Peyton Manning served fantasy football owners well during his first 13 NFL seasons, all with the Indianapolis Colts. But he missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing multiple neck surgeries, and questions about his health followed him to a new team when he signed with the Denver Broncos after being released by the Colts.
But Manning started last season by throwing for two touchdowns in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he quickly hit his stride with five straight 300-yard games prior to and immediately after Denver’s Week 7 bye. He finished with numbers in line with the best seasons of his career (4,659 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, nine 300-yard passing games and a completion percentage of 68.6) while, perhaps most importantly, starting all 16 games with no significant issues related to his neck.
Manning has re-established himself as one of the league’s best signal callers and a top option for fantasy owners. Is a repeat in order for 2013?
Manning helped wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Eric Decker (85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns) put up big seasons in 2012, and the Broncos added Wes Welker in free agency. Welker had at least 111 catches and 1,100 receiving yards in five of the last six seasons for the New England Patriots, and he now will catch passes from another future Hall of Fame quarterback.
If not for his neck issue, and assuming he would have started all 16 games in 2011, Manning would have a streak of 240 consecutive regular season starts entering the season. Durability is a greater concern now that he is 37 years old, but there’s no question Manning can more than make up for any physical shortcomings he may have with the preparation and savvy he is known for.
Manning will be among the first handful of quarterbacks drafted in most fantasy leagues this year, and the addition of Welker adds to his upside potential. I’m hesitant to expect a carbon copy of 2012, in part to the Broncos possibly having a better running game led by rookie Montee Ball, but I think Manning will still throw for close to 4,500 yards with 30-35 touchdowns. That will make him a more than adequate QB1, but be prepared to spend a second or third-round pick to get him in 12-team leagues.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.