Doubt and concern surrounding Peyton Manning’s return have made him one of the best values in fantasy drafts this season.
At 36, Manning is far from over the hill (Tom Brady is 35). He dissected the highly touted 49ers’ defense for 122 yards and two scores in less than a half despite not being fully recovered from the series of neck surgeries that cost him the 2011 season. There’s a lot more to come along the course of his recovery, including both strength and accuracy on his deep ball.
Here’s a breakdown:
1) Manning’s perceived injury risk is vastly overblown.
It’ll certainly take some time for him to fully recover and settle in with his new team, but writing him off entirely in drafts is a mistake that increases his value for savvier owners. ESPN’s injury specialist Stephania Bell, noting that Manning’s surgeon was confident the vertebrae fusion showed evidence of “firm fixation,” declared the following:
“Other players have returned following similar surgeries to play in the NFL. In fact, they have arguably returned to positions much more susceptible to high velocity impact or repetitive impact than that of a quarterback…Manning is no more at risk from a substantial injury as a result of a direct hit than any other NFL quarterback who steps onto the field.”
2) He’s working with what could be the most physically talented receiving corps of his career.
Demaryius Thomas, a 6'3" 230 lb. former first-round pick, and Eric Decker, 6'3" 220 lb., are a step above even the pair of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne athletically. Harrison and Wayne hold an edge in experience and polish as route runners, but pale in comparison of size and potential. Furthermore, Manning has consistently raised the playing level of inferior weapons like Blair White and Jacob Tamme, which bodes well for his new targets.
Tamme followed Manning to Denver and will provide a familiar security blanket along with ancient-but-dependable Brandon Stokley, easing him into an unfamiliar situation.
Willis McGahee, who ran for 1,199 yards and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2011, will take pressure off Manning with the best supporting rushing attack he’s seen since Edgerrin James.
3) Manning can be had in an attractive draft position among quarterbacks.
He’s currently being selected at an average pick of 53.8 overall in Yahoo! drafts, following Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Newton, Stafford, Vick and Eli Manning. Fantasy drafters’ incorrect evaluation of risk has blinded them from his almost certainly lofty returns. It’s not unlikely that he finishes in the top four at quarterback.
Peyton ranked fourth among fantasy quarterbacks and fifth overall in 2010 with 4,700 yards and 33 scores—behind only Vick, Rodgers and Brady, and ahead of Brees in total points.
There’s little doubt that he’s both prepared and physically capable of playing at a high level and worth a sixth-round pick.
If you’ve already drafted him, expect a lofty return on your investment. If you can snag him at a discount from an antsy owner, don’t hesitate.