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ESPN ranking: Lions' Stafford second-tier QB

The Detroit News

Matthew Stafford’s ranking among NFL quarterbacks is reminiscent of the 1972 Stealers Wheel chestnut, “Stuck in the Middle With You.”

The Lions QB is slated at No. 12 and in a tie with the Giants’ Eli Manning in ESPN’s 2015 NFL QB Tier Rankings, which puts him in the second tier among his peers. He came in at No. 13 in last year's ranking.

Stafford had an average rating of 2.17 (out of 4). Tier 2 QBs are defined as ones who “are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.”

ESPN has 35 insiders annually rank projected starters on each team. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Patriots’ Tom Brady tied for No. 1 in this year's poll.

The full ranking can be seen here (pay site).

Those in the know appear as conflicted as Lions fans by Stafford’s strengths and shortcomings.

Of the Lions QB, ESPN noted, “Stafford was the lowest-rated player to command a top-tier vote, but there were also eight third-tier grades from voters frustrated by the lingering gap between Stafford's physical gifts and his on-field performance. The two voters to give Stafford a 1 ranked first and seventh among easiest graders overall.”

An offensive coach from another team was effusive with praise but puzzled too.

"No doubt, he is a 2 and I love him, but something is missing," he said. "Stafford could be like Aaron Rodgers if he had the burning passion and if he had Mike McCarthy from Day 1, because he is talented like that and quick with the ball. But you look at the look on Stafford's face before the game and then look at Rodgers' face or Big Ben's face or Luck's or especially Drew Brees' face or Philip Rivers' face.

“… you look at Matthew Stafford's eyes and it's like gym class. It's like, 'I hope we win, I think we are pretty good' as opposed to, 'I am going to rip your throat out.' It is always the want-to and passion and desire that separates guys. Stafford should be there with Big Ben. Rivers is OK physically, but does it all by heart and leadership."

Matthew Stafford is ranked in the second tier among QBs, according to an ESPN poll.