Here's a quiz for you. Which Detroit Lions QB beat the Packers in 2010? Answer: Third-string QB Drew Stanton.
The fact that Stanton is a third-string QB who found a way to beat the aft-crowned Super Bowl Champions could be enough to warrant him the most underrated QB in free agency this year. He opened a lot of eyes last season, including the ones of Lions' head coach, Jim Schwartz.
Interestingly, Stanton was chosen to be the most underrated QB in the 2007 NFL draft also. War Room NFL writer, Chris Otwell had this to say:
Stanton possesses the skills to be a better overall QB than both Russell and Quinn if drafted by the right team. He has a rocket arm and can throw on the move as well as either of them. Stanton is still raw, playing at Michigan State, and we are yet to see the best of him.
Stanton was taken in the second round of the 2007 draft. He was being coached by Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz (who is no longer at Detroit). Martz had Stanton change almost every aspect of his game. Much of this may have been helpful but it it also could have hurt him as he tried to make some major adjustments to his QB style.
Prior to being drafted, Stanton, who was the starter for the Michigan State Spartans, was thought to have what it took to make a big impact in the NFL.
Stanton has adequate size and a good arm, but his greatest asset is his mobility and escape ability. Not only can he avoid the rush with his feet, but Stanton's pinpoint accuracy does not fail him even when he's on the run. He possesses all the essential intangibles, too, as he almost always makes good decisions with the football and is a natural-born leader. Stanton's main issues are inconsistency, durability, and mentality. When things get rough, Stanton often gets too hard on himself and lets the situation spiral out of control [...]
Most of what was predicted has come to fruition with Stanton. He can easily be an NFL-caliber QB but has to work on his self-defeating thought process when things aren't going well. By the end of the 2010 season, I submit that as the Lions themselves thwarted several demons, so did Drew Stanton.
Here is a brief look into his NFL career:
Before Stanton could take the field in 2007 he ended up having to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and was placed on the reserve/injured list.
In 2008 he was a third-string backup for the first four games of the season and then elevated to second string the fifth week. In his very first game against Jacksonville, Stanton's first pass was a TD (only the second Lion in history to do so). He also completed 6 of 8 passes in this game for 94 yards.
A concussion had him leave the game against Tampa Bay two weeks later.
In 2009 he only played in three games and struggled with 26 of 52 passes for 259 yards and six interceptions. Stanton, however, began to show his mobility and scored his first rushing TD against the Arizona Cardinals. He was also selected as the Robert Porcher Man of the Year for his off-the-field community service and was a finalist in the Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Last season Stanton had a lot more time on the field and showed flashes of what kind of QB he can be when his confidence is where is should be.
Though he was still regarded as the team's third string QB, he was brought into the game against the New York Giants after QB Shaun Hill broke his forearm. Stanton threw for 222 yards and posted one TD, and a pass to WR Calvin Johnson for an 87 yard gain (which resulted in the TD). He showed his ability to run again during this game and rushed for 30 yards.
His second career start was against the Chicago Bears on December 5. He threw for 178 yards (16 of 24) and scored two TD's. His first TD was a completed pass to Calvin Johnson and he ran the ball in himself for the second TD.
All of this was leading up to his two most impressive games of the season and of his career. On December 12, Stanton threw the game winning TD pass against Green Bay in the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 44 yards against the Packers that included one for 17 yards.
Next, he helped defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 252 yards passing (23 of 37) and threw the game-winning TD in overtime.
Overall in 2010, he threw the ball 119 times and only had three interceptions while posting five TDs (one was a rushing TD). That is major progress over his previous year where he threw 51 times and had six of them intercepted with no passing TDs (but one rushing). If he continues at this pace, Stanton will emerge as a true NFL QB worthy of at least a second string position.
Stanton still may need a bit more time on the field to be a starter but if he didn't make fans and the Lions' coaches look at him differently after his end of the year performances, I'd suggest they weren't watching the same games or the same player.
Schwartz did put a tender on Stanton this off season so he saw enough in the 27 year old QB to either want him to stick around longer or see if other teams would show interest in free agency.
I like Shaun Hill a lot and believe that Matthew Stafford will finally have the season he has been expected to have since drafted in 2008. I would like nothing more than to have Stanton resign with the Lions, however, if he is never going to be given a chance to be more than a third string QB (except when the others are injured), then I would wish him all the best in going to a team that will give him that chance.
There are several teams who still desperately need a QB. Stanton is, in my opinion, the most underrated of all the QBs in free agency this year and would be a great asset to any team.