Evaluating Matt Stafford has never been an easy task. And now the plot thickens, as the Rams are back to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years. Therefore, the time is ripe for our Matt Stafford sports card investment outlook.
The roster this time looks quite different from the one we saw in 2018. Most notably, Stafford, who spent nearly a decade toiling with the Lions, is the new man leading the charge. The Rams traded for the veteran QB in the off-season, and he has been fantastic in Los Angeles so far.
Making a Super Bowl elevates a player’s status in pretty much every way possible, and the value of their cards is no exception. Unfortunately, the past week has seen a big bump in the asking price for Stafford’s cards.
But is this jump a permanent boost to Stafford’s legacy? Or is he just this week’s hot ticket? First, let’s look at the “Super Bowl effect” and what Stafford’s run to the big game means for his ultimate value.
Stafford’s name first hit public consciousness as a high school football phenom in Texas. After leading his team to an undefeated senior season that culminated in a state championship, Stafford signed to play with the University of Georgia.
The hype for Stafford was already through the roof before he set foot on campus. Analysts were projecting him as the favorite to be the first overall pick three years down the line, and Stafford was named the starter in his first game with the Bulldogs.
His 3-year career at Georgia was solid. He never reached the BCS title game, but he played great individually. Alongside his physical tools, that was enough to see him get drafted number 1 overall by the Detroit Lions in 2009.
His 11-year run with the Lions was patchy. Stafford experienced historical highs followed by long patches of lousy play. Nevertheless, he was the arm behind Calvin Johnson’s 2012 single-season receiving record (1,964 yards), becoming one of four players in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season.
In those helicon days, Stafford broke the record for most passing yards through 50 games of a career and helped snap the Lions’ 12-year playoff drought in his third season in the league. In his early days, the Stafford/ Johnson duo seemed poised to be amongst the league’s most dominant pairings for the rest of the 2010s.
But through 2016, the Lions had only made the playoffs three times, never making it past the first round. Then, Johnson retired. The promised Lions golden age never did materialize.
Over the next three seasons, the Lions backslid into mediocrity. Detroit failed to surround Stafford with winning players, and the narrative around his career began to shift. Some thought that the Lions’ previous success had been despite the quarterback. In addition, many felt that Johnson’s retirement exposed Stafford, and he gained a reputation as a player with inflated stats who couldn’t win.
In the 2021 offseason, the Rams took a chance on Stafford and traded for the QB. The trade was viewed critically by some at the time, but Stafford has been everything the Rams’ talented roster needed.
In many ways, his situation this season with the Rams has mirrored his early days with the Lions. He has a historically excellent receiving option in Cooper Kupp (who fell just a few yards shy of breaking Calvin Johnson’s single-season record) and a defensive cast that eases a lot of the pressure on the offensive side.
Stafford’s raw passing stats position him amongst the best quarterbacks in the NFL – he was third in passing yards (4886), second in TDs (41), and fourth in QBR (63.8.) This is a pretty significant boost from the 12th, 13th, and 15th that he ranked in those categories with the Lions last season.
Matt Stafford proved that he can still put up huge numbers and still play winning football with the right pieces and a competent offensive line (Stafford threw under pressure the second least of any QB in the NFL this season).
Stafford’s legacy is unique. There aren’t too many QBs with as promising a start as he had, who fell to being labeled a bust, only to lead their team to the Super Bowl.
Sure, it’s not uncommon to see a career bookended with success with a slump in the middle – even Tom Brady went 10 years without a Super Bowl win. But few have experienced as much narrative volatility as Stafford has.
So, let’s cut through the narrative and look at what the numbers have to say about Stafford’s career.
Matt Stafford ranks 12th all-time in passing yards and passing TD’s and 11th all-time for completions. Three active players rank ahead of him in each category: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger. Tom Brady was the fourth just recently.
So why is Stafford not often talked about in the same class as those guys? Well, some might argue that Stafford’s career stats are inflated by the systems within which he operated. Stafford teams tend to be very pass-heavy, and his relatively low QBR all-time ranking (26th) supports the idea that he hasn’t been amongst the most efficient passers in his career.
