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Peyton Manning: Fantasy Dud or Fantasy Stud?
Statistically, free agents who sign with a new team do not produce impressive fantasy numbers in their debut season. Only a few are in the top 10 at their position.
Some examples of them are:
RB Darren Sproles: Last season Sproles left the San Diego Chargers and signed with the New Orleans Saints. Sproles was an immediate success as he was often used in multiple offensive formations at multiple positions including flanker, slot, split wide and of course tailback. He achieved fantasy stud status in the league in points per reception (PPR) with 86 receptions for 710 yards.
Another stud to make a big splash was Atlanta Falcons RB, Michael Turner. In 2008, Turner rushed for 1,699 yards and had 17 TDs after leaving the Chargers to sign with Atlanta.
Wide receiver Antonio Bryant earned a top ten fantasy stud marker with his 2008 performance after signing with Tampa Bay. Bryant finished the 2008 season with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and 7 touchdowns, while averaging 15 yards per catch and 9 catches for 200 yards a game, which were career highs for Bryant. Antonio Bryant is currently a free agent.
In terms of QBs, the only stud to leave a team and be successful as a FA is Drew Brees. He has finished in the top 5 in five of the last six seasons and has completed at least 33 touchdown passes in each of the last four seasons and is coming off a record season that included 5,476 yards passing and 46 touchdowns. Oh and he won the Superbowl in 2009 when the Saints beat Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.
So, as the article title suggests, will Peyton Manning’s FA signing make him a fantasy stud in his debut season with his new team, the Denver Broncos?… The answer is stud.
Manning’s last full season in 2010 was 4,700 yards for 33 touchdowns. Manning is an elite, top-five fantasy quarterback 11 times in 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (#6 once, and #9 as a rookie).
He’s dealing with two issues this year… a new team and recovering from multiple surgeries. Due to his neck injury and subsequent surgery, most pundits say it is a way to end his career. I say that all NFL players end their careers one way, which makes this argument moot.
Manning has only been sacked 231 times in his career and battled his injury throughout the 2010 season and still put up stud numbers. The Denver offensive line isn’t loaded with pro bowlers, but they have youth and consistency. With Ryan Clady on the left, Orlando Franklin on the right and everything in between, all five players started all 16 games last season and all are returning this season. Designed for zone blocking, which fueled the teams running game last season, the passing QB will now be tasked with more pass blocking, giving Manning time to do what he does best. This balance of rush and pass offense will bode well for the Broncos.
Another factor to consider is John Fox’s ability to coach his players to their strengths. He did it last year with Tim Tebow, using him as a running QB, a no-huddle offense and a “Wildcat”-like offensive scheme, and the Broncos made the playoffs for the first time in six years. Fox’s breakthrough came in 2003-2004 when he helped a young Jake Delhomme and the “Cardiac Cats” contend for the Lombardi Trophy. The Panthers lost to the New England Patriots by just six points in Superbowl XXXVIII, and Delhomme was over 4,000 yards that year with 29 TDs. Fox will create offensive schemes that complement Payton.
Overall, Manning is going to be a top five fantasy QB this season. He’s surrounded by coaches, his receiving corps and his offensive line, which is better than his in Indy.
Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and backups Andre Caldwell, Jason Hill will see most of Manning’s passes, known for spreading possessions. Look for Decker and Thomas to stretch the field while TE’s Joel Dressen and sleeper pick Jacob Tamme work inside and downfield. Another great WR sleeper pick to keep an eye on is Matt Willis, also don’t forget that Manning has a history with Brandon Stokely, (now with Denver) from his days in Indianapolis.
The running game will balance out the Broncos offensive options and will inevitably make Manning a more efficient QB. Rookie RB Ronnie Hillman (huge sleeper pick) will back up Willis McGahee, but Hillman is a serious threat as a receiving RB and these extra factors will help Manning spread the aforementioned assets and put up stud numbers this season.
Manning is projected to go in the later rounds (8th and 9th) of fantasy drafts. Most fantasy owners are going to be gun-shy when it comes to drafting Manning. I say Manning is a steal, so get him early (4th-6th).
Regardless of the outcome of the season, the Broncos feel they made a good choice in acquiring the Denver Broncos, and by bringing in the veteran they will have a great sea that could lead to another Super Bowl for the Mile High City.
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