A disappointing loss in Super Bowl XLVIII took some of the luster off Peyton Manning’s 2013 MVP season, as he set a single-season record for passing touchdowns (55) while leading the league in completions (450), attempts (659) and passing yards (5,477). The yardage was also a career-high for one the best quarterbacks in league history, and Manning looks ready for another big season in 2014.
Despite losing Eric Decker in free agency, the Broncos still have a deep group of pass catchers that was added to in free agency (Emmanuel Sanders) and May’s draft (Cody Latimer) . Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker are back as Manning’s top two wide receivers, with tight end Julius Thomas coming off a breakout season (65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns) and in line for a bigger role this year.
Only the Cleveland Browns threw the ball more than the Broncos last season, and that volume will not drop dramatically this year. Denver allowed a league-low 20 sacks last year, and the healthy return of left tackle Ryan Clady will only help keep Manning upright.
Manning’s arm strength is not where it was in his pre-neck surgery prime, and at age 38 his physical tools are likely to continue to erode, however slowly. But the chance for a steep, quick decline still lingers.
Offseason speculation suggested the Broncos may run the ball more this year. While better offensive balance might be a good idea overall, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Manning will surely regress some this year, but given the distance he outperformed his positional peers by (315 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 58 fantasy points-ESPN scoring) he remains a virtual lock to be the first quarterback off the board in fantasy drafts this year. Advancing age and the unique nature of the neck issue that led to him missing the 2011 season adds a hint of risk, but that’s nothing new to fantasy owners that have interest in the elder Manning as he enters his third season with the Broncos.
Bye Week: Week 4
Projected Round: First Round
Auction Value: $49 (ESPN.com)
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.