The fantasy football landscape is constantly changing from year to year. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is that only two years ago, the majority of experts and players alike had pegged Peyton Manning’s career to be all but over. He had two surgeries on his neck and spine, and the Indianapolis Colts had released the aging QB.
I recently mentioned that I believe Aaron Rodgers will be the top fantasy QB in 2014. However, I still have Manning ranked as the third-best fantasy QB this season. The problem is that I don’t think he will match his 2013 production and that his ADP and draft value is considerably higher than what his output will be. Let’s assess his physical condition, team situation and draft value.
No one likely predicted that Manning would finish the 2012 season with 4,600 yards and 37 TDs and then go on to shatter a number of NFL records during the 2013 season. The majority of the fantasy community has Manning ranked as the top fantasy QB for 2014. So why am I telling you not to draft Manning this coming season?
Statistically speaking, pro athletes don’t follow a record-setting season with another, especially not late in their career. Manning is 38 years old, and his arm is not getting any stronger. He has made almost 8,500 pass attempts during his 16 years in the NFL, good for second-most ever behind only Brett Favre. However, Manning has proven that he is more than capable of playing at an elite level despite his age. There is just more risk with each passing season.
Brock Osweiler isn’t going to usurp Manning as the starter, and the Denver Broncos have plenty of offensive weapons even with Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno gone. What I’m wary of are their offseason additions to the defense. The Broncos have strengthened their defense considerably this offseason following their Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Denver signed two top defensive free agents in CB Aqib Talib and SS T.J. Ward to strengthen their secondary. They also drafted another talented CB, Bradley Roby out of Ohio State, in the first round. Finally, picking up DE DeMarcus Ware to boost their pass rush will help keep opponents from scoring as much as they did in 2013. The Broncos gave up the sixth-most passing yards in the league last year, and with this bolstered defense, Manning should see fewer pass attempts to close out games this season.
The Broncos also had one of the easiest schedules last year, and now they have one of the most difficult. In 2014, Manning will face the NFC West, and he will play a tough Cincinnati Bengals defense at Paul Brown Stadium during the fantasy championships in Week 16.
Currently, Manning is on average being drafted in the first round. That’s insane. Manning’s current ADP is the definition of chasing last year’s stats. Don’t do it. Manning would only be worth a first-round pick if he could actually match his 2013 production. As mentioned above, he is another year older and now has a much-improved defense. If you plan on drafting an elite QB, you can grab Rodgers or Drew Brees a round or two later for similar production.
Drafting Manning to be your fantasy QB in 2014 certainly won’t lose you the season. However, he’s unlikely to repeat his 2013 performance and isn’t worth a first-round pick. If you end up with a late first-round pick, take a guy like Demaryius Thomas or Jimmy Graham instead. Manning’s ADP is artificially inflated by his record-breaking season last year, and there is much better value to be had elsewhere.