Fantasy Football 2012: Peyton Manning Leads Revelations from Thursday's Action

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Fantasy Football 2012: Peyton Manning Leads Revelations from Thursday's Action
QB Peyton Manning threw for 44 yards and one interception in his Denver debut against Chicago—his first stint of live NFL action in 19 months. (US PRESSWIRE)

Here are five fantasy revelations off Thursday's slate of six NFL preseason games.

For a detailed look at the fantasy effect of Ryan Mathews' collarbone injury against the Packers, click here.

1. Peyton Manning looked like, uh, Peyton Manning in his preseason debut with the Broncos

I watched the replay of Broncos-Bears on Thursday night/Friday morning, and not once, did I even think about Manning's three neck surgeries from last year. Aside from resembling Bubby Brister in Denver's road duds (standing around during non-action), Manning seemingly had the same swagger and arm strength of his Colts days, completing four of seven passes for 44 yards (with one deflected interception) in limited duty.

In fact, that between-defenders frozen rope to Eric Decker (on 3rd-and-17) was an absolute thing of beauty for Manning, who averaged 4,328 yards passing from 2007-11 with Indy. It was also enough to confirm his standing as a top-12 preseason quarterback...and an asset who shouldn't fall below the 60th pick in 12-team drafts.


2. Robert Griffin III looked pretty good in his first start...against a vanilla Buffalo defense

As stated numerous times, it's hard for a quarterback to improve—or even decimate—his pre-draft stock in August, due to the limited amount of reps in exhibition games. But Griffin (70 yards passing, 1 TD) was impressive in the pocket, connecting with Pierre Garcon twice (for 38 yards) and one touchdown...that Garcon punctuated with a needless end-zone flip.

In my latest QB-starter rankings, I have Griffin as the No. 20 asset at his position, just ahead of Joe Flacco/Alex Smith and immediately behind Josh Freeman/Andy Dalton. And regardless of how he fares in the next two weeks, I sincerely doubt that status will change.

By all means, Griffin could be a Cam Newton clone this season, rolling for 4,500 combined yards and 30-plus total touchdowns. But in the history of rookie quarterbacks, including a slew of eventual Hall of Famers, it's proper to take a conservative tone with first-year fantasy commodities.


3. Apparently, someone forgot to tell Julio Jones that it's the preseason

As an Atlanta resident who's on a "working" vacation in Michigan this week and next, I feel great remorse for missing Jones' strong performance against the Ravens on live television.

And I'm not just talking about his absurd touchdown reception in the Falcons' inaugural drive.

On the whole, his six catches for 109 yards and one score (from seven targets) reeked of midseason form...not some random exhibition contest in August. As a result, I may have to revisit Jones' already-substantial place among fantasy receivers—from the standard-scoring and PPR perspectives.

He might be just a tweak away from a top-10 ranking.


4. Shane Vereen should give GMs cause for pause before going all-in on Stevan Ridley

The above statement is not some visceral overreaction to Vereen racking up 81 total yards (64 rushing) on just 13 touches. It's more of a reminder that fantasy owners should never get inside the brilliant but occasionally random mind of Bill Belichick, when attempting to rationalize trends with Patriots tailbacks.

In the Belichick era (2000-11), only one New England rusher (Antowain Smith) has amassed 1,000 total yards in consecutive years, and only one back (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) has tallied double-digit touchdowns in back-to-back campaigns.

On the flip side, the Patriots have produced 17 or more rushing TDs in each of the last six seasons; so, there's certainly an argument to be made for the "whole being greater than the sum of its parts."

Bottom line: For all we know, Stevan Ridley may log the vast majority of touches next week against the Eagles, relegating Vereen to mop-up duty. But given the Patriots' platoon treatment of running backs—especially with the club's dynamic receiving options (Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney)—it makes sense to endorse an all-or-nothing proposition with the Ridley/Vereen dynamic.

Either draft 'em both to complete the handcuff...or focus on a single tailback (from a different team) who's a healthy lock for 220 touches.


5. Michael Vick was quite lucky to avoid substantial injury against the Steelers

Frankly, I'm shocked more quarterbacks, college and pro, don't break fingers or thumbs when inadvertently smashing their digits on a lineman's helmet during a pass follow-through.

Vick should be counting his lucky stars that this play didn't result in an eight-week absence from the Philly lineup.

Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.

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