Recently, Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com put together a list of the top 7 players who figure to contend for the Comeback Player of the Year Award in the league this coming season. Stafford checked in at No. 7 on that list exactly, and for Frelund, the reason has everything to do with how well Stafford is throwing the ball as of late.
— NFL (@NFL) September 3, 2020
“Next-Gen Stats show that Stafford averaged 10.7 air yards per-attempt in 2019, the most in the NFL. A full 3 yard increase from his average from 2016 to 2018. My models consistently identify Stafford as an underrated quarterback based in part on the Lions low win totals. If Detroit can surprise teams and make it to the postseason, their tough, deep pass throwing quarterback has a chance to top the list of comeback players.”
The air stat is a particularly interesting one. Stafford was surging near the middle of last season and having one of his most efficient years on the field in a long time prior to the back injury which cost him time. Had his season continued, Stafford could have made a compelling case to have the numbers to be in the MVP discussion had the Lions finished with a better overall record than they did.
This season, Stafford will have a familiar offense he is obviously comfortable with at his disposal with Darrell Bevell calling the shots. He’s got a better ground game, what figures to be a bulked-up offensive line and a talented cast of pass catchers.
If he stays healthy and the team can have success, this could add up to Stafford taking home some major award hardware this season. The deep passing could be what powers this in the end.
Gil Brandt Also Favors Matthew Stafford for Comeback Award
Detroit should have a solid combination in terms of pass catching with Stafford and Kenny Golladay, as the duo managed to crack Gil Brandt’s list of the top quarterback-wideout duos in the league at NFL.com. Stafford and Golladay placed at No. 9 on the list, cracking the top 10.
As a result of this, Brandt says he thinks Stafford could be a leader for the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year, an award given to a player who excels the next season off of injury.
“Stafford is my leader in the clubhouse in the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year race after a back injury cost him half the 2019 season — he was on pace to near his career highs in passing yards (5,038) and passing touchdowns (41). This is good news for Golladay — who led the league with 11 receiving TDs last season — entering the final year of his rookie contract.”
The Lions need to sign Golladay for the future, and if they can keep him, it’s safe to say this duo will continue to roll along. It certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to see Stafford in contention for such an award given what he could be expected to do on the field.
Matthew Stafford Named Potential MVP by ESPN
A back injury ended up costing Stafford the rest of the 2019 season, but now that he has presumably healed up, the sky could be the limit for the quarterback during the 2020 season. In fact, some already see Stafford as being in the mix for a major award for his play during next season.
ESPN recently put together an Insider piece predicting some outcomes for the 2020 season. When it came to league MVP, there were scant votes for Stafford, but one insider was bold enough to say he thinks the Detroit quarterback could be the league MVP.
In a piece by MLive.com’s Benjamin Raven, the thoughts of ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler from the piece are presented. Here’s a look at what was written by Raven that Fowler shared in the piece:
“The Lions quarterback was playing some of the best ball of his career before going down with fractured bones in his back, though, and his level of play was reason enough for one ESPN analyst to pencil him in as the 2020 NFL MVP.
“Mahomes is still the game’s best player, but Stafford was playing really good football before his midseason back issues,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes (ESPN Insider). “If he leads Detroit to contention, which isn’t so farfetched considering the talent around him, he’ll be in the MVP mix because he puts up numbers and the NFC North is as open as Kenny Golladay.”
The Lions were arguably getting MVP level play out of Stafford before he got hurt, and the numbers proved that he was acclimating just fine to Darrell Bevell’s new offense in Detroit. Last season, Stafford was cruising along to the tune of 19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and 2,499 yards. Clearly, he was the most valuable player for the Lions considering what happened to the team when he went down.
To become league MVP, the Lions will have to have an elite season on the field in terms of winning and also get great stats from Stafford. It might seem like a tall order, but it’s always possible if the Lions can finally play up to their potential.
If that happens, Stafford could be a player that is one of the truthfully great comeback stories as a result and one who takes home this award.