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Manning's 2012 fantasy football value

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Ryan Fowler

Ryan Fowler has spent the past 10 years covering and talking sports on TV and radio, in newspapers and on the web. He joined FOXSports.com as lead Fantasy Sports Editor and also acts as Digital Content Manager at WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter. Listen to his FOX Sports Team Report Podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes

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The following fantasy football e-mail chain between Ryan Fowler and Joel Beall took place on March 20 and 21, 2012. The topic featured was not discussed in advance.

From: Ryan Fowler
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 2:29 PM
To: 'Joel Beall'
Subject: The Pedestal: Peyton Manning

Joel –

On the Pedestal: Peyton Manning

It’s one of those moments. Peyton Manning inking a deal with the Denver Broncos will be one of those “where we were, what we wore and what we were eating” sports moments we will remember 50 years from now. Since 1998 (Slick Willie was still in office!), all we knew was No. 18 in blue and white. I’m not ashamed to say it, Manning and Marvin Harrison made sweet fantasy football love on a weekly basis for nine seasons and it was beautiful. He passed the torch to Reggie Wayne who, at times, shared the spotlight with Dallas Clark. But nothing amazed fantasy owners more than how he boosted the fantasy value of guys like Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme and Austin Collie when times got tough. As of Wednesday, his top two targets in Denver were Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. With that known what are your thoughts as to the fantasy value of Peyton in the Mile High City in 2012?

From: Joel Beall
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 3:15 PM
To: 'Ryan Fowler'
Subject: RE: The Pedestal: Peyton Manning

Glad you mentioned Decker and Thomas. These fledgling receivers have been treated as pigskin plebeians the past 24 hours, indicated by talking heads pronouncing the importance of the Broncos obtaining the services of Mike Wallace or another respected wideout. Even positive endorsements of the duo have come as backhanded compliments, mostly in the, “Well, if Manning worked his magic with Garcon, Collie and the like, I guess Thomas and Decker will do,” respect.

I happen to stand at the other end of the spectrum from this assertion, believing the pair of third-year pros is ample ammo for Manning’s arsenal. Thomas was the first receiver selected in the 2010 Draft, and while hampered by injuries the first two years, has displayed flashes of brilliance when on the field, evidenced by his 2011 December (22 receptions, 414 yards and three scores in four contests). Decker is no slouch himself, hauling in eight touchdowns and 44 receptions last year despite the Broncos’ run-first offensive attack and Tim Tebow’s erratic arm. In short: the Denver duet will be an asset, not detriment, to Manning in 2012.

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As for No. 18…is it ok to say, “Ummm, I don’t know?” The man is coming off FOUR NECK SURGERIES! Sorry for the Siragusa-like excitement, but I feel like this little circumstance is being overlooked. We have no verification of the extent of Manning’s recovery, unless you count those grainy YouTube videos of his workouts at Duke. Which I don’t, since The Blair Witch Project had more focus in their shots. (Although shout-out to Duke football for becoming relevant for the first time in their program’s history. Also, who would have guessed Duke football would be getting more coverage than the Blue Devils’ basketball squad in March?)

However, assuming that John Elway and staff did their due diligence on Manning’s health, I’d slot Manning on the precipice of the upper echelon of fantasy quarterbacks for 2012, ahead of Philip Rivers and Tony Romo but behind Matthew Stafford. Then again, with the way Elway totally mismanaged and handled the Tebow Era, who knows?

What say you on Manning’s outlook?

From: Ryan Fowler
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 4:10 PM
To: 'Joel Beall'
Subject: RE: The Pedestal: Peyton Manning

JB –

Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 235 pounds, Thomas paired with Manning is straight up scary. The speculation of “what could be” with this duo ranks right up there with the possible additions of Mike Wallace and Dallas Clark in Denver. He may not be a household name like Larry Fitzgerald, but if he can work on catching the ball (profound I know, but working with Manning in OTAs and camp should prove beneficial), Thomas will jump up fantasy draft boards this August. On the other hand, I believe Decker, Jason Hill and Matt Willis fall into that Garcon / Collie / Tamme circle of trust. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing or a backhanded compliment.

Take a look at the year-over-year stat discrepancies between Garcon and Collie from 2010 (with Manning) to 2011 (with Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter – granted not the crème de la crème):

 

Collie / Garcon Stat Splits

 
Player Games Rec. Yds. TDs
Collie 2010 9 58 649 8
Collie 2011 16 54 514 1
Garcon 2010 14 67 784 6
Garcon 2011 16 70 947 6

 

Garcon’s top three games in 2011 consisted of 16 receptions for 421 yards and all six touchdowns – if you lance those off the top ...

