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Georgia QB Matthew Stafford Has Top-Pick Potential, But Also Great Risk

Quarterback is the most important position in football.  It is no surprise that a quarterback is frequently selected with the 1st pick in the NFL Draft.  There is no senior quarterback in the upcoming draft that would warrant such a high selection.  However, Georgia junior quarterback Matthew Stafford has terrific physical talent that is worthy of being the top pick.  The true junior has until January 15th to decide whether to return for his senior year or enter the draft.

Stafford has NFL size (6’ 3” and 230 pounds) and a rocket of an arm that will enable him to throw every pass necessary.  When you study his play the talent is obvious, but so are the areas that need further refinement.  He will miss his fair share of receivers and needs to keep working on his footwork.  The Bulldogs’ three-year starter also will learn in time to put more air under his deep ball and be quicker to recognize blitzes and coverages.

The tools are all there for Stafford to develop into a franchise player, but he will need an organization that can supply him with good coaching, stability and a solid supporting cast to reach his full potential.  Many franchises fail to supply this, which is part of the reason why numerous highly drafted quarterbacks disappoint.  Will JaMarcus Russell reach his full potential with the coaching situation in Oakland?  I never believed that Alex Smith should have been the 1st pick in the draft, but the coaching changes and personnel in San Francisco certainly stunted his development.  Aaron Rodgers landed in a better situation that helped him be productive when it was his time.  Jim Plunkett was a bust in New England, but won two championships in Oakland where he actually had time to throw.  Every quarterback who enjoys success has a lot of help.

Matthew Stafford would benefit from another year of experience facing SEC defenses.  The pressures and expectations of being a top pick also can be difficult for a 21-year-old to handle.  The winless Lions are the favorite to land the top pick and Detroit certainly needs a quarterback.  The combination of an organization like Detroit and the talented, but raw Stafford would be a high-risk combination.  Stafford handled well the lumps he took playing as a true freshman in the rugged SEC.  This experience will serve him well if he decides to enter the 2009 NFL Draft and Detroit selects him.

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