After days of poking, prodding and posturing, Peyton Manning, the most coveted free agent to hit the market possibly ever, finally reached a decision. This year he plans to play for the Denver Broncos.
Sorry Arizona, Tennessee and San Francisco. Niners fans, your consolation prize: Collin Kaepernick. Surely your group of talented, yet egotistical wide receivers, will relish seeing passes from an inexperienced unknown.
Thanks for playing.
Denver isn't the most attractive destination for Manning. Dreams of the four-time MVP teaming up with Larry Fitzgerald, Kenny Britt or Randy Moss were more fantastic. However, in terms of vertical weapons, the cupboard is far from bare. Demariyus Thomas, with Tebow missing him roughly half the time, was an elite receiver down the homestretch last year. Over the final five weeks of the regular season he ranked No. 11 among WRs in standard league per game average netting 12.6 points per contest. Don't be surprised if Baby Brandon Marshall finishes as a top-15, or even a top-10 receiver next year – stud in-the-making.
Meanwhile, DT's tag-team partner, Eric Decker, played brilliantly early in the season. His yardage numbers suffered once Tebow seized the reigns, but his eight TDs and respectable 6.8 per game average were useful in deeper leagues. With Peyton in tow, he could be Austin Collie the sequel. Likely a double-digit round pick in drafts next year he could flirt with a 65-900-8 line, vaulting him into WR3 territory.
As for Manning, several questions remain. Will he be able to absorb contact? Will he have enough zip on his throws? Is there gas left in the tank? Obviously, these inquiries are impossible to answer in March, but assuming his rehab continues to be smooth, he should be considered a back-end QB1 in 12-team leagues, worthy of a mid-round draft pick. Place him in the Matt Schaub-Ben Roethlisberger-Carson Palmer class.
In other locales, Jake Locker, last year's ultimate hot-dog-on-a-stick for fantasy owners, may finally get an opportunity to showcase his wares. The multidimensional threat is Cam Newton-lite. He is a bit raw as a passer but his ability to grind out yards with his legs make him very intriguing. In limited action against Atlanta (140-2-0, 11 ryds), New Orleans (282-1-0, 36, rtd) and Indy (108-1, 9) he was sensational. With Kenny Britt back healthy, he could emerge as one of 2012's profit-turners, assuming he staves off Matt Hasselbeck in training camp. Remember his name in the later rounds come August.
Elsewhere, the Mile High Messiah, Tim Tebow, is now in a purgative state. It's clear John "Judas" Elway will auction off the former Heisman winner at a relatively cheap price. Even though Jacksonville signed Chad Henne last week, it's likely Timmy could end up in UF's backyard. The Jags have a new, hands-on owner who is desperate to make his small-market club succeed. Adding Tebow would immediately pad the bottom line and inject excitement into an organization with limited star power. If that happens, Mike Mularkey would surely install a conservative system similar to what John Fox ran last year, a tactic that could actually boost the value of Maurice Jones-Drew.
Also, in a strange twist of irony, Tebow could end up in San Francisco, a fitting end to a disastrous two-week run by team management. However, if the Niners are smart, they crawl back to Alex Smith, open the wallet and try to make amends. Peyton certainly wrecked a ton of homes.
The mad dash for Manning is over but the ensuing Tebow/SF soap opera has just begun.
What's your take? Where do you see Peyton going in drafts next year? What about Thomas/Decker? Are you also on the Locker bandwagon? Where does Tebow end up? Discuss below.