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Fantasy Football: Why Eli Manning doubters are a good thing

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Drafting Eli Manning could make Fantasy Football owners smile.
Drafting Eli Manning could make Fantasy Football owners smile.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football analysts have long advised players to wait on quarterbacks due to the fact that there isn't a lot of point variance once you leave the elite talents. Common fantasy advisers have long raved about the merits of  drafting Tony Romo, whose statistics are excellent year in and year out. Matt Ryan is consistently well regarded as a fantasy quarterback in Atlanta's heavy passing attack.Tom Brady is perhaps the king of all quarterbacks, ever. Yet, when we see the experts on Eli Manning we see them cling to narratives. "He's an interception machine!  He's boneheaded and a terrible decision maker!" Or more recently, we have seen narratives of how this offensive line will lead to his certain demise. For the average fantasy football player, these narratives have been restated over and over to the point where they are accepted as indisputable facts. As I quote from an NFL.com piece, "Eli Manning will finish the season as a top-10 fantasy quarterback: If you'd have said this to me prior to the season, I would have bought something to drink just so I could spit it out for effect." The latter part of this quote echoes the lack of respect Manning has gotten from the fantasy football community which exists to this day.

Tom Brady never had this problem. Tom Terrific is beloved by all, gracing us with his presence and elite football skill.  Just the name Tom Brady strikes fear in the hearts of men and haunts the nightmares of every team not named the Giants.  After all look at his numbers!  Who isn't amazed by his two previous years of 17.2 and 18.9 points per game?  Well, actually everyone who has looked at fantasy football statistics aren't amazed, in fact, they feel the opposite. These numbers are completely pedestrian in the current quarterback landscape especially considering how much people pay for the Tom Brady name. Eli "Get a drink so I can spit it out" Manning's lack of respect led him to be drafted in 160th overall.  At the end of the season he posted 19.1 points per game, beating out Tom Brady. Now by combining the ADP of Yahoo, ESPN, NFL and CBS leagues we find out that Brady's average 2014 ADP was roughly 52.4. Now let's look at all the other quarterbacks that performed just as well as Brady but drafted after him and see what their ADP was.

2014 Quarterbacks
Player ADP (FantasyPros) PPG (Yahoo) PPG (ESPN)
Tom Brady 52 17.9 16.7
Matt Ryan 59 18.6 16.8
Tony Romo 79 17.2 16.1
Russell Wilson 85 20.8 19.5
Phillip Rivers 94 17.7 15.9
Ben Roethlisberger 127 19.6 18.4
Eli Manning 160 17.7 16.4
Ryan Tannenhill 162 18.1

16.7

Despite fantasy being a game of number crunching, it appears that quarterback drafting can be psychological more than analytical. The Tom Brady name is never without the word elite next to it but in fantasy, Brady has been nothing more than solid. This entire chart is separated by two points max showing how deep the QB class is. Despite this, in drafting quarterbacks, the average fantasy player places more value into the name rather than the numbers. Instead of paying a fifth-round pick on Tom Brady, you can spend picks from the 8th, 10th or even 15th round and get similar production.

Surely in 2015, fantasy players have realized the mistake. Placing more value in narratives or the names of QBs are a thing of the past.  People now realize that after Rodgers and Luck, the rest of the starting caliber quarterbacks are separated by the slimmest of points and the draft will reflect on how close they are...right?  Manning finally gets the respect he deserves, an equal among the great quarterbacks of today. As it turns out, the ADP on mock drafts for the upcoming season still show massive gaps between the QBs. Tom Brady, posting declining numbers, has shown only a slight decrease in ADP. His Yahoo ADP is an astounding 46.5 and his ESPN rank is a 78.  His decrease is probably more attributed to his suspension rather than people believing in his decline.  Manning, after his second best year ever managed an 86 ADP in Yahoo and a 120 ADP in ESPN.  Not only was he on par with Brady last year but Eli performed just as well as other starters such as Tony Romo, or Big Ben, or Matt Ryan last year but is still being drafted anywhere from 20-70 spots after these guys. Granted ADP data can have a lot of variations this early into the fantasy season but the lack of respect towards Manning or the Giants' offense is apparent.

I know, Eli hasn't been a consistent QB on a year-to-year basis.  Perhaps last year was a fluke.  Why risk it, with all of these QBs around him? My argument against this is to look at 2010 or 2011 and see his numbers from there. With the right weapons and adequate protection, Eli has had top 10 finishes.  Now that he's in the second year of a new system, with better weapons to go along side Odell Beckham Jr., it's hard to imagine Eli declining. It may be somewhat of a gamble to ensure this type of success, but at this low of an ADP, Eli Manning is certainly a buy.