The first blockbuster NFL trade couldn’t even wait until the Super Bowl was played. The Los Angeles Rams traded heaven and Earth to acquire 33-year-old quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. The Rams went all-in, trading two first-round picks, a third-rounder, and quarterback Jared Goff for Stafford.
The move shook the NFL landscape. Detroit was hoping to get a first and a little more for their veteran thanks to a market that was deep with desperate suitors. Several league executives told me this deal swelled thanks to the desperation that Rams head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead showed, ultimately trumping some quality offers from other franchises. It helped that the Lions just hired their general manager from the Rams, and he’s a big fan of Goff.
But make no mistake that the Rams mortgaged their entire job security on Stafford. Snead will have missed seven straight first-round picks when 2023 comes around due to trades after this trade is fulfilled. If Stafford is unable to provide the boost this roster needed at the position, it’s possible several key people are fired.
The Rams are now one of the NFC favorites to get a chance at the Super Bowl according to top sportsbooks. Goff is a talented pocket passer, but had regressed under pressure to the point that he couldn’t be trusted out of structure. McVay couldn’t trust him, and needed someone who can execute the offense at a high level, and occasionally improvise on his own.
The question is whether Stafford is that missing piece. He was the best option the Rams could’ve had this year, and did well to get off Goff’s massive extension without completely selling out. They paid a premium because they had to send future picks instead of a 2021 first-rounder.
Stafford has often been a passer who looks the part, and his numbers have improved over the course of his career to be much more efficient. Some of this is scheme, as starting in 2015, the Lions became less of a downfield passing attack and asked Stafford to take what was there. His average depth per target plummeted to below-average levels, but his accuracy numbers looked better.
This is where the question lies with Stafford. While he has the big arm and his completion rate looks good, some of it is fools’ gold. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked third-last among starters last year in accuracy in a clean pocket. The Lions didn’t have great receivers or scheme, but there’s always been a lack of natural touch and placement with Stafford’s throws.
Of course, it’s possible that he was simply stuck in a tough situation and some of that is true. The Lions offense had the personnel to be even better but there hadn’t been a favorable scheme that created easy production for his talented receivers in years. The Rams offer a situation that Stafford’s never seen before, and they should be popular amongst NFL picks next season.
The Rams will miss former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, and that will have a bigger impact on how well this team performs than what most believe. Stafford should be an upgrade from Goff in terms of being able to hit certain throws, but his consistency is the massive question mark. If he can create outside of the scheme while being slightly better than Goff was in a clean pocket, which was good, the Rams are absolutely a great value at this line.
Their competitors aren’t the most intimidating. Tampa Bay should absolutely be the favorite in the conference to repeat but aren’t. That’s a good value play for our sports betting. But neither Green Bay nor any other team looks like a better overall roster than what the Rams and Buccaneers boast.
That means we’ll closely eye how Stafford does with the Rams and hope he’s the missing link. He shouldn’t be any worse than Goff, and the upside is quite tempting for a solid long-term wager.