2016 Will Be Eli Manning’s Best Fantasy Season

Eli Manning enters his 13th NFL season in 2016.  The majority of football fans would describe him as an average regular season quarterback who performs at his best in critical playoff games.  Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP.  He has always shined in the “big game.”  However, the fantasy community always draws pause when drafting him as a starting quarterback.  Take a look at Manning’s end of year statistics and fantasy rankings in each season (all statistics provided by playerprofiler.com).

Year G GS Pct Yds TD Int Rating Fantasy Rank
2015 16 16 62.6 4,432 35 14 93.6 8th
2014 16 16 63.1 4,410 30 14 92.1 10th
2013 16 16 57.5 3,818 18 27 69.4 21st
2012 16 16 59.9 3,948 26 15 87.2 14th
2011 16 16 61 4,933 29 16 92.9 6th
2010 16 16 62.9 4,002 31 25 85.3 10th
2009 16 16 62.3 4,021 27 14 93.1 10th
2008 16 16 60.3 3,238 21 10 86.4 12th
2007 16 16 56.1 3,336 23 20 73.9 13th
2006 16 16 57.7 3,244 24 18 77 9th
2005 16 16 52.8 3,762 24 17 75.9 5th
2004 9 7 48.2 1,043 6 9 55.4 37th

The concerns surrounding Eli Manning in the regular season center around his completion percentage and interception rate. Currently, his average draft position (ADP) is 112.4.  Manning is being drafted as the 10th best quarterback.

The fantasy community needs to start understanding what is outlined below.  2016 will be Eli Manning‘s best fantasy season.

2016 Will Be Eli Manning’s Best Fantasy Season

Eli Manning has thrown for over 4,000 yards five times in his career, and fell 52 yards short of a sixth season in 2012.  That is more times than Cam Newton (once, rookie season), Carson Palmer (three times), and the same amount as both Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. In addition, he has thrown for over 30 touchdowns three times in his career. This is more than Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Cam Newton (once), and Carson Palmer (twice). All of these quarterbacks currently have higher ADPs than Manning.  His production in terms of yards and touchdowns has always been strong.

In regards to his fantasy ranking, Eli Manning has been the model of consistency. He has finished as a top ten fantasy quarterback seven times in his 13 seasons. Over the last three seasons, Eli has improved from the 21st ranked fantasy quarterback in 2013 to the eighth ranked quarterback in 2015.

The Ben McAdoo Effect

Head coach Ben McAdoo is entering his third season with the New York Giants organization.  In his first two years, he served as their offensive coordinator.  McAdoo brought with him the West Coast style offense that he refined in his eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers. His offense has consistently featured screen passes, quick-timing horizontal pass patterns, and three-step drops.  McAdoo’s philosophy is to get the skill position players the ball in space, and give them the freedom to make plays after the catch.   This style has played into Manning’s strengths and helped him improve each of the last two seasons. Passing yards? Up 614 yards.  Completion percentage?  Up 5.1%. Touchdowns? Up 17. Most importantly, his interceptions have dropped by 13 over the past two seasons. In fact, Manning’s 14 interceptions over the past two seasons have tied for the second lowest total of his career.

Red Zone

The red zone metrics show Manning’s improvement even more.  Look at how he performed in the most important area on the field over the past three seasons.

2015 Red Zone Comp. % 2014 Red Zone Comp. % 2013 Red Zone Comp. %
Percentage 56% 49% 46.60%
QB Rank 13th 24th 25th

 

2015 Red Zone Attempts 2014 Red Zone Attempts 2013 Red Zone Attempts
Percentage 91 104 58
QB Rank 3rd 2nd 15th

Eli Manning’s red zone passing attempts dramatically rose under McAdoo’s tutelage, from 58 attempts in 2013 to 104 attempts in 2014.  His rank among quarterbacks rose from 15th in 2013 to second and third over the past two seasons.  Even more impressive is that with the large increase in attempts also came an increase in completion percentage. Over the past three seasons, McAdoo has been able to raise Manning’s red zone completion percentage by almost 10%. In short, the Giants are throwing more in the red zone and Eli Manning is completing a higher percentage of those passes.  These are huge positives for his 2016 potential.

