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The Peyton Manning Problem

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For a solid decade Peyton Manning has been just about the safest play on the fantasy board. He doesn't have bad seasons. He doesn't get hurt. He doesn't run with bad people off the field, so far as we know (admittedly, Cooper Manning is an unknown). The ultimate no-worry pick.

And then 2008 rolled around, and the equation changed. You know the framework. Knee surgery, return date uncertain, and now we're two weeks from the season and no one really knows the score.

Manning's been the hot rumor guy of the week, with all sorts of gossip turning up here and there. It's a good time to remind you that not every source on the interwebs is worth your time. Anyone can cobble together a hot story, using a web connection and an anonymous source. Be careful who you trust.

And then there's the Colts themselves, who have quietly become one of the double-secret-probation teams with injuries over the last few seasons. Remember the Marvin Harrison mess last year? While I respect the Colts' management and coaching staff from a business standpoint, their sound bytes never amount to much that a fantasy player can use.

Manning has been pretty mum for most of the summer, but he broke the silence this week.

"As to when I'll be back on the practice field, that's still to be determined," Manning told the Indianapolis Star. "Obviously, the sooner, the better for me. My goal is to be back for the first game." Manning did participate in a team walkthrough, no pads just a few throws. The team is hoping he can practice next week.

Here's what team owner Jim Irsay had to say: "It'll be close on Peyton. Only he will know if he's ready. I think there's a good chance he will be."

A second Irsay quote sounds a little more ominous.

"I just told him I want to make sure you feel 100 percent and you're ready to go because it's a long season," Irsay said. "With the human body . . . you just don't know for sure. But we're hopeful that he'll be able to go."

We could trudge on with vague quotes and guesswork, but here's the bottom line: no one knows what Manning's true status is right now. I don't know, you don't know, the checkout girl doesn't know, and doesn't know. Only the inner circle of the Colts could produce a definitive line, and they're not going to do that. This story looks like it will be touch and go for the rest of the month and into Week 1.

I think it's important to consider the cloudy nature around Manning, but not overreact. I'm probably going to slide Tony Romo and Drew Brees over Manning in my next batch of ranks (look for our updated stuff early next week), but barring some definitive news, this won't be a monumental freefall. I'm generally a guy who waits on quarterbacks, anyway, so I'm used to letting someone else take Brady or Manning.

For the first four rounds of a common draft, I'm not considering No. 18 - that's my stance, today, as I post this. Ask me Monday, maybe I'll say something different. For the fifth round and forward, I'll take the argument, weigh my roster, and see how I feel. If I do select Manning (and I don't expect to), I'll be sure to back him up with someone solid at the position (something you normally don't have to bother with).

Time to open it up to the floor. How are you handling the Manning Dilemma as we head into the teeth of draft season? Is the risk worth it? Are you adjusting your ranks on other Colts? Discuss, we'll get through this together.


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