In 2007, I put Eli Manning on my "Do Not Draft" list for fantasy football. To make matters worse, he was the only player on that list.
My reason for doing so was simply because I didn’t think he was that good, and I wanted to make a point of my football knowledge. Since then, he's won two Super Bowls, with matching MVP honors, proving two very important lessons along the way.
The first is that you don't put a healthy starting quarterback on the "Do Not Draft" list. It sounds obvious now, but in my mind at the time, it was the best move of the offseason. I mean, how was I supposed to know that he was going to win a Super Bowl that year by beating the undefeated Patriots? Clearly, that trip to the championship shocked more than just me. But that's for another time.
The second lesson is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true.
A big problem that exists in this league is that a player's value and success is judged far too quickly in their career. It happens all the time in sports. We don't allow an athlete to become a great professional player, we expect it to happen right away or we write them off as a bust or simply “average.” A perfect example of this is Eli Manning.
In his first trip to the title game, Eli was not an impressive quarterback. The New York Giants won because of a strong run game and an overpowering defense. Even with a championship ring on his finger, critics still considered him decent, at best. However, after watching this most recent Super Bowl, it’s clear that Eli Manning has evolved into a great quarterback.
In his first three years, he completed 52.9 percent of his attempts and averaged a passer rating of 69.4. In his next three years, he completed 59.6 percent of his attempts with an average passer rating of 84.5. And over the past two years, he's completing nearly 62 percent of his attempts with an average passer rating of 89.1. Not to mention that his touchdowns and total yards have increased while his number of attempts have managed to stay fairly consistent over the past eight seasons.
So what does this all mean?
It means that the Eli we see now is not the same Eli we saw in the 2007 Super Bowl. He has become better in every aspect of the game, and he’s now proven himself as a very good quarterback. He's not yet elite, but that doesn’t mean he won’t reach that status at the end of his career.
All we know for sure is that he earned the title of Super Bowl MVP this time around, and that he should be at the top of everyone’s fantasy draft list come next season because he's only getting better. Which, frankly, is a scary and exciting thought given the fact that he’s already in the record books.