Is Eli Manning elite -- from a Fantasy Football perspective?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

While there is no question that Eli Manning is an elite NFL quarterback capable of winning many more championships, his fantasy value places him right in the middle of the pack.

Is Eli Manning elite? Ask a New York Giants fan and you will get an emphatic "Yes!" as they describe the Super Bowl winning drives and calm nerves displayed in every big spot. Magician-like throws to David Tyree and Mario Manningham are described in high definition quality while smiles spread across their faces. As John Malkovic in "Rounders" said,"The kid has got alligator blood." Great quarterbacks are measured by championships and not by numbers on a page.

Win a road playoff game at Lambeau Field? Check!

Win a Super Bowl against an undefeated team of destiny? Check!

Face the New York Media day in and day out and never embarrass the franchise? Check!

You ask a fantasy football owner the same question and you get a completely different reaction. Most fantasy owners wouldn’t be very comfortable coming out of a draft this year with Eli Manning as their QB1 unless they were in a 2 QB league. Manning looked to be heading up the fantasy QB ladder after his fine 2011 season, but followed that up with an average 2012. He almost reached the magical 5,000 passing yard milestone in 2011 but fell 67 yards short. He threw 29 touchdowns against 16 interceptions and looked to be in a tier just below the top 3 fantasy QBs heading into 2012. His average draft position was at an all-time high last year as he was drafted as the eighth overall QB in fantasy drafts. Unfortunately Manning didn’t even reach 4000 yards, but still managed 26 touch downs in 2012.

While Manning’s disappointing 2012 in fantasy production may have left a bad taste in some mouths, I am not adverse at taking a second bite of the apple. I don’t believe his career is headed in the wrong direction. I really see him as being in his prime and just needing the pieces around him to play at a higher level. He still has the arm strength, he still has the alligator blood and now he has a healthy Hakeem Nicks. Not only does he have Nicks, but he has a motivated Cruz, an emerging Rueben Randle and a reliable Brandon Myers.

With opposing defenses being forced to defend every inch of the field again I believe Eli will put up excellent numbers. I project him for 4,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. While I would love to think that Eli could challenge 5,000 yards again, I have to be realistic. Most QBs who throw for 5,000 yards get a lot of added yardage from dumping the ball off to running backs in the passing game. Look at what Darren Sproles has done for Drew Brees and what his absence has taken away from Phillip Rivers. Getting a feel for how to be patient and feel the defense on screen passes is an art. Wilson has the talent to be a weapon, but I need to see his feel for the passing game before I count on 500 or more yards from him. If Wilson ends up with the 280 yards receiving that I project for him this year than that puts Eli in the 4,200-4,300 zone.

I have Eli Manning as my last QB1 in a 12 team conventional scoring league. Many sites have Russell Wilson ranked ahead of Eli at this point, but I still feel Seattle is a run first team that won’t ask Wilson to do too much in his second year. Manning will more than likely be drafted from rounds 7 to 10 in 12 team leagues this year. Sometimes as a last resort QB1 and sometimes as a quality backup to a running QB like RG III or Cam Newton. While he may not be drafted high, Eli can still lead your team to the fantasy championship. He just might need a little help from your other positions. Eli is not in my top 10 fantasy quarterbacks as of right now, but he is the only QB I want with the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter of a big game in real life! Ernie Accorsi had the vision and the guts. Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride had the patience. And we as Giant fans are reaping the benefits.

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