Spotlight - QB Eli Manning, New York Giants
Posted 8/25 by Jason Wood and David Yudkin,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
Eli Manning may never be as good as his brother Peyton. In fact, he MOST LIKELY won't reach his brother's rarefied air. But that doesn't mean he wasn't worthy of the 1st overall pick nor does it mean he can't develop into a solid NFL (and fantasy) quarterback.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to young franchise signal callers. Some believe a baptism by fire is the best way to go; because it's impossible to simulate game conditions in practice. Others believe it best to let them sit for a season or two and learn the nuances of the game on the sideline. Last year, it appeared that Giants HC Tom Coughlin had chosen the latter, but pulled the plug on the "Kurt Warner Era" after nine starts. In Week 11 of the 2004 season, the Giants officially became Eli's team.
The results, as expected, weren't pretty. 95-for-197 (48.2%) for 1,043 yards with six TDs and nine INTs. Over that span (Weeks 11-17), Eli Manning ranked a paltry 29th among fantasy QBs.
But underlying his disappointing output were a few things Giants fans should take comfort in. One, in his final three starts, Manning completed 61% of his passes and threw 5 (of his 6) TDs to just 3 Ints. Two, Manning is a tough kid. He took some huge hits in the preseason and once he got the starting nod yet showed the moxie to get right back up and shrug it off regardless of how much his head was spinning.
This year, Manning's situation is significantly more advantageous:
1) The addition of RT Kareem McKenzie and other OL improvements -- The Giants signed Kareem McKenzie away from the Jets this offseason. McKenzie is a massive upgrade at right tackle, whose presence not only improves one spot but the entire efficiency of the line. In addition to McKenzie, OG Rich Seubert is healthy again, Chris Snee is a year older, and Luke Petitgout has looked solid at LT. Overall the Giants O-line has much better depth and the starting five has upgraded its talent level.
2) The addition of Burress -- Plaxico Burress has the physical tools to be a special player. While his play has been uneven at times, he's also played in the construct of a run heavy offense in Pittsburgh and shared the spotlight with Hines Ward. Now Burress gets to be "the man." In the process, this allows Amani Toomer (healthy after an injury plagued 2004) to move to the WR2 role, which should extend his productivity as he'll no longer regularly face team's best cover corner.
- Entering his second season, Manning has the physical tools, mechanics and toughness necessary to succeed as a starter
- WR Plaxico Burress and OT Kareem McKenzie significantly improve the construct of the Giants offense
- RB Tiki Barber keeps defenses honest and provides Manning with a safety valve capable of catching 60 passes
- With Burress, Barber, Shockey and Toomer, there are four legitimate receiving options in the base offense
- Eli suffered an elbow bruise in mid August and, although X-rays were negative, could bear watching
- Manning was one of the worst passers in the league a year ago
- The Giants arguably field the worst coaching staff in the NFC East
As an Eagles season ticket holder, I hope the Giants were wrong about the long-term potential of Eli Manning. That said, I don't actually think they were wrong. Do I see him as an MVP caliber player down the road? No. But I do see him as someone who, in the right system, can be an effective playoff-caliber starter. For fantasy purposes, don't forget that HC Tom Coughlin crafted some powerful fantasy offenses in Jacksonville and although it's too much of a leap to expect that kind of production in 2005, Manning has pieces to work with this year and should improve. Whether he improves enough to warrant having as your fantasy backup in 10- and 12-team leagues remains to be seen. I wouldn't select him until very late in my draft, ideally as a 3rd QB if you have rosters deep enough to carry more than two signal callers.
David Yudkin's Thoughts
In a maneuver reminiscent of John Elway with the Colts, Eli Manning boondoggled the San Diego Chargers and forced his way into a draft day trade to the New York Giants. In one of life’s great ironies, the G-men sputtered to a 6-10 record with an 8-game losing streak along the way, while the Bolts made a monumental turnaround to make the playoffs with an impressive 12-4 record.