Collie / Garcon Stat Splits

 
Player Games Rec. Yds. TDs
Garcon 2011 without his top 3 performances. 13 54 526 0

 

Garcon just got paid by the Washington Redskins and Manning assisted in bringing out the best in the D-III talent out of Mount Union and the slot machine out of BYU. If they all stick around to see September, Decker, Hill and Willis should emerge as viable assets in Manning’s passing game. We only witnessed a small sample size of what Decker and Willis could do in a rush-first offense last season.

Speaking of passing game, how would you like to be John Fox’s shoes right now? You get fired from Carolina, hired by Denver as rush-oriented head coach, start the 2011 season with passing quarterback Kyle Orton, cut him, trade Brandon Lloyd, create a makeshift offense to give Tim Tebow an honest shot, win with Tebow in the ground and pound game, make the playoffs, win a playoff game over Pittsburgh, lose to New England, head into the off-season with Tebow as your “starting quarterback in camp” only to win the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes, give him the reins to the offense and basically abandon the offensive philosophy that made you a name in the league. Phew!

As for Manning’s health, I’m with you. I don’t know. What I do know if that Pat Bowlen and John Elway aren’t shelling out 95-million dollars (injury protected of course) if he doesn’t think Manning can help the Broncos immediately. No matter which receivers the team acquires over the next few months or in the draft, Manning is a fantasy quarterback I feel safe drafting after Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Stafford and Newton.

Any concerns about playing at Mile High in outdoor conditions for eight games this season or is this an over-reaction?

Fowler

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From: Joel Beall
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 6:04 PM
To: 'Ryan Fowler'
Subject: RE: The Pedestal: Peyton Manning

The Rocky Mountain air is a non-issue. Historically, Peyton has performed better indoors, but that’s more of a byproduct of playing in hostile road environments rather than the friendly confines of Indianapolis. Playing under a roof may be more conducive to putting up video game stats, but considering Kyle Orton posted over 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns in just 13 games in 2010 in Denver, don’t think it will hamper Manning. For a second, I thought a wintery wonderland in December could inflict damage upon the fantasy playoffs, but then I remembered Manning always seems to be on the sidelines during this time of the season anyway.

To me, the biggest fantasy-related question of this transaction is the Broncos running game. Willis McGahee was rejuvenated last season, yet with a pass-happy offense undoubtedly about to be implemented, how do you see his stock heading into 2012? And did Knowshon Moreno’s standing actually benefit from Manning’s arrival?

From: Ryan Fowler
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 7:20 PM
To: 'Joel Beall'
Subject: RE: The Pedestal: Peyton Manning

With Manning behind center, I’d be absolutely stunned if fantasy owners took Moreno before the 10th round. He’s only played in 20 games over the last two seasons combined (dude can’t stay healthy) and has only one more rushing touchdown (5) than fumbles (4) during that stretch. McGahee is another story. He will get his touches (maybe not 20+, but 15 or so per game is fair) and, more importantly, some goal line love. We saw it a few seasons ago in Baltimore. The dude can vulture with the best of them. Only this time he will be vulturing passing touchdowns away from Manning instead of potential Ray Rice six-pointers. I can already hear the cries of Manning owners on Sunday afternoons when the Broncos are inside the 10 praying for say a pass to, dare I say, Dallas Clark, but instead watch McGahee get his number called.

Denver’s running game will take a fantasy back seat with the air show in town, but will still be worthy of RB2/Flex play status on a weekly basis.

So, to tie a bow on this special edition of the Fantasy Football Pedestal, Manning – neck fused and all - remains on my fantasy pedestal.

How about you?

P.S. – How many times do you think we will hear the phrase “neck fusion” this season?

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From: Joel Beall
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 9:58 AM
To: 'Ryan Fowler'
Subject: RE: The Pedestal: Peyton Manning

More importantly, when’s the last time a sports injury has been so prominently discussed without Dr. James Andrews being involved?

I concur on McGahee becoming a red-zone fiend akin to his days in Baltimore, although it is worth noting that in 2011, the bruising back had just one rushing touchdown inside the 20. For whatever reason, I think Moreno may have some upside for 2012. Yes, the injuries and off-the-field issues are disconcerting, but Manning has been prone to utilizing his backfield in the aerial attack, with Indianapolis running backs combining for 55 receptions in 2010. In PPR leagues, I can see Moreno becoming relevant strictly off his passing-game prowess. McGahee hasn’t exactly been the paradigm of perfect health throughout his career either, making Moreno an intriguing backup option in the later rounds.

As for Manning…agreed. If he didn’t believe he could return to the same level of play, I don’t think he would have returned. For now, he’s my seventh-ranked fantasy quarterback heading into the NFL Draft, good enough for starter status in almost all of fantasy league formats.

Final verdict:  Peyton Manning stays on the fantasy football pedestal with the Denver Broncos

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