As the Giants, and the NFL at large, get ready to start a new year, the folks over at Pro Football Focus have released their pre-season quarterback rankings. PFF has never been fond of Eli Manning, but this year they have him dropped way down the quarterback list, ranking him 28th in the NFL
28. Eli Manning, New York Giants
2017 overall grade, rank: 68.9 (22nd)
Manning improved his game last season despite the Giants having a far-worse season, grading at 68.9 overall, good for 22nd in the league. He had his second-lowest percentage of big-time throws since 2006, and he posted the best turnover-worthy play percentage since 2011 despite ranking only 27th in the league. At this point in his career, Manning needs to be elevated by his supporting cast, and playing with a subpar offensive line and revolving door of playmakers has not helped his production. He did rank fourth in tight-window accuracy percentage last season, though that’s a number that tends to fluctuate from year to year.
Raptor’s Thoughts: The thought here, among both Ed and myself, has been that if you are evaluating Eli Manning, just go ahead and throw 2017 out.
Manning went most of the season without his best player (Odell Beckham Jr.), and even when he was on the field, it was clear that Beckham wasn’t fully healthy. Then, all at once, the Giants receiving corps was turned into a shambling corpse by a spate of injuries against the Los Angeles Chargers. Eli was left with a group of undrafted free agent and journeymen receivers and behind a patchwork (and generally poor) offensive line. That isn’t a great situation for any QB or any team. It doesn’t help that Manning also had to fight a stale offensive scheme that seldom put players in position to succeed and made the jobs of defenders easier in both coverage and rushing the passer, and was taught by a coach who didn’t really connect with his players.
The past can be prologue to the future, but there are also times when it isn’t really instructive. Sure, Manning had a poor season in 2017, and honestly 2016 as well. But those seasons aren’t terribly instructive for the future.
Manning can still play from a physical stand-point. Even PFF admits that he was among the league’s best at fitting the ball in tight windows, in the red zone, and had one of the most accurate seasons of his career (accounting for bad drops by receivers). This year he will be coached by a much more diverse and skilled play-caller in Pat Shurmur, have more creative gameplan and play design from Mike Shula. As it stands now, he will have the full compliment of offensive weapons at his disposal and a scheme that looks to play to their strengths, rather than against them.
If PFF wants to rate Manning as the fifth worst quarterback in the NFL going in to 2018, that’s their prerogative. There is a whole lot of “why” that gets left out of the analysis of Manning’s woes last year. And given how the context has changed, I personally won’t be surprised if he has a “bounce back” season this year.