I don’t know what it is about Eli Manning that turns fantasy owners off, but every year it seems like his ADP is a lot higher than it should be. Currently, he’s going 8.10 in Draftmaster drafts and is the 13th QB off the board. This is a guy who has thrown for 4,000+ yards in each of the last two seasons and has 58 TDs over that same span. He was QB7 last year and QB10 the year before.
So what gives?
I think this is a case of fantasy owners not liking Eli’s personality, body language, looks, game…whatever…so much so that they discount his abilities as a fantasy QB.
Over the past three seasons, he has averaged the 12th most fantasy points (17.7) of QBs who have started at least 30 games. If we look at just the last two years, he is 8th in fantasy points per game (19.0). Plus, he hasn’t missed a start in six years, so you know you can probably count on him being healthy enough to play.
One thing working against him is his lack of upside. Last season was the first time that he cracked the 30-TD milestone. Otherwise, he has oscillated in the 21 to 27 range for his entire career. I suppose fantasy owners see the upside of Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman or even Matt Ryan (who now has Julio Jones to throw to) and they like the idea of having a player with top 5 potential instead of Eli, who is pretty much guaranteed to finish in the 7-12 range.
The great thing for savvy fantasy owners is that since Manning is currently the 13th QB off the board, he’s often available a round or two longer since there is just one team still without a QB at that point in the draft. There aren’t too many fantasy owners who want to burn two picks in the first eight (or nine) rounds on the QB position. They usually want to build depth at RB or WR or take one of the last starter-quality TEs that remain. So the #11-#14 QBs are usually good value in the 8th-10th rounds.
Another plus for Eli is his projected strength of schedule. I rank the Giants’ passing schedule fourth behind the Dolphins, Cowboys and Eagles (though it should be noted that his W16 matchup against the Jets is not as good as the numbers say due to Darrelle Revis’ absence early in the 2010 season).
As I start to participate in mock drafts, I have found myself approaching the QB position this way:
1. Wait until the 6th round and draft Ben Roethlisberger, if available.
This is a topic for another post, but I am very high on Big Ben this year, so if he’s there in the 6th after I’ve drafted two RBs, two WRs and a very good TE, then I’ll snatch him up. He has been going 6.08, so it is far from a sure thing. In my last two mocks, I drafted in the middle of the 6th and he was already gone both times.
2. If Big Ben is gone, wait until the 8th (or even 9th, depending on draft position) and pick Eli Manning.
By the end of the 7th round, it’s likely that 11 of 12 owners in your draft will already have their QB. That means there’s a great chance that Eli will slip to you in the 8th, and if you pick early in the 9th, you can probably wait until then if there’s another player you like on the board.
Currently, once the top 16 QBs are off the board (the last being Jay Cutler, per ADP), there aren’t a ton of trustworthy options available. I really like Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 10th or 11th, but he has the same bye week as Eli, so he’s out as a QBBC option with Manning. Matt Cassel has a much tougher schedule in 2011 and the rest of these QB situations are unsettled. This should clear up as the summer wears on, but right now my plan would be to draft Eli in the 8th or the 9th and then use the 9th or 10th round pick on another QB like Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford or Jay Cutler. Those three players have schedules that combine well with Eli’s, so fantasy owners can get a nice QBBC going in those middle rounds.
So we have a durable, 30-year-old, Super Bowl-winning QB who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards the past two seasons and as averaged 29 TDs per season over the same span. Moreover, he has a stud WR in Hakeem Nicks at his disposal along with several other good options — Steve Smith 2.0, Mario Manningham, Ahmad Bradshaw and Kevin Boss — to throw to. And he has a pretty favorable schedule to boot.
What’s not to like?