Quarterback careers often don't go in a straight line, and Stafford's fourth-year stagnation is a good reminder. His fall in the "Top 100 Players of 2013" this year was deserved.
Stafford was ranked No. 76 on the portion of the list revealed Thursday night, down 35 spots from the year before. That ranking puts Stafford at No. 13 among all quarterbacks, which sounds about right. He's still a very good young player, but he's a much better fantasy football player than he is in reality at this point.
It's easy to forget Stafford is early in his development. He's younger than Colin Kaepernick and barely older than Cam Newton. Stafford has the arm strength to match any quarterback, but he's still rough around the edges when it comes to the finer points of the position. Too often last season, Stafford's footwork and mechanics fell apart. Stafford occasionally can make plays under pressure, but he gets forced into bad decisions.
Stafford's accuracy and efficiency dropped in 2012. His completion percentage fell under 60 percent and his yards-per-attempt fell below 7, ranking him outside the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL. He hasn't taken that next step where he recognizes the easy play before the snap, where he makes the players around him better.
In no way should Lions fans be disappointed in Stafford. He'll get a huge long-term deal fairly soon, and he'll be worth it. This franchise knows what it's like to be in the wilderness, searching for quarterback greatness. Stafford absolutely has a chance to reach that level.
For now, Stafford is closer to average than a true top-five option. And he needs to step up his game with young guns like Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson ready to pass Stafford, if they haven't already.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.