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Spotlight: Eli Manning

posted by Dave Larkin on Jul 29th


Dave Larkin's thoughts

If there is one thing about Eli Manning that cannot be questioned, it is his toughness.

Come to think of it, his presence of mind to slide and step up in the pocket is top-notch as well, as is his awareness of where his receivers should and will be.

Did I mention he is a no-nonsense personality with a streak for producing clutch moments for his team?

Throw all of these favourable quarterback traits into a pot, sprinkle in a dash of Manning genes and two Super Bowl rings and you have before you a quarterback who, despite his many professional accolades, still seems to struggle when it comes to engendering himself to the public.

But where does this leave Eli Manning in the public consciousness as far as fantasy football is concerned? Manning is a consistent player as a back-up quarterback and can certainly make a case for being a decent fill-in option in a squeeze, but the consensus is that he lacks the upside in terms of end-of-year numbers to make him a trustworthy QB1.

Let us test that hypothesis as we enter a new season in 2012.

Track record

According to consensus ADP projections, Eli Manning is currently being drafted as the seventh quarterback off the board in standard leagues, wedged between a pair of division rivals, Michael Vick and Tony Romo. Manning's track record, it can be argued, does not justify such an ADP.

Since taking over as the starter in 2005, Eli Manning has reached the 30-touchdown plateau only once. His interception totals have been consistently high as well; the quarterback has never thrown fewer than 10 in a 16-game season.

According to figures at Pro Football Focus which track passing under pressure, Manning finished 2011 as the most accurate quarterback when feeling the heat, completing just fewer than 70% of his throws.

Despite the extolling of Manning's virtues above as I waxed lyrical about his toughness, guts and intelligence as a passer in the pocket, he has never quite reached the heights that his talent dictates - and yet his ADP remains high.

Is the average fantasy owner beginning to believe that he is ready to emerge from the obscurity of fantasy back-up status?

Stability

One could be forgiven for buying in to the self-effacing nature of Manning as a football player and as a talent. After all, his offensive personnel have remained intact for the most part this offseason. In fact, only Jake Ballard - who the New England Patriots claimed on waivers - is absent from the Super Bowl roster of 2011.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride remains at the controls of the Giants attack, which features option routes, power running and most importantly, a quarterback at the helm who can turn the X's and O's into yards and touchdowns.

The Giants bolstered their offense with the selections of burner David Wilson at running back and LSU's Rueben Randle, both of whom will have to earn the quarterback's trust before being integrated fully into the offense.

Redraft strategy implications

The take home message is this: although Eli Manning may not present the most attractive option at quarterback this season, his familiar surrounding cast and fearless mentality on the field - both in making throws and staying tough in the pocket - will make him a sensible investment as a back-up quarterback.

Passers will be a dime a dozen in standard redraft leagues this summer, so pairing Eli Manning with a mid-round quarterback like Joe Flacco or Josh Freeman could pay huge dividends.

New York Giants offense - Run and Shoot concepts

No offense in the National Football League uses the Run and Shoot exclusively, but aspects of it are still a mainstay in the pages of certain offensive playbooks. The New York Giants are one of the offenses that use Run and Shoot concepts to exploit the talented receivers they have, both on the outside (Nicks) and in the slot (Cruz).

The premise of the Run and Shoot is simple: spread out the defense with multiple wide receiver sets and allow the receivers, based on the leverage and alignment of the defense, to alter their routes. If they select the correct route and the quarterback and receiver are in sync, it is a big play waiting to happen.

Eli Manning is comfortable with taking shots downfield, as this play from the NFC Championship game shows.

NFC Championship - New York @ San Francisco 4th quarter, 1:14 remaining.

The Giants line up in Posse (3WR, 1RB, 1TE) personnel, a three-by-one set with Manning set up in the shotgun. The 49ers are showing a two-deep look pre-snap and the defensive front is going to execute an E/T stunt on the snap of the ball.

The 49ers get the better of the Giants offensive line and collapse the pocket, forcing Manning to flush to the left and look for a receiver downfield. Ahmad Bradshaw is running a wheel route out of the backfield and is about to turn up the field, seeing Manning in trouble. His quarterback knows exactly where to find him, but first he must deal with the fearsome pass rush the 49ers bring.

With three defenders about to crunch into Manning's midsection, he stands bravely and releases a beautiful pass down the sideline to Bradshaw, who has beaten his defender. Manning's eyes remain downfield throughout the process. Besides illustrating his toughness as a football player, it shows how aware Manning is of opportunities for splash plays to break a game wide open.

Positives

  • Eli Manning is the new iron man of the National Football League, having watched his brother fall foul of a serious neck injury. The younger Manning is a very tough player who will not disappoint you as far as missing games is concerned
  • The offense has not suffered any major losses from last season and should continue to run through Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, with new additions Martellus Bennett and Rueben Randle making an impact too
  • Manning has excellent big play upside with the weapons as his disposal and the Run and Shoot concepts in the offense will provide him with plenty of downfield opportunities

Negatives

  • He only represents a worthwhile investment as a back-up or committee quarterback and has never reached the heights of an elite, no-brainer QB1
  • Manning is mistake-prone and has never thrown fewer than 10 interceptions in a 16-game season in his career; that can be costly in leagues that punish such errors

Final thoughts

Eli Manning is a better 'real life' quarterback than a fantasy quarterback, and this is evident in his end-of-year statistics each season. However, he represents a good value as a committee quarterback with upside. Manning is not a sexy option by any means, but if you are seeking consistency and predictability from the position, he is your man.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Jason Wood (Footballguys.com Senior Writer) said:

Eli deserves credit for consistently improving his game. Just a few years ago everyone had Manning "figured out" as a competent passer that might be good enough to win with a great supporting cast and defense, but no someone that was going to help fantasy owners week in, week out. But credit to the coaching staff and Manning's own work ethic for allowing him to evolve along with the offense. Now armed with the best set of receivers in his career, and coming off a season just shy of 5,000 yards passing, Manning deserves credit as a high floor QB1. While I would be surprised if he ever got the attempts to finish in the top 2 or 3, I also think he's hard to forecast as much worse than the QB10-12 range. If you're risk averse, Manning is a solid player to target in the fourth or fifth round.


Eli Manning projections

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