Fantasy Football 2012: Why Drafting Peyton Manning Would Be a Disastrous Choice

Kurt SaundersCorrespondent IIIJuly 4, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Why Drafting Peyton Manning Would Be a Disastrous Choice

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    Peyton Manning has been one of the elite fantasy quarterbacks in recent years. That's all about to change in 2012, as drafting Manning would be a disastrous choice for fantasy owners.

    Many factors are going to lead to a severe drop in Manning's numbers: his age, the Broncos' offensive philosophy and John Fox wanting to keep Manning rested are just a few. Oh and the fact that he's had four neck surgeries since 2011 began.   

    As a lifelong Peyton fan, I would like nothing more than to see him excel in Denver and continue his stellar play—but I just don't see it happening.

    Here's why you shouldn't draft Peyton Manning to your fantasy team in 2012.  

Injury Risk

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    Peyton Manning has had four surgeries on his neck in a year-and-a-half. That sort of medical history would cause anybody to practice caution in everything they do.  

    So imagine what''s going through Manning's mind as he gets ready to play an NFL season. One where 300-pound defensive linemen and linebackers will be trying to hit him as hard as physically possible every single Sunday. 

    Manning is still a huge injury risk—especially considering the public didn't find out about this fourth surgery until this February.  It's a significant red flag when surgeries—not a surgery's details, but the fact the surgery ever happened—are being undisclosed.  

    Just one hit could possibly end his season or career. Denver may be extra cautious with Manning and pull him if he's feeling any sort of uncomfort.  

    As a fantasy owner, you want your starter to be out there every week putting up big numbers. And since Manning's consecutive-games-played streak ended long ago, there's no reason Denver won't be taking extra precaution all season long.    

Late Season Shutdown

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    Once we get to about Week 13 or 14, expect Peyton Manning to be getting rested at every opportunity—especially if the Broncos have any sort of lead in their divisional standings. 

    While the league is attempting to cut out meaningless games at the end of the season, Denver would be risking far too much if it were to play Manning in a game that won't affect its seeding. Yes, this happens almost every year when Week 17 rolls around and teams have clinched their playoff spots. However, the Broncos could give Manning this treatment significantly earlier in the year due to his injury history.

    Weeks 13 through 16 are crunch time in fantasy football—playoffs typically begin and end during these weeks. Would you really want to risk playing a guy who's only going to play two or three quarters? Didn't think so.  

Offensive Philosphy

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    To think that Peyton Manning is going to go into Denver and turn the run-heavy Broncos into the Colts of the West is ludicrous.

    Denver led the league in rush attempts per game last season, albeit forced due to its quarterback situation. Nevertheless, John Fox prefers a run-first, defensive style of football and always has—dating back to his Carolina Panther days.  

    Over Fox's last four years in Carolina, the Panthers finished in top half of the league in rush attempts per game and in the top 10 in three of the four years.  

    Of course, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy also has a large hand in designing a scheme to fit Manning. McCoy was apparently instrumental in altering Denver's offense to better fit the unique abilities of Tim Tebow last season. This year, McCoy will have to do it again—although this time will be a whole lot easier.  

    Although certain nuances will be added strictly due to Manning's presence, don't expect Fox to become Mike Martz and start throwing the ball all over the field. Therefore, Manning will not have the opportunity to put up numbers like he has in the past.    

Age

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    Peyton Manning is now 36 years old and entering his 14th NFL season.

    While some are predicting great numbers from the four-time MVP, you shouldn't expect Manning come right out and throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.  

    Over the last ten seasons, only three 36-year-old (or older) quarterbacks have thrown for 4,000 yards a combined total of just four times—Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, twice. As for the the 30 TD mark, that has only been accomplished by two 36-year-old quarterbacks: Favre and Warner. Granted, none of those QBs have had the career that Manning has, perhaps with the exception of Favre.  

    However, Father Time doesn't acknowledge a player's lifetime achievements. You can bet Manning will feel the effects of his age in 2012 and so will fantasy owners who elect to draft the 11-time Pro Bowler.

    Remember, Manning was already on the decline prior to his neck injury. While he threw for 4,700 yards in 2010 he averaged under seven yards per pass completion for the first time since his rookie season.   

    Realistic expectations for Manning this upcoming season are for him to throw for about 3,200 to 3,600 yards and 22 to 25 touchdowns. Those numbers, according to last season's standards, would put Manning in the company of guys like Mark Sanchez and Andy Dalton—not exactly top fantasy quarterbacks.

Numerous Low Risk Options

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    There are too many adequate quarterbacks out there that will produce at a high level week in and week out to draft an aging quarterback with a history of neck injuries and below-average offensive weapons.  

    Many people will jump the gun and draft Peyton Manning and think they are a genius because nobody else did so. There's a reason nobody else made that choice—he's a very high-risk pick.  

    There's no guarantee he's going to be the Manning of old. Heck, there's no guarantee he isn't going to re-injure his neck the first time he gets hit. There's just so much unknown right now about Manning that drafting him would be an extremely risky move; but hey, maybe that's why it's fantasy right?  

    At the very most, Manning should be the third quarterback on your roster. Draft-wise don't spend anything higher than a 10th-round pick on Manning. Using any earlier pick just wouldn't make sense unless you plan to start him every week. If you decide to do so—all I can say is good luck.