By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

Whether he’s to blame or not, Matthew Stafford hasn’t met expectations in his first season as the NFL’s highest-paid player.

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But one analyst believes he’s the second best quarterback in the NFL at the moment.

Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit said there’s only one QB he’d take over Stafford for the rest of this season: Tom Brady.

In compiling his ranking, Benoit followed a simple criteria: “If you had to choose a QB to play with for the rest of the 2017 season-only, who would you want? Assume the QB can bring his offensive system along, but not the players around him.”

His rationale for listing Stafford so high was based on his arm strength.

“With Aaron Rodgers shelved, Stafford right now possesses the best arm in football. His ability to throw with velocity from a variety of platforms has been the difference in a few Lions wins; no one is better on far-hash, downfield throws. Stafford actually makes it risky to play Cover 2,” wrote Benoit.

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Though he has the arm to threaten defenses over the top, Stafford has completed just two passes of 40 yards or more this season, tied for 20th in the NFL. Part of that, to be fair, is due to the Lions’ beleaguered offensive line, which rarely gives Stafford enough time to let plays develop downfield.

It’s also attributable to Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, which prioritizes quick, high-percentage passes over big-play gambles. Benoit, for his part, likes the way Stafford has developed under Cooter.

“He continues to show more pre- and post-snap maturity in coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. The Lions frequently line up in static formations and let their QB research the defense and tweak the play call before the snap. That’s what the Colts did in the Peyton Manning years,” he wrote.

Stafford looked great in this system last season, but the offense is starting to lose its shine. The Lions rank 28th in the league in yards per game (298) and Stafford ranks 24th in passer rating (89.3). In Detroit’s 52-38 loss to the Saints on Sunday, Stafford was intercepted twice and had 12 passes batted down.

Wrote Benoit, “True, it wasn’t a great showing for Stafford against the Saints last Sunday, and yes, the Lions’ passing numbers are far from dazzling (there aren’t many weapons there). That doesn’t change the fact that Stafford’s skills have now caught up to his extraordinary talent.”

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Benoit’s top five was rounded out by Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.