Peyton Manning posted tremendous numbers this season, but can he do it again in 2013 at the age of 37?
He was one of the most difficult fantasy football players to judge on draft day. He was returning after missing an entire season due to a severe neck injury and an unconventional surgery that experts knew little about, and everyone was wondering if he would be able to return from such a mysterious injury.
Well, he did. Manning came back in a big way during his first season with the Denver Broncos, posting the second-highest passer rating of his long, Hall-of-Fame-bound career. His assortment of talented receivers made the transition to playing outdoors in Denver a non-factor. Manning helped Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker go over 1,000 yards receiving and 10+ touchdowns each.
The question about Manning’s fantasy value will come up again at the start of next season. He will be 37-years-old, the age of well-documented quarterback decline. From 1970-2011, quarterbacks’ average fantasy production has seen a drop from a 17 points per game to just 14 between 36 and 37 – this is the most drastic decline between any two ages in a quarterback’s career.
This data can be misleading, because not many of the all-time great quarterbacks played to the age of 37. To ease Manning’s aging process, Denver will play the NFL’s easiest schedule in 2013. Everyone has undermined the New England Patriots success because of their cakewalk schedule in 2012. New England’s opponents had a point differential -288 in the previous season, while Denver’s 2013 schedule boasts a point differential of -784. Denver is scheduled to play a total of just six quality teams, with their average opponent having averaged fewer than seven wins in 2012 (shout out to the Kansas City Chiefs with their 2-14 record, -214 differential and on the schedule twice).
Manning and the Broncos will certainly have an easy time in 2013. I wouldn’t be surprised if they challenged for 16-0 after going 13-3 against a considerably harder schedule in 2012. I would recommend drafting Manning, and all other Broncos, for your fantasy team next season.