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Spin Doctors: Matt Ryan vs. Matthew Stafford

Washington Redskins v Atlanta Falcons
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Matty Ice, bird of distinction (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

We have very little debate at the top of the QB ranks in 2014, where Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers rule the position. But experts tend to drift apart when the big-three are off the board. Today, two Yahoo fantasy gurus discuss their choices for the No. 4 QB. Let's play the feud...

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Behrens builds the case for Ryan: To me, the interesting part of this argument isn't whether you prefer Matt Ryan or Matthew Stafford. Here we have the classic fantasy distinction without a difference. Both players will throw the ball 600-plus times, both have outstanding receivers at their disposal and both are attached to respectable offenses. These guys were separated by only 135 passing yards last season, and 248 the year before. Stafford holds a slight edge in yardage over the past two seasons, Ryan a small advantage in combined TDs (59 to 55).

But c'mon, these guys are very close, right?

Well, Evans doesn't think so. Brad is with the Yahoo consensus on Stafford, ranking him fourth overall. But he buried Ryan at No. 12.

I mean ... wha--?

Twelve?

This is why I'm interested in having the Ryan discussion with Brad. I need an explanation for the hate-rank.

Ryan, just for the record, hasn't finished outside the top-10 at quarterback in any of the past four seasons. He'll have Julio Jones back in the mix this year, Roddy White will be at full strength (and playing for a new deal) and Harry Douglas is still in the team picture, coming off an 85-catch campaign. This season, Ryan will work behind an upgraded offensive line (Jon Asamoah, Jake Matthews), and — unlike Stafford — he'll benefit from year-to-year system continuity. His set-up is excellent.

Stafford's isn't so bad, either, of course. That's why I've ranked him fifth, behind only Peyton, Brees, Rodgers and Ryan. Everyone loves the primary weapon in Detroit (Calvin), and we all like Golden Tate as a secondary option. I'm not terribly concerned that the Lions new offense, under first-time OC Joe Lombardi, is getting schooled by the team's defense in OTAs. Stafford should be just fine, fantasy-wise — Ryan is my preferred choice, but I've got no great quarrel with the other Matt.

Again, I'm only here to see why Evans is so weirdly anti-Ryan...

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Matthew Stafford has new weapons, a new scheme and a bullish fantasy rank (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Matthew Stafford has new weapons, a new scheme and a bullish fantasy rank (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Noise loves him some Stafford: After setting the world on fire three years ago, Stafford, admittedly, has been extremely perplexing. He’s a former No. 1 overall pick blessed with the league’s finest offensive weapon, Calvin Johnson, who’s averaged a staggering 674.7 passing attempts per year over the past three seasons. But despite the arm-numbing volume, he totaled a modest 24 and 31 TDs in 2012 and 2013. Worse yet, his completion percentage bottomed out at 58.5 last fall, a five-percent decline from 2011. Those reasons explain why many are turned off.

Don’t be.

Stafford is a very safe QB1 on the brink of matching or exceeding his near historic production from three years ago (5,038 passing yards, 41 TDs, 16 INTs).

Why?

For starters, former Saints QB coach Joe Lombardi is now holding the joystick. By all accounts, including ex-Saint Reggie Bush’s, the offensive coordinator plans to install a system identical to New Orleans’. You know, the same scheme that made Drew Brees a top-three fantasy QB finisher in EIGHT CONSECUTIVE SEASONS.

Of course, Stafford isn’t Brees. His mechanics over the past two seasons were flawed, noticeable blemishes that led to an uncomfortable number of misconnections. To buck the trend, the Lions brought in renowned QB gurus Jim Caldwell and Jim Bob Cooter (Yee-Haw!) to assist Stafford this offseason. The early results, per Lombardi, have been very encouraging. Add that to the acquisition of Golden Tate and rookie Eric Ebron and Detroit’s ongoing problems on defense, and a top-five campaign is surely on the horizon.

Ryan is a reliable QB1. However, Roddy White, off a hamstrung ’13, isn’t a spring chicken anymore, Tony Gonzalez is now offering commentary for CBS and Julio Jones, who the coaching staff is still concerned about, is coming off a major foot injury. If the fantasy community’s old nemesis, the injury imp, feasts again on Falcons flesh, Matty Ice will fall short of the 30 TD mark for the sixth time in seven seasons. He's also failed to rank inside the QB top-7 in two of his past three years. 

This year, Stafford soars.

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