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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: Matthew Stafford No. 74

The Rams new QB comes in at 74 in our fantasy football rankings countdown to the 2021 NFL season.

Will Matthew Stafford thrive with the Rams?

Matthew Stafford has always been a bit of an enigma. His career started with injuries that kept him out of 19 games in his first two seasons, but he turned that around quickly with 41 touchdown passes in his third and first full season in Detroit. He hasn’t come close to matching that production since though and we’ve watched the Detroit Lions and Stafford mired in mediocrity for a long while now. But Stafford has flashed periods of brilliance and is finally out of Detroit and with a team that will surround him with top-tier talent in his 13 season. Can he finally breakout with proven winners?

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

The official and often updated fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.

No. 74, Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams, QB

I’ve always been high on Stafford’s potential, so now that he has Sean McVay’s offense along with strong offensive pieces all around him, I’m completely on board. From 2011 to 2017 Stafford finished as fantasy QB5, QB11, QB7, QB15, QB9, QB7 and QB7. For a big chunk of those seasons he had Calvin Johnson to throw to, but even without Johnson he was a secure Top 10 fantasy quarterback. Those runs came with some mediocre at best overall talent and coaching. That will change dramatically this season.

Competition for touches

When we look at McVay’s offense, he wants to be balanced. You aren’t going to see a huge discrepancy of pass attempts compared to rushing attempts when they are winning games. But that hasn’t mattered, as their passing efficiency has made up for it. When the Rams went to the Super Bowl in 2018, McVay helped Jared Goff to an efficient 4,688 yards passing and 32 touchdown passes on an outstanding 8.4 yards per attempt to finish as QB5 on the year. Much of that success was predicated on McVay’s offensive schemes, as we’ve seen Goff regress when forced out of his comfort zone the last two seasons and to a career low 6.8 yards per attempt last season.

Team offensive expectations

Expectations are firmly placed on Stafford’s shoulders this season. We watched McVay completely lose faith in Goff’s ability to run his offense last season. So much so that McVay appeared ready to start John Wolford over Goff in the playoffs until Wolford was ruled out due to a neck injury.

We know what McVay’s offense can do when the quarterback is playing with confidence and hitting receivers deep down field, but that hasn’t been Goff the last two seasons. I expect Stafford to be the player he wanted Goff to be and in turn get the offense back into the Top 10.

What’s his upside?

Stafford’s upside is similar to Goff’s Super Bowl run, but a tick higher. Receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell along with running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson make for a potent attack. And when the Rams get in the red zone, they throw the ball. In 2017 they ranked fourth with 84 red zone passing attempts and in 2018 they ranked first with 101.

What’s his downside?

Stafford has always had trouble with interceptions and if he and McVay cant get on the same wavelength we could see McVay shrink the offense like he did with Goff. The Rams defense is one of the best in the league and it helped them to the playoffs last season, so taking some work off Stafford’s plate could happen.

Projection

375/575, 4,800 yards, 35 touchdowns, 12 interceptions