Former Georgia Quarterback Stafford Has Chance to be First Overall Selection
INDIANAPOLIS – As Matthew Stafford sees it, much about the coming weeks, months and even the coming years is in a sense out of his control.
Stafford, a quarterback from the University of Georgia, may be the first overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, and as such, there is a chance he could be playing for a team that did not win a game last season.
Then again, there's a chance he won't be the No. 1 selection.
And to Stafford, that's the point. He can't control his future. He can't control if he'll go No. 1 to the Detroit Lions. And he can't control whether he'll play next season. What he can control is how he approaches the coming weeks/months/season.
So Stafford said for now, that will be his main concern.
"It's not up to me to say (where he will be drafted)," said Stafford, one of three quarterbacks widely expected to have a chance to be selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
"I think I'm doing everything that I can to prove to people that I'm a good football player and worthy of the (No. 1 overall) pick, and if that so happens to be the first pick to the Detroit Lions, I'd be more than happy to be there."
The Lions, as of April 8, had yet to indicate publicly whether they will take Stafford, and mock drafts and generally analysts have Stafford going anywhere from No. 1 to the Lions to No. 4 to the Seattle Seahawks. Where Stafford will go has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks and days.
"At the end of the day, it probably comes down to how much they like Matt Stafford or don't because they need a quarterback, that's the most imant position," former Houston Texans and Washington Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly told the Detroit Free-Press recently.
"And if they are sold on him, that's probably where they'll turn first."
Stafford, speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, said he wouldn't mind playing for the Lions, who last season became the first team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
"I'd come and play and try to turn that thing around," Stafford said. "It would be a great honor to be picked first. No question. I'd like to have that synonymous with my name for a long time. But it's not a do-or-die, obviously. I'm going to play football in this league someplace, and it's not where you get drafted. It's where you take your career from there."
Stafford, who declared for the draft following his junior year, ascended to his status as a likely early selection with a productive college career, setting a Georgia record this past season with 25 touchdowns passes. He also threw for 3,549 yards and finished 15th nationally in passing efficiency.
At 6-feet-2, 225 pounds, Stafford has what NFL scouts consider prototypical size, but some analysts – Casserly included – have suggested he could benefit from playing as a reserve early in his career.
"I think Stafford's a talented player, but maybe he shouldn't play right away," Casserly said. "Carson Palmer (of the Cincinnati Bengals) didn't play his rookie year. Daunte Culpepper (then of the Minnesota Vikings) didn't play his rookie year. (Philadelphia Eagles quarterback) Donovan McNabb didn't play until late into his rookie year.
"So I'm not so sure it isn't better to bring the guy in, let him sit for a year, and then have him ready to go the second year."
Stafford said that's another example of what he can't control.
"My philosophy on that is, I want to do everything I can to be as ready as possible to play wherever I go," he said. "It doesn't matter. If they don't feel that I'm ready to go and I have to sit behind a veteran for a while and maybe learn some of the things that I need to learn, then that's fine. But I'm going to make it as hard as I can on coaches to try to keep me off the field. I've always been one to want to get in there and play as soon as I'm ready.
"That's my plan going into wherever I play."
Among the quarterbacks with whom Stafford has spoken about the transition to the NFL: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, a three-time Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player, and his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Stafford met the Mannings while a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy last summer.
"It was just an awesome opportunity for me to interact with Peyton, Eli and the whole family," Stafford said. "I actually got there a day early and got a chance to work out with them. Just to watch them work and how they prepare and how they go through their drills – they don't have a coach out there. They were running them themselves. They were gracious enough to invite me to work out with them.
"I had a great time, and it was a lot of fun, a great experience for me."
As far as what he learned from Mannings, Stafford said, "The best learning that you can do is through experience. That's what I plan on doing. I plan on coming out and working hard for whoever I play for and trying to learn as quickly as I possibly can.
"I'm a competitive person," he said. "I love a challenge, and no matter where I go, I'm definitely going to come in with the same attitude, try to bring a winning attitude and confidence from the quarterback position that hopefully bleeds into the offense and the entire team eventually, that we can get the job done no matter what it is.
"If I'm ready to play, I want to be out there. That's the attitude that I have. I'm a competitive person. I want to win football games and do whatever it takes to do that. I'm not going to put a number on anything. I'm not going to say I start this many games, I play this many games. But I want to be a contributor to the team.
"If they don't feel I'm ready and I'm on the scout team making our defense better, that's that. But if I'm ready, I want to be out there playing as much as I can."
BREAKING DOWN THE 2009 NFL DRAFT'S TOP QUARTERBACKS
Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford is expected by many analysts to be the first quarterback selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, with many mock drafts projecting Stafford – an early-entry junior – No. 1 overall to the Detroit Lions. However, unlike some years, there is no consensus on the No. 1 selection and few mock drafts have him slipping past the Seattle Seahawks at No. 4. Southern California quarterback Matt Sanchez, who also declared for the draft early, is generally considered the second quarterback available, with Kansas State junior Josh Freeman also a first-round possibility. Those three players are generally considered certain first-day prospects, with few other quarterbacks mentioned going in the first three rounds.
ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Peyton Manning, 12th NFL season, Tennessee; Jim Sorgi, sixth NFL season, Wisconsin.
THE LAST FIVE
The last five quarterbacks drafted by the Colts . . .
2004: Jim Sorgi, sixth round, Wisconsin.
1998: Peyton Manning, No. 1 overall, Tennessee.
1996: Mike Cawley, sixth round, James Madison.
1990: Gene Benhart, 12th round, Western Illinois.
1990: Jeff George, No. 1 overall, Illinois.
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 20 quarterbacks expected to be selected in the 2009 NFL Draft . . .
Jason Boltus, Hartwick, 6-3, 225
Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston St., 6-2, 225
Tom Brandstater, Fresno State, 6-5, 220
Nathan Brown, Central Arkansas, 6-1, 219
Hunter Cantwell, Louisville, 6-4, 235
Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State, 6-2, 220
Nate Davis, Ball State, 6-1, 226
Josh Freeman, Kansas State, 6-6, 250
Cullen Harper, Clemson, 6-3, 225
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, 6-2, 225
Brian Hoyer, Michigan State, 6-2, 215
Brian Johnson, Utah, 6-1, 210
David Johnson, Tulsa, 6-1, 220
Stephen McGee, Texas A&M, 6-3, 225
Curtis Painter, Purdue, 6-3, 225
Mike Reilly, Central Washington, 6-3, 215
Mark Sanchez, Southern Cal, 6-2, 225
Matthew Stafford, Georgia, 6-2, 225
Pat White, West Virginia, 6-0, 195
John Parker Wilson, Alabama, 6-1½, 220