There was no question about it — the sheriff was back in town — and by Sheriff, I mean Peyton Manning.
It may seem foolish now but at this point last year there was very real concern about how the venerable Manning would do in his return to football. After all he missed the entire 2011 season due to injury.
How will the shoulder hold up? Will he ever re-gain his old arm strength? Will he be the old Peyton?
Just fine, no and a resounding yes were the answers to those questions.
Manning will certainly be more confident in the shoulder after a full-offseason but as far as 2012 was concerned it held up just fine. Yes, there was a slight drop in his arm-strength but it didn’t matter.
Manning is not one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time because of a strong arm (although it’s more than adequate). It’s because of his tenacity, football intelligence, accuracy as a passer and un-rivaled work ethic.
There are guys that work hard in the NFL — then there’s Peyton. His machine like consistency on the practice field is legendary. When Peyton’s your quarterback, he might as well be your offensive coordinator as well, because if he doesn’t like what’s happening on the field, he changes it. If there’s a problem, he fixes it. Doesn’t matter if it takes 100 reps or 1,000.
Manning is such a great quarterback, I’m convinced he could take anyone with NFL-caliber athleticism and decent pass-catching skills and turn him into a player. It may be an exaggeration but I wouldn’t put it past him.
That’s why the thought of Manning throwing the football to Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker is downright scary. He can produce with a bunch of average joe’s — imagine how productive he will with the best group of receivers in the NFL.
Last season, Manning was his normal efficient self as he led the NFL in completion percentage (68.6 percent) and threw for 4,659 yards in addition to 37 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He also turned out to be a very good fantasy quarterback, totaling 313.4 fantasy points and average of 19.7 per game.
In 2012 Manning’s ADP (average draft position) was ninth. The concerns about the shoulder injury drove down his value and fantasy owners, who waited to select him were the big beneficiaries. Needless to say, the same thing will not happen in 2013 as no one will be sleeping on him anymore.
Throughout his career, Manning has been incredibly consistent and has thrown at least 26 touchdown passes in each of his 15 NFL seasons. He’s also thrown for more than 4,000 yards 13 times, averaged over seven yards per pass attempt 13 times and completed at least 65 percent of his passes ten straight years. Like I said he’s a machine.
Manning has also been consistent in his ranking among fantasy quarterbacks as he finished sixth in 2008, 2009 and 2012, while ranking fourth in 2010.
Regardless of his rankings, Manning has always been an elite fantasy passer and that will be no different in 2012. Currently in our latest Fantasy PPR Quarterback Rankings for 2013, Manning is listed as third. This is in part because he should be fully healthy and should be better than he was last year. It’s also because of the projected positive impact Wes Welker will have.
Welker is a unique wide receiver and must be used in the right way for him to achieve maximum effectiveness. Well, if there is one quarterback outside of Tom Brady, who can get the most out of Welker, it’s Manning.
Consider how dangerous Manning will be checking plays at the line of scrimmage with the best slot receiver in the NFL at this finger tips. It has to be a worrisome thought for NFL defensive coordinators.
With Thomas, Decker and Welker — the Broncos have three pro-bowl caliber wide outs and no matter what — they are going to get single coverage and Manning is going to have a field day. So while Manning was great as a fantasy quarterback in 2012, the expectations are even higher entering 2013.
2013 Fantasy Football Projection:
Considering the stability of Manning’s production, projecting him should be fairly easy. I can say with absolute certainty that Manning will throw for more than 4,000 yards and at least 30 touchdowns. To me, that is his floor. Yet, I see him far exceeding that so my official projection for Manning in 2013 is 4,800 yards passing, 38 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Manning should score right around 325 fantasy points in 2013 and will be a top-5 quarterback. Yet, due to the decreasing value of the quarterback position, it’s possible that you will be able to select Manning as late as round 4 of your fantasy football draft.