Once their playing days are over, we will debate which Manning brother had the better NFL career and younger brother Eli has started to make that a legitimate question with two Super Bowl wins in recent years. Fantasy football owners may be left with a similar debate on draft day this year, though Peyton has questions surrounding his health after multiple neck surgeries caused him to miss the entire 2011 season and he is now obviously on a new team after signing with the Denver Broncos this offseason.
So which quarterback with the last name Manning should fantasy owners want on their roster at the end of their draft? I will analyze both, then make my choice.
With all the passing records set around the league last season, it’s easy to overlook the fact Manning had 4,933 passing yards and 29 touchdowns and reduced his interception total to 16 from 25 in 2010. He had a couple of poor performances in Week 15 and Week 16 at a bad time for fantasy owners, averaging 241 passing yards per game and throwing just one touchdown with four interceptions in those two games, so some people may downgrade him based on that. Clearly Manning will never be confused with Michael Vick as a runner, so he does not offer that potential bump in fantasy value.
Manning has two outstanding wide receivers at his disposal in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, and the impact of losing Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham in free agency was lessened some by the Giants’ drafting Rueben Randle in April. Tight end Martellus Bennett was signed in free agency to give Manning another intriguing option in the passing game.
The Giants may have an improved running game in 2012 after struggling in that area last season, as first-round pick David Wilson steps in for the departed Brandon Jacobs alongside Ahmad Bradshaw. A more effective ground game may keep Manning from matching or surpassing last season’s career-highs in pass attempts (589) and completions (359), but otherwise his numbers should not fall off a lot. Durability is also one of Eli’s strengths, as he now leads current NFL signal callers with 122 consecutive starts.
The elder Manning has more questions attached to him than any player this side of Adrian Peterson, and obviously presents a high level of risk for fantasy owners. There is no denying his work ethic and level of preparation, so any drop-off in physical talent at age 36 after missing an entire season may be minimized some by that alone. But as of now he has not been hit during the preseason as the Broncos are slated to play their second game Saturday, so no one will know exactly how he’ll be effected by that until it happens given the fragile nature of his recovery from neck surgeries.
Manning has a fairly deep pool of talent around him in Denver’s offense, with wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, running back Willis McGahee and tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen among the most notable players likely to have a prominent role. Manning should have full control over the offense on the field, much the same as he did during his time with the Colts, so that level of control and comfort also bodes well for a productive season if he stays healthy.
All things considered, I think the choice here has to be Eli. His upside is higher than Peyton’s with better, more proven talent around him and his downside is also not as great without the health concerns Peyton has. Since Eli still may be overlooked despite his track record, he stands to be the better draft day value as well.
Both guys are worth targeting in that second tier of fantasy quarterbacks after the clear-cut elite options are off the board, but anyone that does take the risk and draft Peyton will need to secure another reliable quarterback for sure.