29 May 2008

The Matthew Stafford dilemma

Looking forward to next year's NFL draft (yes, there are people already trying to make that projection) and, more immediately, to the upcoming NCAA football season, University of Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford is one of the most prominent names in any discussion.

Those people who like Stafford point to his enormous talent: he was one of the most hyped quarterbacks coming out of high school in several years; he has prototypical NFL size, at 6'3", 230 lb.; and he has one of the strongest and most accurate arms in all of college football.

Those who aren't so quick to embrace the Bulldog QB point to statistics and perceptions: in two years at Georgia, he's thrown only 29 touchdowns to 23 interceptions; he's completed only 54% of his passes; he has a tendency to rush passes and to throw off of his back foot, negating his tremendous arm strength.

Stafford's supporters have called him the next Peyton Manning; his detractors, unsurprisingly, have called him the next Ryan Leaf.

I call him the next Jay Cutler.

In terms of their collegiate careers, Stafford and Cutler are strikingly similar; both (through two years) completed under 60% of their passes, and both (again, through two years) have shown flashes of incredible talent that hasn't quite been realized yet.

Cutler was the 11th overall pick when he entered the draft; he's been an average-to-above-average quarterback since he became a starter.

Is the next Jay Cutler worth the first overall pick in the draft and the 60+ million dollar contract that will go along with it? Whichever NFL GM is piloting the league's worst team will make that decision eleven months from now.

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