Matthew Stafford appears to be a quarterback who’s trending up.
The Lions? Not so much.
Stafford is the team’s lone representative in ESPN’s top 100 NFL player rankings for 2017, posted Monday. And, while the Lions aren’t well represented in the rankings, their quarterback looks to be on the rise, checking in at No. 75 after failing to crack the top 100 last season.
His ascension, writes Michael Rothstein, is at least partly the result of working with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, a familiar theory that was echoed in ESPN’s quarterback tier rankings last week, in which Stafford tied for No. 8.
Stafford threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns (with 10 interceptions) last season, completing 65.3 percent of his passes, after setting a career high in completion percentage in 2015 (67.2).
“At age 29, Stafford is just starting to hit his prime and has been a better quarterback under (head coach) Jim Caldwell, Jim Bob Cooter and (quarterbacks coach) Brian Callahan,” Rothstein writes. “He ranks seventh overall with a 66.6 completion percentage since Cooter took over as offensive coordinator and has been working to improve his accuracy even more. After leading a league-high eight game-winning drives last season, he now has 28 for his career.”
Stafford’s place in the top 100, which is determined by ESPN’s 53 “experts,” follows a similar trajectory as his place among his peers. In June, they ranked Stafford No. 31 in the NFL Network’s top 100 players for 100, after failing to qualify for the list for two straight seasons.
ESPN’s top 100 is littered with players with local ties, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who tops the list after the former Michigan quarterback was No. 6 in 2016.
“Brady turned 40 this offseason, but he shows no signs of slowing down,” ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and former Central Michigan standout Antonio Brown is No. 5, while Steelers teammate and former Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell is No. 8. Former Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, entering his third season with the Miami Dolphins, is No. 26, while Tennesee Titans tackle Jack Conklin (Michigan State), is No. 83.
Former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, entering his fifth season with the Seattle Seahawks, checks in at No. 95.