Now that Peyton Manning has made his mind to sign with the Denver Broncos it is time to get the important stuff, fantasy football. One of the greatest fantasy football QBs of our generation is back but will the high draft pick be worth the high risk high reward for Manning?
It is rare that a QB like Peyton Manning switches teams at this point in his career. The only real comparison I can see here is Joe Montana moving to the Kansas City Chiefs for the final two seasons of his career. If you are using Montana as the barometer, all signs point to Manning’s fantasy production slipping. While the situations are completely different, it is an interesting look at how a Hall of Fame QB produced on a new team in a comparable situation.
Now I will say this about the injury. I may be naïve here but I have to think that if any NFL executive would know whether Peyton Manning could still play at a high level it would be John Elway. Elway is a winner and he isn’t going to go to the trouble of recruiting Manning if he felt Manning could not play or could not regain his elite form. I am confident that if Elway said he is okay, he’ll be okay.
Next you have a guy that is playing with a brand new team. The years of chemistry that Manning developed with Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne aren’t there. He will need to get on the same page quick with a whole new corps of offensive weapons once again compounded with learning a whole new scheme. Can it happen? Sure, but expecting it to be automatic may be just a bit unrealistic for even the biggest Peyton fan.
He will also be playing in a brand new division. Manning owned the AFC South for the majority of his playing career. There is no guarantee that Manning will come in and dominate the AFC West the same as he did with the South. The San Diego Chargers for example are a defense that has played extremely well against Manning throughout his career. The Chiefs have a dangerous defense if the team can stay healthy. The Raiders are always a question mark. This division is certainly not a walk in the park for Peyton.
A big plus in my mind is the offensive line. The Broncos have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. That is huge for a guy like Manning who needs time for plays to develop. Another huge plus is Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is an explosive receiver who can do big damage if he can stay healthy. As a whole it isn’t the same roster receiver s that Peyton had in Indy, but maybe it was Peyton that made that roster so good. Needless to say, I am excited to see what he and Thomas can do over the course of a full season.
Something Manning will have here that he didn’t have for many years in Indianapolis is a great defense. The Broncos turned out to be one of the better defenses in the AFC last season. As pathetic as some of those Carolina Panthers offenses were, John Fox always had a very good-great defense in Carolina. This is a huge upgrade for Manning who should see lower deficits and better field position throughout the season.
You are probably going to have to draft him higher than what he is worth. Unfortunately that is how fantasy works. Quite frankly, I think keeper league players are going to have to look at Manning as an investment. Drafting Manning high is really for next year because expecting him to come in and tear it up this year is really wishful thinking. He should pay dividends a year into the system, but you are going to have to pay high now for those hopes.
As of today I wouldn’t take him ahead of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford, or even Eli Manning. Would I take him ahead of Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III? I would have to think long and hard about that one but probably not. I’d probably lean towards gambling on him over Matt Ryan. Tony Romo is a tough one due to his uncanny ability to find himself hurt every season. In other words, this lands Peyton at around ten among QBs for me.