because NFL teams in general have an infatuation with taking quarterbacks early in the draft. Like most infatuations, this one is purely illogical. The vast majority of NFL teams that have chosen a quarterback early in the draft have ended up crippling the franchise with that decision. It is amazing that teams continue to fall into the same trap considering the evidence.
QBs Drafted in Top Ten since 1990
|Year||Name||Pick||QB Rating||Pro Bowls|
Quarterbacks are important but they aren’t so important that it’s worth taking an extremely high chance of wasting an extremely valuable draft pick. Everybody wants the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Interestingly enough, Manning went first overall and Brady went in the 6th round! That dichotomy is a microcosm of the NFL as a hole. Great quarterbacks come from every round. Donovan McNabb, Philip Rivers, and Jay Cutler went in the first round. Matt Cassel went in the 7th round and Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, and Jeff Garcia went undrafted. Identifying college quarterbacks that will flourish in the NFL is about as sound a science as "Mind Reading." Plus, while everyone wants a good quarterback, many recent Super Bowl Champions have had merely average quarterbacks. Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson were no better than the league average while Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning managed games more than they won them.
The draft, by nature, if full of risks. I understand that every position produces "busts." The Lions have run the gamit over the last decade coming up empty in the first round with quarterbacks, offensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks and wide receivers. I’m not suggesting there is no risk selecting another position. I am suggesting that the risk is way too high to use a top five or ten selection on a quarterback. I’ve been saying since last fall that the Lions should use the #1 pick on the best offensive tackle in the draft. Obviously, they need help on the offensive line and have had as many issues on the o-line over the last 25 years as they have at quarterback. Here’s another reason why they should take the best lineman in the draft:
OTs Drafted in Top Ten since 1990
The vast discrepancy in the two charts above make you wonder how any NFL GM could keep his job after wasting a top 10 pick on a quarterback. The difference in level of success between drafting a quarterback and drafting an offensive tackle in the top ten is astronomical. Since 1990, there have been 25 quarterbacks taken in the top 10. In that same timeframe, there have been 24 offensive tackles taken in the top 10. The 25 quarterbacks produced a paltry QB Rating of 73.3. All of those teams on the list above were in exactly the same position the Lions are in in now. They all mortgaged the future of their franchise on a quarterback and, on average, got a return of a low 70's QB rating. The only thing worse than being bad enough to have a top ten pick is making a bad choice with that top ten pick. Most of the teams on the quarterback chart did just that and paid for it for many years. The Lions are one of those teams having already been through all of this with Joey Harrington in 2002.
The 25 quarterbacks picked in the top 10 since 1990 produced 32 Pro Bow selections. Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb make up half of those selections. On the other hand, the 24 offensive tackles produced 71 Pro Bowl selections. The tackles on that list are some of the best linemen of the last 20 years. Only three of the 24—Charles McRae, Antone Davis, and Mike Williams—can be considered “busts.” On the other hand, at least half of the 25 quarterbacks have been “busts” while only five—Steve McNair, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Philip Rivers, and Matt Ryan—can be considered elite quarterbacks and only one of those five ever won a Super Bowl.
There is still hope that the Lions won’t be able to reach an agreement with Stafford. Unfortunately, the backup plan is to draft a linebacker which is more like drafting a quarterback than an offensive tackle in terms of expected success. If the Lions don’t select Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, 10 years from now they will be just another team on a chart that shows how stupid it is to take a quarterback in the top 10 of the NFL Draft.