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Player Spotlight: Eli Manning

A detailed look at Eli Manning’s fantasy prospects for 2016. 

As A Player

It’s pretty hard to believe that it’s been 13 long years since Eli Manning was selected with the first overall selection of the 2004 NFL Draft. After a stellar college campaign at Ole Miss, the San Diego Chargers pulled the trigger and quickly flipped the rights to Manning to the New York Giants for a package that included Philip Rivers, the fourth overall selection in that year’s draft. Fast forward to today, and Manning’s resume includes two Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVP awards, and numerous team statistical records. Despite the rings and individual accolades, most of the talk around Manning quickly devolves into a question of whether or not he is an ‘elite’ quarterback.

We’ll steer clear of the debate over the ‘elite’ label, but there are few other quarterbacks we would want behind center in a big game. Here’s what he brings to the table. He would provide an instant upgrade at the quarterback position for roughly 20 of the other teams in the league that do not employ his services. He can make the big throws, shows an incredible knack for coming up big in high-pressure spots, and possesses a very clear team-first mentality. On the downside, he has a proclivity for making some silly throws at inopportune times, ball security can be an issue, and when he’s bad, he has a tendency to quickly spiral into a downright dreadful performance.

From a fantasy perspective, a very similar analysis rings true. Manning can deliver like a Top 10 quarterback at various points in the season, and can also have games that will leave his owners swearing that they will never start him again by halftime. In a perfect world, his high-level output games will more than offset his dud performances, and offer you solid year-long performance at the quarterback position that you will be able to secure for a mid-round draft choice.     

Recent History

Before taking a look at what this means for Manning in 2016 as a whole, let’s take a look back at his production by season for the past three years.

YEAR

TEAM

G

CMP

ATT

YD

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FumL

2013

NYG

16

317

551

3,818

18

27

18

36

0

2

2014

NYG

16

379

601

4,410

30

14

12

31

1

4

2015

NYG

16

387

618

4,436

35

14

20

61

0

4

We see a marked improvement in Manning’s statistical output from 2013 to 2014, which coincided with the hiring of Ben McAdoo as the Giants offensive coordinator. For the years 2014 and 2015, his output was extremely similar, with the exception of the leap in touchdowns from 30 to 35. The past two years were also only the second and third times that Manning has met or exceeded the 30 touchdown threshold in his career, and would also see him crack the 4,000-yard plateau for the first times since 2011. Bottom line, Manning’s statistical output has increased markedly with McAdoo in the fold, and that bodes well for a productive 2016 with McAdoo now running the whole show.  

Looking Ahead to 2016

After spending two years as the expected heir apparent to Tom Coughlin, the planned passing of the torch to Ben McAdoo became accelerated after a disappointing 6-10 mark for the Giants in 2015. As noted in the above look at Manning’s recent production, we can take that as a positive sign for similar statistical production from Manning in 2016. This will be his third season in the McAdoo offense, and he has one of the league’s top young wide receivers at his disposal in the form of Odell Beckham. The Giants also upgraded the position with the selection of Oklahoma wideout Sterling Shepard with the No.40 selection, an exciting prospect that followed up an impressive college career by turning heads at the combine. Shepard is not simply a receiver of the future either, as early reports indicate he’s locked into the WR2 role and expected to pay immediate dividends.

Beyond the top two targets, Victor Cruz continues to target a return to the field in 2016, after injuries forced him to miss all of 2015. We’ll have to wait and see whether he can return to anything resembling the Cruz of old, but even a Cruz operating at 90% of his former capabilities could provide the Giants and Manning with a solid contributor at WR3. At tight end, Will Tye was a bit of a surprise in 2015, and appears ready to assume the TE1 role ahead of the returning Larry Donnell, but either tight end is more than capable of providing the necessary safety net for the passing game. The backfield will likely see Rashad Jennings as the primary ball carrier, with Shane Vereen returning to assume passing down duties. We’ll also keep our eyes on Paul Perkins, the Giants 5th round selection that they are clearly eyeing as the back of the future. While we can’t expect him to be involved heavily in the game plan right out of the gate, he’s another intriguing prospect that could carve out a role as the 2016 campaign progresses.

