The former University of Georgia quarterback beat out six other players who received votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Stafford fought through injuries his first two seasons, then threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2011 to lead Detroit to its first playoff berth in 12 years.
Stafford received 21 votes, six more than Cleveland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith finished third, followed by Carolina receiver Steve Smith, Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil, New England defensive end Andre Carter and Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Stafford is the first Lion and the ninth quarterback to win the award since its inception in 1998.