The New York Giants announced QB Eli Manning would undergo surgery on his left ankle Thursday afternoon. Manning left the Giants’ Week 17 game of 2013 in the second quarter with what was later diagnosed as a high-ankle sprain. He is expected to spend about six weeks rehabbing the ankle, and should be able to return to on-field activities at some point in May.
Before we address the question of whether or not this recent setback will affect Manning from a fantasy standpoint, let us first get a general idea of where Manning ranks among those who play his position prior to the news of his surgery. The 2013 season was not Manning’s best statistical year. In fact it was arguably his worst since his rookie season. Manning threw for 3,818 yards (lowest since 2008), 18 TDs and a league (and career)-worst 27 interceptions.
In standard leagues (1 pt. per 25 yards passing, 4 pts. every TD pass) Manning ended the season as the 21st-ranked QB, behind the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, and Geno Smith. Nick Foles didn’t secure the starting job in Philadelphia until Week 5, and he finished seven spots higher on this list than Manning.
Manning’s career numbers have been pretty average in his nine seasons. His yards-per-season averages out to 3,811 per year if you exclude his rookie campaign, but he has only topped the 30-TD mark once. Manning has also averaged at least one pick per game in six of the nine seasons since he took over as full-time starter in 2005. He has never been the “big numbers”-type QB. He is the definition of a middle-of-the-road, know-what-you’re-going-to-get QB for fantasy purposes.
The bottom line is that this offseason ankle surgery will not affect Manning’s status as a mid-tier QB. He will enter the 2014 season as most expert’s 20th-24th ranked QB, which is where he would have been slotted if the surgery never happened.
Manning is a quality fallback option in two-QB leagues or leagues that have an offensive player slot. Most fantasy football owners want to draft the guy that has the “potential” to light-up opposing defenses every week of that particular season and surpass everyone’s wildest expectations. Manning isn’t that guy. He is however the prime example of that guy who ends up finishing ahead of the “this-is-his-break-out year,” “drafted-two-rounds-too-early” draft-day reaches.
His 3,800 yards and 24 TDs will be there again in 2014, just like all his previous efforts throughout his career. Manning has yet to miss a start since he was named the full-time starter in 2004, playing in all 16 games in every season since. Eli’s streak of 151 consecutive starts is the longest running streak for any current NFL player.
There is no reason to expect his (admittedly average) production will suddenly drop off after a minor offseason procedure in April. Be confident that Manning’s reputation will precede him in 2014, and be prepared to draft him accordingly if you’re forced to do so.