Add it all up, and we have Manning entering his third season in an offense that he has played very well in, and surrounded by a solid collection of talent to boot. If Shepard pans out as expected, the Giants top two receivers will quickly enter the conversation as one of the league’s more dynamic tandems. Outside of the divisional games on the schedule, the Giants have games on the docket with the likes of New Orleans, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Detroit. All four of those games should lean towards the high side in terms of projected total scores for their respective weeks, and look like they could be potential shootouts just waiting to happen at this early juncture.     

Positives

  • Manning is entering his third year with an offense that he has been quite productive with
  • Odell Beckham. Manning has one of the league’s top wideouts at his disposal, and another potential stud of the future in the form of Sterling Shepard.
  • We can safely assume that Ben McAdoo will be looking to put his own stamp on the Giants for his first season in charge, and that could lead to even more opportunities and a bump in production for Manning.

Negatives

  • Ball security will always come with the territory for Manning.
  • The Giants are banking on Shepard paying immediate dividends. If he doesn’t pan out, the team’s lack of a featured target opposite Beckham will become an issue.
  • Age. We’ve seen no signs of deterioration in Manning’s skill set, but he turned 35 this year. We’ve seen plenty of quarterbacks thrive at that age and later, but it’s not out of the question to see somewhat of a decline beginning this season.

Projections

Projections

G

CMP

ATT

YD

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FumL

David Dodds

16

369

560

4,245

31

17

20

34

1

4

Bob Henry

16

378

605

4,380

32

14

17

50

0

3

Jason Wood

16

400

622

4,575

33

15

20

40

1

3

Maurile Tremblay

15

359

577

4,220

29

16

15

46

0

1

The book on Manning reads as if we can expect about 4,350 passing yards and 31 touchdowns this season. Based on these projections, we’ll ask ourselves two questions.

  1. How many quarterbacks threw for 4,350 yards or more in 2015? Answer – 7
  2. How many quarterbacks threw for 31 touchdowns or more in 2015? Answer – 11

If Manning lives up to his projected output, we’re looking at an unquestioned QB1 with the upside of a Top 10 signal caller.

Final Thoughts

Manning has thrived in his two seasons in the McAdoo offense, and Year Three could prove to be his most productive yet. The Giants may lean towards becoming even more pass-oriented with McAdoo steering the ship, and that could push Manning towards his most productive statistical season as a pro. He has an All-Pro caliber receiver at his disposal, an intriguing rookie at WR2 that may very well be a stud in the making, and a solid assortment of vets and youngsters to round out the remaining skill positions. The Giants 2016 schedule is overall favorable from a fantasy perspective, and the division could be there for the taking, insuring that the team will be playing some competitive games deep into the season.

We can view Manning’s fantasy prospects for 2016 in a very similar fashion to the debate that has surrounded him throughout his career. He may just be a notch below elite on the field, but that’s still pretty impressive and a problem the majority of teams in the league would be happy to assume. For fantasy purposes, he may be a notch below the elite-level producers at the quarterback position, but that’s still pretty impressive as well, and you could do much worse for your QB1 in 2016.

Other Viewpoints

Jeff Tefertiller in his player comments on Footballguys.com:

“Manning quietly puts up solid numbers almost every season and 2016 looks to be no different…especially with the coaching change. I am expecting more pass attempts for the younger Manning.”

CBS Sports 2016 Outlook on Eli Manning:

“The Giants' Eli Manning is always going to be the quarterback no one wants, but he typically ends up being a quality Fantasy option.”

Shawn Childs of Scout Fantasy on the 2016 outlook for the Giants and Manning:  

“It’s tough for me to believe he’ll beat his 2015 production in TDs while 4500 yards seems reasonable considering the new passing state of the NFL. Manning will offer backend starting value in 12 team leagues with a very favorable schedule.”