MATTHEW STAFFORD ANSWERED ALL THE QUESTIONS THAT SURROUNDED HIM LAST SEASON. COULD HE STAY HEALTHY FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR? AFTER MISSING 19 GAMES OVER TWO SEASONS because of knee and shoulder injuries, Stafford started all 16 games in 2011. Would he be as good on the road as he was in the passing-friendly confines of Ford Field? His biggest passing-yardage games of the season came at Green Bay (520), New Orleans (408) and Oakland (391). Could he match stats with the league's elite quarterbacks? He threw more touchdowns than Tom Brady (41 to 39) and for more yards than Aaron Rodgers (5,038 to 4,643).
Because of his prolific season a year ago and his great potential for more, Stafford is the must-have quarterback in 2012.
Why? He can fill the stat sheet like Brady and Rodgers, but he won't get drafted nearly as high. Fantasy owners should be able to first nab that topflight receiver or running back—or, if they're lucky, both—and then draft Stafford.
At 24, the 2009 No. 1 pick is just beginning to tap his potential. All of his key statistics are on the rise—touchdowns, completion percentage, yards per completion. In his fourth season these numbers should increase again.
Stafford's Lions are built for the big strike. He threw 663 passes last season while Detroit's running backs carried just 356 times. With so many weapons in the receiving corps—and no feared ground game to rely on—that trend will continue.
Stafford doesn't have to be perfect to be effective either. His top target, Calvin Johnson, is 6 feet, 5 inches of trouble. Of Johnson's 96 catches last season, several were jump balls in which he simply outleaped or outfought defenders.
Megatron's presence gives Stafford instant comfort, but the quarterback has a varied arsenal. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (83 catches) is a dangerous red zone target and could be the most underrated player at his position. Receiver Nate Burleson (73 catches) is a savvy route runner and the ideal underneath complement to Johnson and his ability over the top. Deep threat Titus Young is a young DeSean Jackson in the making who should be much improved in his second year.
So many indicators point to Stafford's tearing up the league again. He is the centerpiece of a young and improving team. He plays for a coach unafraid to run up the score. He plays in a dome, which will make him every bit as productive as Drew Brees or Peyton Manning at their peak.
Draft Stafford with no reservations. You'll be halfway to your fantasy title.