Gil Brandt: 2021 NFL season: Ranking top 10 traded players poised to have biggest impact

Rank 4

Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford (with the Rams OL, now in the witness protection program)

Los Angeles Rams · QB

Traded from: Detroit Lions

I am high on Stafford for the same reasons I enumerated when I included him in last week’s look at guys guaranteed to play better in 2021: Not only will he get to throw to a better pass-catching corps than he’s had in recent years in Detroit, but he’ll also potentially get to work with a true bell-cow back for the first time in his NFL career, given that Cam Akers is poised to have a monster season in the mold of peak-era Todd Gurley. The Rams appeared to have gone as far as they could go with Jared Goff at quarterback, and Stafford figures to provide an instant boost to Sean McVay’s offense.

Rank 8

Jared Goff

Detroit Lions · QB

Traded from: Los Angeles Rams

Three seasons ago, Goff was one of the NFL’s most promising young quarterbacks, making his second consecutive Pro Bowl team and helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl. This offseason, he was discarded by the very team that gave him a monster extension in 2019, and now he’ll try to reverse his career fortunes in Detroit. On the positive side, his new offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, is coming off a stint as Chargers head coach in which he helped Philip Rivers and Justin Herbert excel. On the, uh, less positive side, Goff will not be working with the same level of proven talent at the skill positions that he enjoyed with the Rams. If he can elevate the players around him, he can re-establish himself as a franchise QB with the Lions; if not, Detroit will have the flexibility to move on from him as soon as 2023.

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Just as an example of how different things are viewed when its the Rams vs the Lions…just look at the comment about Cam Akers vs D’Andre Swift. Cam is the next Todd Gurley, and Stafford has never worked with a back as good as Cam. In Goff’s write up, there’s no mention of Swift other than a jab at all of the skill guys for the Lions being a downgrade.

Check this out:


It’s getting old, I’ve been listening to NFL radio for months now and hardly any mention of the Lions unless they are talking about Stafford.

Have the Lions EVER been bigger underdogs?


Not exactly true.

In 2013, Reggie Bush 223 attempts for 1006 yards 4 TDs & 54 receptions for 506 yards 3 TDs.
Joique Bell chipped in w/166 rushes for 850 yards 8 TDs & 53 receptions for 547 yards 0 TDs.

Hard to believe that the Lions finished 7-9 in a year where Aaron Rodgers missed 7 games, but then again, Stafford was a turnover machine that season with 19 INTs & 8 fumbles.

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Swift was the better player in 2020, and if not for Adrian Peterson pretty much stealing unearned carries after week two, Swift likely would’ve topped 1000 yards rushing and 500 yards in receptions.


Hey, not many writers are giving the Lions any credibility. And they shouldn’t until they earn it… but it does get ridiculous most of the time that they disrespect facts even if the facts make the lions look at all positive. It is chic to dump on the Lions. It’s like they don’t think there are any fans in this city above the age of 6, or with an IQ above 60.

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I’m still grappling with a DraftNework article that refers to the OL as below average and playing Sewell at RT as sacrilege.

PFF’s OL rankings may be the least reliable due to them not knowing what a particular blocker’s assignment is, but for 2020 (yes, that disaster of a season), PFF’s final ranking for the 2020 Lions OL was 13!


Another year, another season of improved play from Frank Ragnow, who is asserting himself as one of the league’s top young interior offensive linemen. His 80.3 PFF grade in 2020 ranked second at the center position, and it came behind career-high grades both in pass protection and as a run-blocker. The fact that he played through a fractured throat late in the season only adds to the notion that this is a guy you don’t want to mess with in the trenches.

There were shuffling pieces along the line this season, but the play from both Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker (82.0 PFF grade) fresh off a contract extension this offseason helped stabilize the group. The Lions will be hoping for a second-year jump for Jonah Jackson at guard in 2021 to help take the unit to the next level.

The Lions don’t lose any starters and add the best OL in the 2021 draft and they’re below average?

Someone at TDN doesn’t know what they think they know. In other words, sheer ignorance.

So locusts again? Sh!t!

The new “Detroit vs Everybody” Poster:

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Or, to put it another way, “there was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts…”

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To me you nailed it. I am a Stafford slappie. I LOVE his game and approach to the game. I defended him for many years as I think the guy is a great QB. BUT…there are legit concerns with him too. 2012 was horrific and 2013 even worse in many ways. The 2013 team was 13th in points scored and 15th in points allowed. We had Bush/Bell doing great that season. We had Suh/Fairley. Fairley started 15 games for us. And the team was broken by the end of that season.

My mantra is you cannot compare 2021 Matt to 2021 Goff. But you can look at 2012/2013 Stafford to 2020/2021 Goff as those guys have the same level of experience at that point. In 2013 Matt had 19 INTs and 8 fumbles lost. 12 fumbles total. 27 turnovers on Matt. In Goff’s worst season (likely 2019) he had 16 INTs and 5 fumbles lost with 10 total fumbles. 21 total turnovers in Goff’s worst season (2019). V. 27 for Matt. Think about that.

