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Thursday, February 12, 2009
On the clock: Analyzing Stafford

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

You'll need an Insider subscription to read a full accounting of Football Outsiders' take on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, currently among a handful of likely candidates for Detroit's No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

 
  AP Photo/John Bazemore
  Matthew Stafford's completion percentage went up significantly each year he was at Georgia.

But there is one thing I can share. Outsiders relies on a pair of statistics to predict NFL success for college quarterbacks: Completion percentage and games played. Here is David Lewin's full explanation for that approach.

Lewin studied drafted quarterbacks since 1996 and found that, in most cases, a high college completion percentage (over 60 percent) and a suitable number of starts (about three season's worth) were strong indicators of success. Quarterbacks don't generally improve their accuracy against better competition in the NFL, Lewin found. Meanwhile, extensive experience speaks for itself.

Exceptions were made for certain offensive systems that artificially elevate completion percentages, as well as for schools with poor running games that could hamper the passing attack.

Stafford faced neither obstacle at Georgia. Here are his career numbers:

Completion percentage: 57.1
Games: 33

Those figures put Stafford below Outsiders' threshold for rising NFL stars. That doesn't mean Stafford will fail in the NFL. But it does suggest he has some deficiencies that you might hope to avoid with a No. 1 overall draft pick.

My two cents: It's only fair to note that Stafford's completion percentage increased significantly in each of his three seasons at Georgia. He went from 52.7 as a freshman to 55.7 as a sophomore to 61.4 last season. The fact that he didn't light it up as a freshman doesn't bother me too much, especially knowing he moved the curve in the right direction.