But, the other and likely more pressing criticism against Stafford has been the lack of winning. That is why this season has been so crucial for his legacy. Only 63 QB’s in NFL history have ever played in a Super Bowl. And while making that list alone doesn’t necessarily solidify your position as an all-time great (it’s a list that includes Rex Grossman and Stan Humphries), it helps a guy with stats like Stafford’s solidify his place in NFL history.
If Stafford wins the Super Bowl, it’ll cement his legacy further. But, similar to Matt Ryan in 2016, just making the game legitimizes his case as a potential Hall of Fame QB.
Another important factor in projecting Stafford’s legacy is considering how good the Rams are now. They are full of great players in the prime of their careers, and if Stafford can hold on for a few more years, there’s a fair chance this Super Bowl won’t be his last.
With Brady’s retirement and the uncertainty of Rodgers’ future, the NFC is wide open. If the Stafford-led Rams can string together a few more winning seasons, his struggles in Detroit will largely be forgotten. Instead, he’ll be remembered as a winning player.
If that plays out, Stafford’s statistical prowess suggests that he has the potential to be considered a top 20 QB all-time.
It shouldn’t be forgotten where this career resurgence is taking place either. Big market bias is real, and Stafford is set to benefit significantly from it. The Rams have a relatively small list of memorable franchise QBs, and their relocation to LA only happened 5 years ago.
With a successful 3 or 4 year run, Stafford could become an all-time favorite QB for the country’s second-biggest city.
Stafford cards are selling at an all-time high.
That shouldn’t be a surprise considering everything we’ve mentioned so far in the article. Stafford is selling like a top-5 QB in the NFL normally would. His ungraded Topps RC #430 will be $40, and PSA 10’s are fetching north of $400.
Stafford’s value first bumped over the summer after his trade to LA. This was likely a combination of the market’s reaction to his improved team situation, along with the workings of significant market bias.
His value, however, took its steepest jump in the past few weeks during Stafford’s incredible run through the NFC playoffs.
A PSA 10 of the #430 RC was sold on eBay for $116 in November. Two weeks ago, the same card went for $402.
This version of Matt Stafford’s classic rookie card shows him posed with no helmet and a rugged look.
It’s a pretty traditional card with a centered picture, a clean white border, and the shaggy hair trademarked for Stafford’s early days in the NFL.
Stafford’s Playoff Contender RC is a fun card that looks like a game ticket.
It features a picture of Stafford dropped back ready to pass, with his wild autograph in the bottom right and the fictional row and seat for your ticket on the left.
His National Treasure rookie features an auto and a patch, possibly Stafford’s most valuable card.
Numbered only to 99, these cards have been historically tough to buy. But, with the past week’s Stafford mania, there are currently a few of these available on eBay. So get them while you can!
Back in 2009, Topps was still at the top of the Football game, and there weren’t many cards as popular as the Topps Chrome series.
This blue refractor parallel is one of our favorite spins on Stafford’s classic rookie card, as the blue tint matches his Lions uniform.
This card remains one of the most frequently sold Staffords on the market.
If you like your cards flashy, then this is your Stafford card.
With a bright rainbow refractor and a white background, this card stands out from the more conventional designs of other Stafford rookies.
Warren Buffet says, ”Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”
Well, the market is being greedy right now on Matt Stafford cards. But is that reason to fear? It depends on your risk tolerance and how much you believe in the Los Angeles Rams.
If Stafford becomes a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, he will undoubtedly be a HOF player. If the Rams win another in the next few years, Stafford will be remembered amongst the all-time great QB’s.
But a Super Bowl loss followed by a few more early playoffs exits, and Stafford cards will likely be worth half of what they are selling for right now upon his retirement. And if we’re being honest, this is just as likely an outcome.
So, if you’re investing in Matt Stafford cards, realize what you’re actually betting on:
We know Stafford will retire in the top 10 of the 3 major statistical passing categories, but he desperately needs a winning legacy to justify the price he is currently selling for.
After a decade of struggling to win with the Lions, Matt Stafford has finally made it to the Super Bowl in his first year with the Rams.
While he has posted eye-popping passing stats in his 12-year career, Stafford’s biggest knock has always been his lack of playoff success.
With those worries now behind him, Stafford cards are selling at an all-time high. Naturally, this has collectors asking: Is that price sustainable? The answer is that it largely depends on the result of the Super Bowl and how well the Rams can continue to play in the remaining years of Stafford’s career.