I totally agree that the narrative being amazing for the Rams and Goff being close to trash silly at best. The Akers V. Swift thing is crazy silly. Swift put up 878 total yards and 10 TDs with a 4.6 rushing average and Akers put up 748 total yards, a 4.3 average per rush and 3 total TDs and Akers is better than Swift? Really? Each of those RBs played in 13 games.

Matt lacked a rushing game in most seasons but not all seasons. There are legit questions about Matt and I look forward to Matt answering the bell and proving folks wrong in 2021. BUT…the questions remain valid until Matt wins.


Not only did Swift outperform Akers as @wesleysh21 pointed out… he was also universally rated higher prior to the draft last year!

Also… I realize Golladay missed a lot of time in 2020… but I am surprised how many times I seen the Rams WRs/TEs described like an elite group.

They lost TE Everett and WR Reynolds in UFA.
They signed 35yo injury riddled D-Jax, and drafted a tiny speed WR.

Robert Woods and Kupp have caught a lot of balls in recent years… and had a ton of targets to do so.
They don’t offer much ability to beat CBs down the field. I went thru a bunch of their film… and most of their longer plays occured when McVay was able to get them on a safety or LB. Stafford might be able to bring more downfield plays to the plate, but I find it difficult to expect that to improve when they (Woods, Kupp) haven’t done it before.

Higbee is not as good as Hock at TE.

The Rams also made zero improvement to the O-line that struggled to protect Goff. Stafford may be a little quicker, but quick pressure in the interior line is not easy for him either.

Yeah Swift is getting the least love of any 10 TD rookie (in only part time duty), that I’ve ever seen. Then of course anyone that actually WATCHED most Lions games last year was left wondering “wat tha HELL is Bevell doing trotting out 800 year old Adrian Peterson over Swift right now??!” We’ve definitely got both the better primary RB and the better TE. Yes, I get it, we are weak at our primary WR’s. But if what Lynn did with Ekler and Henry are any indication, it’s not going to be THAT big of a downgrade, especially with Goff’s (IMO superior) accuracy in the short to medium range area, where the ball is “right there” for the receiver to get YAC.

I wonder how a 5’9" 155 lb WR is going to handle press coverage in the NFL. Desean Jackson is the exception to the rule. Small fast guys like Tavon Austin (174 lbs), Dri Archer (173 lbs), Yamon Figurs (174 lbs), Trindon Holliday (169 lbs), Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil (145 lbs), often flash for short periods of time (or not at all), but don’t last long in the NFL.


  • Extremely small frame. Can easily be overpowered or influenced by defenders more physical than him.
  • Size could ultimately lead to durability concerns at the next level, especially considering injuries sustained in 2020.
  • Average route runner, also needs to expand route tree if he wants to be more than just a vertical threat or gadget player at the next level.
  • Relatively small catch radius can sometimes lead to drops, also has a tendency to rely on body catches.

In the modern NFL they just put him off the line of scrimmage, in motion and in stacked formations. He’s there as a 4th receiver to be a vertical threat so things aren’t as bottled up as they were last year.

Holmes was part of the staff that took Austin. Ouch. But one thing I don’t think that was accounted for is Austin isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s a hard worker and a good little soldier but the idea for using a guy like Austin is to put him all over the field. To do that means the guy has to learn multiple positions when its hard enough to learn 1 position in the NFL. Corderrelle Patterson has a prototypical NFL body that you can do alot of things with but he doesn’t have the mental capacity to capture and use alot of information on gameday. So it limits his production as well.

One thing that is interesting to me with guys like Cephus and St. Brown, is that both Goff and Lynn have experience in getting great production out of less than fast WR’s. Goff/Kupp and Lynn/Allen. I think Lynn can maximize the talents of Cephus and St. Brown in the middle of the field, while our burners take the secondary down the field. Then Hock and Swift cutting it up underneath. Guilty of Kool-Aid ingestion, but… just sayin…


Still boggles my mind that Cordarrelle has only been handed the football 167 times in 127 career games!

He weighs 230 pounds, which means there is not as much worry of him wearing down as the season goes on… compared to guys like Tavon Austin.

If I were coaching him, I would have at least 5 plays a game that Cordarrelle would get the ball… whether it is a toss sweep at RB… a reverse, jet sweep, etc.

He averaged 4 runs per game last year with the Bears. I think it goes back to the thing we know about many coaches…they are scared of players who don’t show mastery of their assignments. They would rather put a lesser talent in the game to execute how he’s told than put a more talented guy on the field and risk having him do it differently. Patterson is simply not that smart, and he doesn’t like to study. So he’s never really been able to earn the trust of the coaches.