Spotlight: Eli Manning

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 9th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Eli Manning enjoyed a career year in 2009, but it came in a season he and his teammates would like to forget. After starting the season 5-0, the Giants completely fell apart and went 3-8 over the remainder of the year, finishing 3rd in the division and outside the playoffs. The reason for the poor finish was two-fold: 1) A defensive collapse of epic proportions and 2) An inability to establish the run game.

Games PtsAllow YdsAllow PassYAll RushYAll TOs
1-5 14.2 214 105 110 2.2
6-16 32.4 375 264 111 1.6

Defensive collapse of epic proportions - During the 5-0 start, the defense was stifling, allowing just over 100 yards passing and holding opponents to 14.2 points per game. But key injuries combined with uninspired coaching by DC Bill Sheridan led to an explosion of futility. The Giants allowed more than 32 points per game over the final 11, and 264 passing yards - abysmal stuff, really.

Inability to establish the run game - The Giants couldn't get untracked last year on the ground. Brandon Jacobs was in and out of the lineup and averaged a meager 3.7 yards per rush. Ahmad Bradshaw was effective on a per touch basis (4.8 yards per rush, 7 TDs) but only managed 163 carries and was hobbled pretty much the entire season (he had surgery on both feet this offseason stemming from last year's pain). As a team, the Giants ran the ball 443 times (13th in NFL) and averaged just 4.1 yards per rush (20th in the NFL). That's not "Giants' Football."

The Giants only hope was to strap the offense on Eli Manning's back, and ask him to outscore their opponents. To his credit, Manning answered the call.

  • 317 completions (career high)
  • 62.3% completion rate (career high)
  • 4,021 passing yards (career high)
  • 27 TD passes (career high)
  • 5.3% TD rate (career high)
  • 2.8% INT rate (2nd best of career)
  • 7.9 yards per attempt (career high)
  • 93.1 passer rating (career high)

By any measure, this was Eli Manning's best statistical season. Unfortunately, because of the Giants struggles as a team, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that the Giants are going to re-commit to the run game this year and throw less. Since the coaches have gone on record saying that's their intention, I can't completely disregard it as a risk. But I have real trouble accepting those statements at face value. While Manning's 2009 numbers were his career best, it WASN'T BECAUSE HE THREW THE BALL MORE THAN USUAL.

Year Games Attempts Atts/Game
2004 9 197 21.9
2005 16 557 34.8
2006 16 522 32.6
2007 16 529 33.1
2008 16 479 29.9
2009 16 509 31.8

Last year Manning took fewer pass attempts than he had in 2005, 2006 or 2007! It wasn't that he threw more; it was that he produced a lot more with each attempt. Manning can thank himself, and his supporting cast for the step function improvement in his numbers. In his own right, he's shown a dedication to the game that's enviable. Last year's numbers are just the continuation of a career-long upward trajectory. Whereas a few years ago many of us (myself included) wondered if Manning would ever be a 60% passer or able to play well into December, that's clearly no longer a concern. He's tough, makes good decisions, and has learned when to get rid of the ball. The other difference last year was the evolution of a young receiver corps. Steve Smith turned into a 100-catch machine. Kevin Boss has replaced Jeremy Shockey as a deadly red zone option. Hakeem Nicks led the NFL in YAC and is poised for stardom. Mario Manningham looked like a star at times and now slots as a high quality 3rd receiver.

Positives

  • Manning is strong, tough and plays hurt. He's shown steady improvement in every facet of his game throughout his career
  • The Giants field the most impressive array of receiving options in Manning's career
  • Fantasy owners are lazily assuming that last year's numbers were due to throwing the ball more than usual; which is keeping his ADP low

Negatives

  • Manning has struggled in December in cold weather at times, which is the worst possible time for a slump given its correlation with the fantasy playoffs
  • Although the Giants are saying all the right things about improving the rushing attack, they've essentially brought back the same unit from 2009
  • Manning faces a difficult schedule in the key fantasy playoff weeks

Final thoughts

Manning is a rock solid option as either the first leg of your quarterback-by-committee or as a premier backup in 10-team leagues. I honestly think Manning could be a Top 5 passer if things fell right this year, yet I'm routinely seeing him passed over for the likes of Kevin Kolb, Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb. Nothing against those QBs, but Manning has been a pillar of consistency, is in his prime, and is coming off a career year. His receiving corps is better than ever, and contrary to popular opinion, Manning's lofty statistical totals last year were NOT the result of having to throw more. The Giants defense fell off, as did its ground game, but Manning threw the same amount he always does. Manning is one of the highest floor options for the middle rounds of your draft.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

rzrback77 said:

Eli Manning is another steady producer at the QB position. He caught a lot of flak early in his career for a very low completion percentage. His first full year as a starter, he only completed 52.8% of his passes. I think that he had a learning curve not just for the NFL, but for playing in Giants Stadium. His percentages have mostly been steady improvement. In consecutive years, he has posted 57.7%, 56.1%, 60.3%, and finally 61.1% last year. I do not know whether the wind will be similar in the new Meadowlands Stadium, but if it is not as bad as the previous stadium, he could see even a bigger jump.

Eli has also been a steady TD producer, with between 21 and 27 in each of his most recent five years. He had his most yardage as a passer in 09 and some link that to all the injuries at the RB position. Mostly those same folks predict a downturn in 2010 as the Giants return to their roots. I am not sure that is the correct posture. The Giants had a very young WR roster in 09 and all of those guys are more experienced this year. A lot of folks are expecting a nice jump for Hakeen Nicks and some production from Ramses Barden. I look for the offense to remain slightly tilted toward the pass and thus, Eli's numbers to stay elevated above his career averages.

I think that his ADP will slide some from the current level of QB 8 and 71 overall and would be happy to draft him around QB 11 or so.

TheDirtyWord said:

This thinking has taken off it appears. It's possible that 6 QB's could be gone in my league by the middle of the 2nd round...

As for Eli, the major light switch that went on his game in 2009 seemed to be his efficiency. With a career YPA of 6.4 heading into 2009, and a career best of 6.8, Manning blew those figures out of the water with a 7.9 YPA in 2009. The question is 'was this an aberration?'

I'm inclined to think that it's not, and it's not simply related to Manning. The Giants simply have:

1) Never had the type of talent and depth at the WR position they have now.

2) Never had the type of questions with regard to the running game they have now.

...both of the those factors led the the Giants for the first time in a LONG time becoming a more effective passing team. With the WR combination of Smith, Nicks & Manningham along with a solid TE in Boss, Manning now has a multitude of targets he can take advantage of. While Plaxico probably remains the best WR Manning has ever had, he had an overrated and injury prone Shockey and an aging Toomer as his primary targets.

I do think Manning is a great candidate to target in rounds 7-9 has a viable option for a QB1. He won't ever probably be in the conversation as a Round 2-4 drafted QB, but what he is now is an every week option to start at QB and not put you in a hole versus part of a QBBC. Targeting him in this range allows you to take advantage of the early QB run by securing more and better talent at the RB/WR positions.

Warpig said:

I think Eli is great value this year (atleast he has been up until this probably). I picked him up in a dynasty auction draft recently for $62 or $63 (out of a $1000 cap). To put it in perspective, all the QB's rated above him went for between $80 and $100!

As someone mentioned earlier, he has terrific WR depth as well as solid TE play. Defenses can't key in on just one guy like when he had Plax and I think Eli is maturing and using all the weapons at his disposal (he likes to throw to his RBs more too). And, while he does have a nice stable of RBs at his disposal as well, they are dinged up a good bit forcing him to throw more.


Eli Manning projections

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