Unfortunately for Eli (140 passing yards, 0.86 passing TD, 1.29 INT per game), he put up numbers closer to his father (198 passing yards, 1.28 passing TD, 1.5 INT per game) than his brother Peyton (233 passing yards, 1.63 passing TD, 1.75 TD) in their first stints as a starting NFL QB. Eli Manning’s 5.29 YPA was the 4th worst since 1970 for QB with at least 175 passing attempts (out of 70 rookie QB with 175+ attempts). But that may not mean much, as the lowest YPA in that time frame was posted by Donovan McNabb at 4.39, and he turned out to be ok.
There are reasons, of course, why Manning was the 4th (or the 1st) pick in the 2004 NFL draft. The Giants, as it turns out, traded QB Philip Rivers, PK Nate Kaeding, LB Shawne Merriman, and another second pick the Chargers traded to another team.
Eli did well at Mississippi, setting 45 school records and becoming only the 5th SEC QB to throw for over 10,000 yards. Overall, he ranked in the Top 5 all time in the SEC in multiple passing categories and led many late drive to spearhead Ole Miss to victory. Manning helps to replicate his success at the Pro level and make Giants Stadium his personal comeback zone.
Luckily for Manning, ex-league MVP QB Kurt Warner did not do much either, so the decision to insert Manning into the lineup made some sense based on the numbers. However, at the time Warner was benched, the Giants were 5-4 and in the thick of the wildcard hunt. Manning went on to guide the team to many near misses before sneaking out a victory against the Cowboys in Week 17 to finish 1-6 as a starter.
While somewhat hard to believe, the Giants actually missed QB Kerry Collins, whose days as a Giant essentially ended with the trade for Manning. New York ranked 25th in passing yardage last year after ranking 9th the year before with Collins. In another irony, Collins will lead the high flying Raiders into battle this year while Warner gets another shot as a starter with the young and talented Cardinals, and both have realistic chances to out produce Manning this year.
Part of the issue last season was very limited production from their WR corps. The Giants wide receivers had but 2 TD receptions last year, certainly leaving plenty of room for improvement this season. New York brought in a big target for Manning to gun for, free agent WR Plaxico Burress, formerly of the Steelers. TE Jeremy Shockey also is rumored to be in much better health, Tiki Barber is still a threat out of the backfield, and Amani Toomer returns to give Manning several capable options.
- He’s a Manning. He plays quarterback. What else needs to be said? It’s in his blood.
- The offense should be better. Manning has more experience. The team added Plaxico Burress.
- The Giants defense is probably just poor enough that the offense will have to pass to stay competitive and not strong enough to sit on the ball at the end of the game.
- Manning did not set the world on fire, and while he was not totally to blame, the Giants endured a lengthy losing streak on his watch.
- He looked and played like a rookie and seemed very timid at times last year.
- The Coughlin system for the most part has had mixed results on QB productivity, but in his recent seasons as a head coach QB numbers were suppressed.
Manning certainly has better long term prospects than short term prospects as he gets used to the NFL and the team gets used to Manning. Very few QB hit the ground running like Dan Marino did, as pro defenses are light years more difficult to read and process than those in the college game.
Eli should produce numbers better than last year as his playbook expands and his coaches begin to feel more confident in his ability to limit turnovers. Burress is certainly an upgrade over Ike Hillard, and Burress’ presence should also result in better passing production.
One has to wonder, though, whether the ball control offense, play tough defense team credo will play up to Manning’s strengths as a quarterback. It’s tough putting up big numbers on short passes and limited passing attempts. Manning did not have 20 completions in any game last year and had only one game with 200 passing yards (201 vs. the Bengals).
I’d be hard pressed to come up with many QB situations that might put up numbers worse than Manning could (CHI, CLE, MIA, BAL, SF, WAS are all candidates but not sure things). Therefore, I would be hesitant to think that Manning will even rank as a QB2 in a 12-team league barring other league starting QB getting hurt.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
He's got some nice offensive weapons around him, so I think things will be a bit more open for him (even taking his coach into consideration), but he'll have his share of mistakes.
Putting him just in the top 15 of QBs this year, with an improvement to top 10 next year and that's where he'll stay for most of his career. More of an Aikman type of QB stats wise...
It's going to be a bad year in New York, and he's the reason I'm staying away from Tiki.
Eli Manning Projections
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