In a shocking move late in the afternoon Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams sent their (supposedly) franchise QB Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions, to in return get Matthew Stafford. What will the fantasy impact of the Matthew Stafford trade be? Let’s take a look.
Many were surprised by this move, as to the average fan this seemed like a very lateral move. While Stafford has been around longer and people remember his first few years as a starter where he seemingly threw the ball every play, as of late Stafford has definitely been “average.”
The same can be said for Jared Goff. While he was never considered a top-five QB, he helped the Rams to 11+ win seasons twice, including a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. But in the last two seasons, especially the 2020 campaign, he was an “average” QB.
So the news of the trade between these two players was a shock to many, given the fact that it appeared that both teams just traded one average QB for another. If anything, some thought that the Lions won the trade, given that Goff is much younger than Stafford, and has (for the most part) avoided the injury bug in his career.
Which QB Is Better?
At face value, in terms of the skill of the players being traded, it would really be up to personal opinion who won the trade. Both QBs are having a multi-year slump (to be fair, Stafford missed a good chunk of last season due to injury), and almost no one would put either in a list of top 10 QBs in the NFL, or even top 15 for that matter.
The hard part in comparing these two players is that we know the upside they bring. Stafford has the ability to throw the ball 50 times a game without showing any signs of wear and tear. If anything, Stafford racking up more passing attempts just mean he is getting more chances to hit a wideout deep.
Even with the high passing volume, Stafford can protect the ball. He isn’t on the same level as Aaron Rodgers in terms of low interception numbers, but Stafford usually only commits 10-12 interceptions a game. That may sound high, but given the sheer amount of times he throws the ball deep, it is rather surprising.
Goff on the other hand is even harder to evaluate. His first two seasons as the full starter of the Rams were very promising. He was racking up TDs while keeping the interceptions to an acceptable level. The best part of Goff’s performance was that he was winning games.
His first two seasons as the full starter of the Rams resulted in a 24-7 record, including two playoff appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl. And while Stafford got his wideouts fantasy points from the deep ball, Goff was able to carve up defenses in the short passing game, getting many players involved and producing many fantasy players of value.
To say one QB is flat out better than the other, one would mostly be pointing to the fact Stafford has about 10 years more experience in the NFL than Goff does, and is able to chuck the ball without causing turnover after turnover. But other than that, both QBs have had impressive seasons, with both putting up rather poor numbers in the last few years.
Fantasy Impact of the Matthew Stafford Trade?
In terms of fantasy value, we can’t assume that the addition to Goff (if that’s who the Lions roll out Week 1) will greatly increase the receiving stats we saw last year out of the Lions wideouts. If anything, we know for sure the average depth of target will decrease, by far.
Last season, Matthew Stafford had 8.7 intended yards per attempt, and 10.6 intended YPA last season. Jared Goff was 6.6 and 7.7 in that span.
During the last few fantasy seasons, owners of Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay enjoyed the random 50+ yard TD almost on a weekly basis. Especially when all three of Jones Jr., Golladay, and Stafford were healthy on the field, it always seemed that one of those wideouts was going off.
In terms of target share, Goff’s targets went to the following positions from greatest to least: WR, WR, WR, TE, and TE. Malcolm Brown caught the most passes by RBs from Goff last year with just 23. Even if you combined all three RBs the Rams used last year, it would still have been only the fourth highest targeted person on the Rams offense last year.
Because of this, while we can expect somewhat similar output from Jones Jr., Golladay, and even T.J. Hockenson in 2021 with Goff. D’Andre Swift on the other hand might take a big hit in the passing game, which many see as his upside. Swift is going to go from the third most receptions on the Lions in 2020 to somewhere around fourth to sixth in 2021.
For the Rams, we can also expect similar production numbers from the key position players. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee will still be key parts of a Stafford offense. Players like Josh Reynolds will also benefit from Stafford’s ability to accurately sling a ball 40 yards down the field.
Until the Rams ever decide who their starting RB is, we can’t predict how well Stafford will use each of them. But note that the Lions backfield was similarly split between multiple backs, and Stafford is used to never having one primary back.
The biggest fear fantasy owners should have is that it might take these teams a few weeks (maybe a month) to start “clicking”. Even Tom Brady, the greatest QB of all time, took a while to get going in Tampa.
Which Offense Will Do Better In 2021?
Short answer: Rams with Matthew Stafford, but I’m still not putting Stafford as a top 15 QB for 2021.
Long answer: The Lions might win a total of four games next year. They will be playing from behind, and while Goff might get some junk time yards, the historical data shows winning QBs do better throughout the season than losing ones.
Also, don’t forget the possibility that Goff might be done. He might not even be the starter of the Lions by the end of the season based on who the Lions draft.