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ADP Duel: Chargers’ Philip Rivers Versus Lions’ Matt Stafford

Brandon Murchison June 24, 2017 11:18PM EDT

In this week’s ADP Duel, we jump back to the quarterback position and look at two players who are being drafted as QB2s but could very well operate as every-week starters for your team. With many owners foregoing the quarterback position until later in the draft, hitting on a player who many see as a backup should give you an advantage as you construct your roster. Drafting a quarterback earlier generally causes owners to miss out on some quality talent. Drafting your starting QB in the middle or later rounds will help you build the depth you will need once the injuries start to hit. Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford are both being drafted in Rounds 8 or 9, depending on league size; which of them should you draft first?

Philip Rivers- ADP 97

Philip Rivers could be limited in the short passsing game by his receiver corps. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Philip Rivers came out of the gate very inconsistently in 2016. Over the first five games of the season, he had two games in which he threw four touchdowns per game, but he threw only three touchdowns in the other three games combined. After the injury to Keenan Allen, much of the offense seemed to center around Melvin Gordon. Sure, players like Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry stepped up, but all too often Rivers forced plays that weren’t there, creating turnovers or stalling drives. His completions and attempts decreased from 2015, but his touchdown and interception totals both increased. Clearly, he was taking more chances with fewer attempts. The passing attack certainly had a hard time rebounding once Allen went down, which resulted in Rivers trying to spread the ball around more than he normally would. The connection between Rivers and the new receivers developed slowly, which showed in his early-season troubles. But as the season progressed, Rivers became comfortable with his supporting cast and his rapport with the receiver corps grew. He was likely drafted as a low-end QB1, and that is exactly where he finished, as QB11 in standard league scoring.

During the offseason, the Chargers’ front office knew they had to make some improvements on the offensive side of the ball; and they did. The Bolts will get Keenan Allen back from injury, but they also drafted Mike Williams in the first round of the NFL draft to give Rivers another weapon. By taking offensive linemen in Rounds 2 and 3, the Chargers showed they are looking to build an offensive line that can keep the pocket sturdy for Rivers and give him time to make clean throws, something he could not do in 2016. Rivers always hovers around the 600-pass attempt mark, and I expect him to be there again in 2017. His average depth of target last year (9.0) speaks to the fact that he likes to push the ball down the field, and with a healthy crew of receivers, you should expect him to do just that. I’m looking for Rivers to finish with around 4,500 yards through the air and 31 TDs this year, which should easily put him inside the Top 10 at the position.

Matthew Stafford- ADP 99

Similar to Rivers, Matthew Stafford was hot and cold to begin the 2016 season. Every other week was a big performance, while the alternate weeks were absolute stinkers. Stafford, in the end, had another ho-hum Stafford season, passing for 4,327 yards and 24 TDs. He is consistently around 600 attempts year after year, but disappoints with his yardage and TD totals. His average depth of target has dipped below 8.0 the last two years, meaning that this team is missing a downfield threat in the passing game. Quick, timely throws to Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are an extension of the run game, and something the Lions do well. Since Jim Bob Cooter took control of this offense, 74 percent of Stafford’s throws have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, so don’t expect much in terms of explosive plays. Once again, the Lions’ run game was absolutely awful, putting the scoring potential squarely on the shoulders of Stafford and the passing attack, which should be the case again in 2017.

The Lions chose to stand pat during the offseason and enter 2017 with virtually everyone coming back. everhonwGolden Tate and Marvin Jones will be back as the starting wideouts after Anquan Boldin was allowed to walk. With Stafford’s completion percentage spiking last year, and his interceptions coming down as well, look for this passing attack to remain the same. The running game will again be an afterthought, with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick not exactly setting the world on fire. Stafford will be at the 600-attempt mark once again in 2017. Keep an eye on rookie Kenny Golladay, a 6-4 receiver that the Lions drafted to give Stafford a player that could potentially stretch the field. I see Stafford finishing 2017 with around 4,200 yards passing and 26 TDs. That will have him fighting to finish as a low-tier QB1, even perhaps falling into QB2 territory.

The Verdict:

You have to look at which player has the higher ceiling. For me, that choice is going to be Philip Rivers for 2017. He has the more balanced offense between the two, and will find himself in more high-scoring games. With the number of receiving weapons he has around him, it’s hard to ignore his potential this year. Rivers may not exceed the completions and attempts that Stafford will have, but he will take advantage of bigger plays more often and is a threat to generate a score from any spot on the field. His 30 TD potential is hard to ignore, and at the point where you can get him in the draft, Rivers is the type of QB that can lead you to a title this season.

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