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Player Spotlight: Eli Manning

A detailed look at Eli Manning's fantasy prospects for 2015

What A Difference A Weapon Makes

The answer was Odell Beckham, Jr.

What was the question? At the beginning of the season we all wanted to know who was going to be the next Josh Gordon. When it became clear Gordon himself would be eliminated from competition, it was OBJ who became the waiver wire warrior that swung championships.

Thanks in part to Beckham’s dominant rookie season, Eli Manning set new career highs in attempts, completions and passer rating, while finishing with his second most passing touchdowns, second most yards and tied his 2009 performance with just 14 interceptions.

That’s not bad for a guy that was the 23rd QB off the board last year and wasn’t even drafted in some leagues.

We now shift our focus to the 2015 season. After finishing as the 11th best quarterback last year Eli has once again returned to fantasy relevance. His current consensus ADP has him going in the eighth round as QB12.

That’s a comfortable price to pay it seems, but which Eli are we drafting? We’ve seen the good, the bad and the utterly mediocre over his 11-year career.  His career arc has that sine wave look to it, as you’ll see in the table below:

YR CMP ATT PYD Y/A PTD INT FANT PT QB Rank
2014 351 548 3982 7.3 29 13 311.20 11
2013 304 519 3635 7.0 17 25 228.45 21
2012 308 514 3740 7.3 21 15 259.10 18
2011 334 554 4564 8.2 26 15 323.30 6
2010 322 510 3760 7.4 30 24 290.00 7
2009 300 486 3880 8.0 27 13 295.00 10
2008 277 459 3118 6.8 21 10 237.10 14
2007 275 496 3085 6.2 19 19 222.85 14
2006 290 497 3143 6.3 23 18 233.45 11
2005 282 534 3554 6.7 23 17 267.30 6

This chart ignores his rookie season since he played only seven games with little relevance to the bigger picture. The bigger picture is the column labeled as QB rank—where he ranked among his peers in fantasy points.

As you can see, the prodigal one has rebounded after his historically disastrous 2013 season in which he threw a league high 27 interceptions—the second most for a QB in 10 years (Brett Favre claims the top spot with 29)—and a career low 18 touchdowns.

Bad Eli.

Just a few years earlier he threw a career high 4,933 yards—seventh most in the last 10 years—and finished as QB6. He also won a Super Bowl.

Good Eli.

The 2015 New York Giants aren’t all that dissimilar from the Championship roster of 2011. In fact, it’s better.

A Career-Best Supporting Cast

A quick journey down the Giants depth chart and we find good enough company to assert that Manning is surrounded by more talent now than ever before. Offensive Rookie of the Year aside, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell will create matchups that play perfectly into Ben McAdoo’s system.  

A healthy Cruz will now find single coverage, thanks to Beckham, and will enjoy his time as a slot receiver when the Giants run three-wide sets, which we will see a lot of in 2015. Randle and Donnell, 6’3” and 6’6” respectively, both provide Manning the comfort of big targets—a comfort that translates into touchdowns in goal-to-go situations.  

And should things breakdown, should the pressure get there—discomfort, if you will—Manning will have newly acquired Shane Vereen to pepper with targets.

It’s easy to jump right into David Wilson comparisons when speculating what Vereen’s role will be. We can safely say he wasn’t acquired to take over lead back duties. That will still belong to a combination Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, depending on who is healthy and holding on to the football. But we know Vereen, at the very least, doubles as a receiver with good pass-blocking skills. It’s not out of line to suggest he’ll be more than just a third down specialist in McAdoo’s quick-hitting system.

Individually, these players, with the exception of Beckham, will provide a lot of fantasy football frustration over the course of the season. Not one of them can be relied on with any sort of weekly consistency. The only way to take full advantage is through Manning.

And through Manning, we see the Giants offense shaping up as a top-10 unit in 2015. Last season they ranked 13th in points scored and 10th in yards per game. They finished strong averaging 29.1 points per game in the final six weeks—well above the league average of 22.6.

While the Cowboys and Eagles are getting all of the attention, let’s not forget that the Giants over/under win total is sitting at 8.5. Their schedule sets them up for plenty of high-scoring affairs. We’ll get a taste of that right off the bat when they travel to Dallas to open Sunday Night Football.

The biggest concern for Manning and the Giants begins and ends with their offensive line.

According Football Outsiders, they ranked 10th in pass protection. Unfortunately, the loss of Will Beatty in OTAs has them scrounging free agents to repair a now very thin depth chart.  This is bad news as Manning ranked as the worst QB when under pressure.

Conversely, when not under pressure he was one of the best in the NFL. So the most logical reaction is to have faith in McAdoo’s system. Getting the ball out of Manning’s hands as quickly as possible will be the answer to concerns about protection. They have the manpower, from Beckham to Vereen, to do just that. In the process Manning will provide weekly QB1 numbers.

POSITIVES

  • Weapons: That’s the key word when projecting Manning’s 2015 season. He is surrounded by playmakers that can not only stretch the field but also have the size and strength to keep the field goal unit on the sidelines.
  • System: McAdoo’s first year as the offensive coordinator yielded one of the best years for his quarterback. Now that the implantation process is over we can expect it to be even better.
  • Track Record: In six of his 10 years as the starter, Brother Eli has produced a top-12 finish among quarterbacks including two top-six appearances.

NEGATIVES

  • Pass Protection:  Injuries to the offensive line leave the Giants thin at the position, forcing them to start rookies and washed up veterans. Under Pressure Manning equals Interception Manning.
  • Consistency: Despite posting seven top-12 finishes last year, Manning—not so unlike his career—was up and down. From Week 10 through Week 16 his finishes went 14, 23, 5, 20, 21, 5, 3.
  • Defense: we haven’t talked about how bad the Giants’ defense will be in 2015 until now: the Giants’ defense is going to be really bad in 2015. That may favor Manning in such a way that it forces him to throw more often, which creates a lot of volume. But it also creates a one-note offense, which is easier to defend. And then we see Interception Manning.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I will be targeting Brother Eli in every draft. The combination of playmakers he has at his disposal and an offensive coordinator who turned Aaron Rodgers into a fantasy all-star excites me greatly. The Giants are going to host a good number of high-scoring barn-burners and the best way, the only way, to take full advantage of them is with Manning.

I won’t force his price on the late-round quarterback purists, as I’m sure many of you are, but he can be currently acquired at the end of the eighth/beginning of the ninth round—somewhere between Ameer Abdullah and the Seattle Seahawks defense. That’s the perfect bounty to pay for a QB that I’m expecting to produce the best fantasy season he's ever had. Thanks OBJ.

PROJECTIONS

Staffer G CMP ATT YD TD INT RSH YD TD FumL
PROJ-Dodds 16 363 570 4247 30 17 16 24 0 4
PROJ-Henry 16 375 590 4350 28 15 14 30 0 4
PROJ-Wood 16 408 635 4905 33 14 15 40 0 8
PROJ-Tremblay 16 387 606 4495 27 16 15 40 1 1

OTHER VIEW POINTS

Manning told a reporter he expects 2015 to be his best season yet. I’m happy to agree.

Joseph Juan posted a great write up on what we should expect from Manning in his second season with McAdoo as his coordinator. It’s clear that the Giants are streaming towards a sneaky Super Bowl pick. They are currently getting 28/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, just below the Steelers (25/1) and just above the Bills (33/1). It’s barely summer but that looks like a good bet to me.