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What can Stafford do in second season?

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Posted Aug. 20, 2010 @ 3:18 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

This is the 42nd in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.

Don’t look now, but the Lions are starting to resemble an NFL team.

They have upgraded both sides of the ball this offseason, bolstering the defensive line significantly and adding some real zest on offense. The additions of RB Jahvid Best, TE Tony Scheffler and WR Nate Burleson give the team three weapons capable of catching a combined 150 passes and adding a nice dose of speed to an offense that was far too Calvin Johnson-dependent last season.

Now, QB Matthew Stafford, who struggled more than not as a rookie, has a chance to be very productive in his second season.

First, though, let’s outline those struggles. He had more interceptions than touchdown passes in six of his 10 starts. He had more than one TD pass in only two games and surpassed the 250-yard mark in two games as well.

He struggled. Predictably, too.

Stafford was thrown into the fire, in part because he had won the job but also because the Lions had few better options. But Jim Schwartz also knew his QB could handle the heat, as he took several big hits and made some poor decisions but never appeared too battered.

That all will help Stafford now. He has been through some real rough patches, and he’ll go through some more this season, but the talent level on every offensive unit (including his O-line) should be better.

You can't draft Stafford in your league with the idea he’ll start most games for you. But if you draft a starter in the Eli Manning/Joe Flacco/Jay Cutler tier, it’s good to have a strong backup plan.

The Lions have a brutal opening quartet of games, and they have toughies against the Giants, Jets, Cowboys, and Patriots in the middle part of the schedule, too. But along the way, there are some favorable matchups against the defensive dregs of the league — the Rams (ranked 29th last season defensively) in Week Five, the Bills (19th) in Week 10 and the Buccaneers (27th) in Week 15 among them.

Stafford should be good for 3-4 starts in a fantasy season if you don’t have a lock-down, no-brainer starter. And there’s a drafting strategy that says you take two mid-level quarterbacks later in the draft, seeing as how many of them put up similar season-long totals.

Rank Stafford as a solid backup who is sure to have a disaster or two this season but also a few breakout performances, like the one he laid on the Browns in 2009 (422 yards passing, five TDs). What's most important in the big picture, too, is that Schwartz has a lot of confidence in Stafford. The coach won't bench Stafford unless something drastic happens. Expect some good things to happen through the air in Detroit this season.

 

For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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