Peyton Manning’s Fantasy value is highly debatable this offseason. There are so many variables, it’s tough to take a hard stand on where he should land on your Fantasy Football draft cheat sheet. Before injuring his neck, needing multiple surgeries last year, Manning had started every game of his professional career. From a Fantasy perspective, he has been as steady as they come.
Manning’s NFL stats speak for themselves, with 399 touchdown passes and over 54,000 passing yards. But in Fantasy play, a draft pick is too valuable to blow on a “maybe” player because of injury.
Here are Manning’s ADP marks among quarterbacks since his sophomore season in 1999:
- 1999 – QB4
- 2000 – QB1
- 2001 – QB3
- 2002 – QB3
- 2003 – QB3
- 2004 – QB1
- 2005 – QB1
- 2006 – QB1
- 2007 – QB1
- 2008 – QB2
- 2009 – QB3
- 2010 – QB3
- 2011 – QB6
- 2012 – QB11
- Avg: QB 3.2
Good News/Bad News
The Bad News: Manning was basically the face of the Colts franchise, possibly only passed up by Johnny Unitas, who has never thrown a pass in the city of Indianapolis. The Colts released him this offseason and chose to go with a much younger QB in No. 1 pick Andrew Luck.
The Good News: The Colts are in bad shape in many areas, and the QB spot was just one of them. Had they chose to keep him, they would have had to pay him a $28 million bonus.
Takeaway: Just because the worst team in the NFL didn’t want Manning, it doesn’t mean he’s broken beyond repair. Had he been on nearly any other team in any other situation, he would not have changed jerseys this offseason.
The Bad News: Manning will step into a completely new huddle, without Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon or even Marvin Harrison. Instead, he inherits a team that finished 2011 as the 31st-ranked passing offense in the league.
The Good News: Kyle Orton + Tim Tebow do not equal Peyton Manning. Broncos head coach John Fox did what he could with those two quarterbacks, and he was able to lead them into the playoffs. Fox’s best quarterback for the nine years with Carolina was Jake Delhomme.
Takeaway: It’s tough to judge Manning against what the Broncos were in 2011. WR DeMaryius Thomas, arguably the most talented player on the Broncos offense before Manning’s arrival, had all of two NFL starts before 2011. Injuries kept him from producing, but once he was healthy, he shined – averaging five catches for about 90 yards over his final five games. That doesn’t sound like much, but remember that this was not a pass-happy offense.
What Fantasy Writers Are Saying
Cory J. Bonini, KFFL.com: “As for Peyton, he is a midrange No. 1 fantasy quarterback that comes with a lot of risk. We all know what he is capable of, but you have to address the backup position earlier than normal if you don’t want to see your season go down in flames if he indeed succumbs to injury.”
Ryan Fowler, FOXSports.com: “As for Manning’s health, I’m with you. I don’t know. What I do know if that Pat Bowlen and John Elway aren’t shelling out 95-million dollars (injury protected of course) if he doesn’t think Manning can help the Broncos immediately. No matter which receivers the team acquires over the next few months or in the draft, Manning is a fantasy quarterback I feel safe drafting after Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.”
Dave Richard, CBSSports.com: “If Manning is the guy we once came to know and love, we’ll see it before the start of the season. He’ll take part in training camp and preseason games (Manning values scrimmaging to work out any kinks in the offense). If he looks as good as we remember, he’ll be in the discussion as the seventh quarterback taken in drafts, right behind brother Eli, in Round 3 or 4. If he’s not quite as smooth but clearly on track to play, he’ll be more of a fifth-round pick with the likes of Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. And if he’s not playing at all but still expected to be ready for the season, Fantasy owners might start gambling with him starting in Round 6 or 7.”
Christopher Harris, ESPN.com: “Can you really draft him to be a fantasy starter in a 10-team league? And if you decide the answer to that question is “yes,” how high do you go? I have him as my No. 8 QB [on March 20], which I think encapsulates the excitement and upside that comes with his decision, and douses it with a splash of reality. That puts him one spot behind his brother, Eli Manning, but one slot ahead of Tony Romo, who’s followed by Philip Rivers. I mean, there are a lot of variables here, right? And I haven’t even talked about the weather. I’m sure he’ll handle it, because he’s one of the best players in NFL history. But has the elder Manning consistently given us great bad-weather games? Deciding whether and when to bite on Peyton will be a fantasy-draft-defining decision in every league this year.”
Fantasy Football Rankings for Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
I did a piece on the Average Fantasy Football QB Rankings in June and Manning ended up being the 11th-ranked QB for this Fantasy season. But individually —
- Harris, ESPN.com: 52nd overall, QB8
- Jamey Eisenberg, CBSSports.com: 48th overall, QB10
- Dave Richard, CBSSports.com: 53rd overall, QB10
- Michael Fabiano, NFL.com: N/A overall, QB8
- FFToolbox.com: 79th overall, QB11
- 4For4.com: N/A overall, QB11
- FakeTeams.com: 42nd overall, QB8
- TheFakeFootball.com: N/A overall, QB15
- Peyton Manning’s Average Fantasy Ranking: 55th overall, QB10
My Final Analysis
It seems to be a question of whether or not we believe a) Is Manning healthy? (Yes, I do); b) Are his current teammates and new system good enough for him? (Not completely convinced). So then the question becomes, are those risks small enough and the reward big enough to warrant drafting him over someone like:
- Philip Rivers, QB, SD: Even in a down year, Rivers still had eight multi-TD games last season.
- Tony Romo, QB, DAL: Neither Rodgers, nor Brady has the offensive weapons at their disposal like Romo has.
- Matt Ryan, QB, ATL: He has improved every season in the league, and a 30-TD season is almost guaranteed with Roddy White and Julio Jones on board.
- Eli Manning, QB, NYG: Nearly 5,000 yards passing and the second-best receiving tandem in the NFL, with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
I consider Manning to be a great candidate for the last starting QB drafted in your league – with the thoughts of taking another quarterback relatively quickly after that.
That makes Manning the 11th or 12th Fantasy Football quarterback drafted, which means if you draft him before Round 6, you’ve overshot. Peyton Manning is NOT a top 10 Fantasy QB anymore.
- Average Fantasy Football Rankings in June: QBs
- Major Sites’ Top 5 Fantasy Football Rankings 2012
- 8 Reasons NOT to take Arian Foster First Overall
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.