New York Giants fans don't much care what kind of fantasy football quarterback Eli Manning is, because as a real-life quarterback he delivered them two Super Bowl titles. But it's Friday of fantasy week here on the NFC East blog, and so we're going to look at Manning purely as a fantasy option for 2012. Fortunately, as you may have come to expect by now, there's a roundtable video our fantasy experts did on that very topic.
Manning is an enigmatic fantasy quarterback. He's ranked sixth among quarterbacks by our experts in their preseason rankings. But according to the average draft position data on this site, he's the ninth quarterback being taken in early mocks and not going until the middle of the sixth round. In the video, Matthew Berry points out that Manning's pass attempts over the past four years have been, in order, 479, 509, 539 and 589. Once you get past the weird fact that all of those numbers end in nine, you realize that Manning is meeting one of the key criteria for a fantasy quarterback: He plays in an offense that throws the ball a ton.
He also threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2011. He has two top-10 fantasy receivers, complete job security, the absolute trust of the coaching staff and has never missed a game since becoming the Giants' starter in 2004. What's not to like?
The issue, from a fantasy standpoint, is touchdowns. As Christopher Harris points out, the 10 quarterbacks who've thrown for more yards in a season than Manning did last year have averaged 40.9 touchdown passes in those seasons. Manning threw only 29 last year. This isn't likely to change much. The Giants like to run the ball at the goal line, which means the thing that deflates Manning's value is the very thing that inflates Ahmad Bradshaw's. Manning will throw a lot, and he'll throw deep, and he's not likely to kill you with interceptions the way he did two years ago. But when you strip fantasy football down to its most basic elements, you want guys who score touchdowns. And there are quarterbacks who are going to throw more touchdowns than Manning will.
Now, if you've really killed it in the first five rounds of your draft -- you came up with two stud running backs, Rob Gronkowski and a couple of wide receivers you love -- and Manning is sitting there in the sixth, you're going to be pretty fired up to take him. The guy that won the regular-season points title in my main league last year had Manning, and no one could touch him until the playoffs (when yours truly pulled an Eli Manning of his own and went on a dream run to the title). This guy also had LeSean McCoy, Gronkowski, Darren Sproles, Wes Welker ... you get the idea. He was loaded, and Manning was more than enough quarterback for a team like that.
I always say the only thing that matters in fantasy sports is value. And if Manning's going to last that long in drafts, he may not be the best quarterback in your fantasy league this year, but he might offer the most value.