Giants 2016 Passing Game Upgrades

Ben McAdoo’s west coast style offense fits Eli Manning’s strengths perfectly.  There have also been some additions to the Giants offense that will help Manning achieve his best season ever.  The first is the addition of Oklahoma rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard. The second-round draft pick gives Eli Manning an explosive wide receiver target, as demonstrated by two critical metrics:  Burst Score and SPARQ-x rating.

The Burst Score indicates a player’s zero-inertia explosiveness (stop-and-start acceleration) and ability to catch the ball outside the body.  Burst Score sums a player’s vertical jump height and broad jump distance, and is calibrated to give both jumps equal weight.  Shepard’s Burst Score is 131.2, which puts him in the 89th percentile of all NFL players.  When placed on the field opposite Odell Beckham Jr., this will give Manning two of the most explosive wide receivers in the entire league.

The SPARQ-x rating is an approximation of Nike’s SPARQ Rating (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness), a project started in 2004 to create a standardized test for athleticism similar to an SAT test for athletes. SPARQ-x input factors are 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle, and the bench press. Shepard’s SPARQ-x score of 118.9 puts him in the 86th percentile of all NFL players, and above comparable players as Phillip Dorsett (117), Donte Moncrief (115.5), and even teammate Odell Beckham Jr. (114.8).

In addition to Shepard, Manning will also get back wide receiver Victor Cruz from a calf injury that cost him the entire 2015 season.  Cruz has multiple 80+ catch and 1000+ yard seasons in his career with Manning at the helm.  As the slot receiver, Cruz will especially help Manning in the red zone.  All of the reports out of Giants’ training camp have been very positive on Cruz’s return.

This all supports an already strong running back receiving corps led by the versatile Shane Vereen (59 receptions) and lead running back Rashad Jennings (average of 32 receptions over the past three seasons).

Giants 2016 Schedule

It is difficult to accurately predict a team’s strength of schedule in the preseason.  However, the Giants appear to have their easiest schedule in many seasons.  The Giants play the NFC and AFC North, and get both the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens at home. They are also fortunate to travel to cold weather sites Green Bay and Minnesota in early October.  The weather should not be a factor in those games.

Manning also has a quarterback friendly divisional schedule.  Both the Philadelphia Eagles (401.6 ypg) and Washington Redskins (380.6 ypg) ranked in the bottom five teams in total yards allowed per game. Also, both teams ranked in the bottom eight teams in passing yards allowed per game (Washington 25th, Philadelphia 28th).

Looking even closer, the Giants overall schedule ranks as the third easiest for quarterbacks and sixth easiest for wide receivers (scoutfantasy.com).  Manning should be able to have strong fantasy games at home against poor defensive teams in New Orleans, Detroit, and Chicago.

Fantasy QB Competition

There are quarterbacks being drafted ahead of Eli Manning that simply should not be.

  • Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 90.1, QB6):  As mentioned early, Manning’s regular season career is at least equal to, if not better than, Roethlisberger’s.  Manning has the same amount of seasons over 4,000 passing yards, and he has more years of 30+ touchdowns. Since McAdoo’s arrival, Manning has definitely been the better fantasy quarterback. The durability edge is a big advantage for Manning as well.
  • Tom Brady (ADP 98.9, QB7):  While Eli Manning’s statistics fall short of Brady’s, given the four game suspension to start the season, Manning is a much better fantasy selection.  It is statistically impossible for Brady to end the season ahead of Manning. Brady (39 years old) has ended the last few seasons poorly; whereas Manning (35 years old) tends to finish the year playing his best football.
  • Blake Bortles (ADP 111.8, QB9):  It is illogical to take a third year NFL quarterback who led the league in interceptions over Eli Manning.  Bortles had a nice fantasy season, but the reliability is just not there.  The Jaguars are predicted to be a much improved overall team.  This will lead to a decrease in Bortles’ numbers, whereas Manning should improve with the offensive receiver upgrades.

Conclusion

When looking at each of the qualifications of a top five fantasy quarterback, Eli Manning has them all.  With a track record of sustained success, a pass first offense, favorable schedule, explosive wide receivers, and a weak defensive division, Manning is primed to exceed expectations.  Avoid using an early fantasy pick on a quarterback, and draft Eli Manning in round nine or ten. Capitalize on the fantasy community still believing Manning carries a low completion percentage and high interception rate.  Eli Manning will produce top five fantasy quarterback production at a huge draft day discount.

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