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Is Matthew Stafford a top-10 QB for Detroit Lions?

Last week, Dan Hanzus ranked the NFL's top 30 running backs. That engaging list generated heaps of debate, some of it coming from his own colleagues.

In an upcoming post, we'll unleash our quarterback rankings, an exercise that led to plenty of tape watching on this overcast Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.

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One immediate takeaway: Detroit Lions starter Matthew Stafford might be the toughest quarterback to rank.

Stafford's name popped up at No. 76 in the "Top 100 Players of 2013." He's thrown for 10,000-plus yards over the past two seasons, but his peers voted him the 13th-best quarterback in the game on that list. 

That isn't so surprising. Stafford's arm strength is supreme, but his spotty mechanics and occasional sidearm delivery drew heat from critics in 2012.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz insisted after last season that Stafford's footwork and throwing motion were fine. But after watching the All-22 tape of Stafford's uneven performance in a December loss to the Green Bay Packers, I disagree. Stafford passed for 264 yards on 45 attempts -- with a handful of dazzling throws -- but there was a noticeable lack of consistency from snap to snap.

After that game, ESPN's Ron Jaworski rated Stafford the 14th best passer in the NFL, which -- as we draw up our list -- feels about right.

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"For all the great plays, I'll also see sloppy footwork and regular changes in his arm slot change, resulting in sloppy throws," Jaworski said. "Even with a dynamic receiving corps, Stafford will always be a middle-of-the-pack quarterback until he corrects his mechanics."

Stafford, at just 25 years old, has enormous potential. Still, I struggle to rate him higher than Washinton Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III or Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. I even question placing Stafford above Ryan Tannehill in Miami. That might seem crazy, but let's chat in December. ProFootballFocus graded Tannehill higher than Stafford last season both as a passer and overall signal-caller.

Ranking quarterbacks is about more than statistics. Success at the position hinges on leadership, poise under pressure and whether or not a guy has the mystical "it" factor. I don't doubt Stafford's ability to lead, and I believe he could someday bloom into a top 10 passer -- but he's not there yet.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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