Fantasy: Eli Manning Not As Bad As You Think

| June 25, 2011

If you live in New York or are a Giants fan, you know that Eli Manning has been the subject of extreme scrutiny and criticism since the Giants traded for his rights during the 2004 NFL Draft. Fans and members of the media believed that Eli would be the second coming of his brother (Peyton), peaking as a perennial MVP candidate that would lead the Giants to multiple Superbowl victories. Needless to say, expectations were a tad high and, when Eli failed to live up to those benchmarks, people were upset.

The result, however, is good for fantasy owners because all the negativity has made Eli an undervalued fantasy commodity, especially after a 2010 when he threw 25 (!) interceptions.

Today, we’ll look at Eli’s career statistics, focusing on his growth in the last three years and see why he’s a lock to finish in the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2011.

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Att Comp Comp % YDS YPA TD TD% INT INT %
2010 539 339 62.9 4002 7.4 31 5.8 25 4.8
2009 509 317 62.3 4021 7.9 27 5.3 14 2.8
2008 479 289 60.3 3238 6.8 21 4.4 10 2.1
2007 529 297 56.1 3336 6.3 23 4.3 20 3.8
2006 522 301 57.7 3244 6.2 24 4.6 18 3.4
2005 557 294 52.8 3762 6.8 24 4.3 17 3.1
2004 197 95 48.2 1043 5.3 6 3.0 9 4.8
Career 3332 1932 58.0 22646 6.8 156 4.7 113 3.4

It’s clear that Eli has evolved as a passer in his seven years in the league, most noticeably in the years from 2007-2008. His interception rate dropped from 3.8% to 2.1% (yes, it jumped back up in 2010, but there’s more on that later) and his completion percentage jumped up four full points to 60.3%. It has since increased to over 62%. Eli’s touchdown rate has also seen a significant bump to elite levels (4.4%-5.3%) from 2008-2009, which he sustained in 2010.

Despite Eli’s improvement, he still finished outside of the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2010. The reason for this, of course, as you can see in the chart, was a rise in interception rate. In standard scoring leagues, where interceptions are generally a penalty of negative two (-2) points, the younger Manning’s season total of fantasy points was cut by 50 points, a significant number anyway you look at it. A first glance at the interception column would scare most fantasy owners away from drafting the seven-year veteran. A closer look, however, paints a different picture regarding his level of play. Manning finished eighth among quarterbacks in PFF’s pass rating (40.0, just .5 behind MVP Tom Brady) and ten (10!) of Eli’s interceptions came on dropped or tipped balls by his receivers. When you remove those interceptions from Eli’s ledger, his interception rate is right in line with his 2009 numbers at 2.8%, which would significantly improve his fantasy standing among NFL quarterbacks. In fact, if it were not for the 10 interceptions on dropped or tipped passes by wide receivers, Manning would have been the sixth-best fantasy quarterback in 2010.

There’s little reason to believe that Eli won’t continue to post touchdown rates around 5.5% in a New York offense that has thrown more than it has run in the last two years, especially with the offensive weapons the Giants employ at wide receiver. Furthermore, as we stated above, Manning’s interception rate will certainly regress towards his career rate of 3.4%. Eli makes his share of bad decisions and will probably continue to do so, but he ran into quite a bit of bad luck in 2010, which is unlikely to happen again. Manning is currently being drafted as the 11th fantasy quarterback in Draftmaster drafts, just one pick ahead of Matthew Stafford. This is great value for a player with similar rate stats, in terms of touchdown and interception rate, as Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees over the last two years.

  • whatadai

    I don’t think people would argue that he’s not improving. The reason I wouldn’t take him as a QB1 unless it’s a league with more than 12 teams is because he’s inconsistent. Sure he’ll get you 4 touchdowns on an easy game against a weak fantasy team where the game doesn’t matter, but he’ll turn around and throw 4 interceptions against a strong fantasy team during a playoff week.

  • Kevin Boyle

    I’m certain that Eli Manning doesn’t fold under the pressure of late-season fantasy contests, and I’ll concede that worries about inconsistency would lead me to draft a QB2 in the 12-15 of fantasy quarterbacks, but what 12 quarterbacks (I can think of six) would you rather have?