Dec 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) smiles before the game with the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

VIDEO: Matthew Stafford Ranks 13th Of 32 Starting Quarterbacks

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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has had his fair share of ups and downs already in his young career. Stafford has taken some heat, particularly over the past two years as the Lions have suffered back-to-back disappointing seasons. However the general consensus among general managers, personal evaluators, and especially Lions fans is that there is no giving up on Matthew Stafford.

Stafford has staggering statistics over the last five seasons, but he still landed mid-pack in a survey conducted by Mike Sando of ESPN.com ranking NFL quarterbacks.

26 anonymous NFL general managers, head coaches, coordinators and pro personnel evaluators were asked to rank the league’s 32 starting quarterbacks, on a scale from 1-5, with one being the best. ESPN averaged the scores, placing the QBs into one of four tiers. Stafford checked in at No. 13 overall (2.38 average rating), near the bottom of the second tier.

Stafford landed in the same tier as San Diego Chargers’ Philip Rivers, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick.

Sando’s comments on Stafford:

“There’s a feeling among evaluators that Stafford, more than any other QB outside the top five, has the talent to ascend into the first tier. He is arguably the most intriguing starter in the league.”

“I’ve watched Stafford a lot and some of the decision-making is questionable,” a defensive coordinator said. “[But] as a talent, I would have drafted the kid No. 1 when he was coming out of Georgia.”

“A head coach said it’s critical for Stafford to work on his mechanics the way Brady and Peyton Manning have done over the years.”

The quarterbacks ahead of Stafford are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck, who all make up Tier 1. Then there’s Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.

The other Tier 2 quarterbacks behind Stafford are Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles. Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and Alex Smith rank at the top of Tier 3.

The article notes he is the one player outside the top-tier with the most potential to rise to the upper echelon of the position. However, at the moment I feel like the ranking is absolutely spot-on with where he should be.

Stafford’s arm talent is undeniable as he’s averaged 4,885 passing yards and 30 touchdowns the past three seasons, but his decision-making the past two seasons has been a key reason the Lions missed the playoffs. Inconsistencies linger with his accuracy, decision-making and mechanics. Since carrying the Lions to the postseason in 2011, Stafford’s completion percentage has declined each of the past two years while his interceptions have increased.

You can of course, bring up the large number of drops that the Lions had as a team, but even Pro Football Focus ranked Stafford 18th in their accuracy metric, which factors out drops, throw-aways, batted passes and spikes.

The most important thing is that Stafford’s arrow is still pointing up. The Lions have retooled this offseason, providing their franchise signal-caller with better offensive weapons and a coaching staff dedicated to polishing his game.

Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar and Chris Burke discuss if they would rather have Matthew Stafford or Jay Cutler start for their team.

What are your thoughts on the ranking?

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