His name: Peyton Manning.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP may be highly marketable for the mainstream pigskin masses, but in intelligent fantasy circles he's more deceiving than Axe Body Spray commercials. Believe me. Not even inebriated tubby girls desperate at closing time have swarmed the Noise when doused in Axe …
The illusory Manning, arguably fantasy's most paramount scorer at QB for the past seven seasons, must be avoided by novices and veterans alike on Draft Day.
If Manning is selected anywhere close to his 6.5 Y! Average Draft Position (ADP) you will place yourself in a disadvantageous position.
To illustrate my point, take a look at the two tables below.
The first table, based on a standard scoring system (4 points/pass TD, 1 point/20 passing yards, 6 pts/rush-rec TD, 1 pt/10 rush-rec yards, etc.), lists the top-15 signal callers from last season. Meanwhile, the second table highlights the top-15 running backs from a year ago. The %DIF value defines the percentage difference in fantasy points per game (FPPG) from the overall scoring leader at a position – Donovan McNabb (Surprise!) for quarterbacks and LaDanian Tomlinson for running backs.
*FPT includes rushing statistics. MTD = multi-passing TD games
For those of you who can't decipher nutritional information on a Cheez-It box, the above charts clearly indicate that the disparity between Manning, the second-ranked fantasy QB in FPPG, and brother Eli Manning, the 15th best producer, was a meager 28.2 percent.
Now use a similar comparison with running backs. The difference between marquee churner LaDanian Tomlinson and 14th rated plowshare Deuce McAllister was 52.4 percent.
Of course, LT’s record-breaking season skews the data and many of you won’t agonize over whether you should draft Peyton over LT, LJ or Jackson on Draft Day, so it’s only fair to compare Peyton (ADP 6.5) to Willie Parker (ADP 9.7).
Last year, Parker, who sported the sixth-best FPPG mark, averaged 4.5 FPPG more than the fifteenth ranked back, Travis Henry. That’s a difference of 26.9 percent.
Meanwhile Manning averaged 5.0 FPPG (24.6%) more than the 11th-rated fantasy quarterback, Brett Favre. Obviously, the difference is minimal.
Why then should you toot the horn for “Steamin’” Willie at pick seven instead of Peyton?
First, the tier-to-tier drop-off in running back is far more dramatic after the top three. Second, most leagues force owners to start two backs versus one QB. Finally, because the running theory is so ingrained in the minds of drafters, avoiding a top-flight back in favor of Manning would force you to roll the dice with a less-productive or unproven back.
This is why I constantly preach that owners must follow some derivative of the running back theory, whether RB-RB-WR or RB-WR-RB, on draft day.
Think about it this way: Is the miniscule separation between Manning and a tier-four QB honestly worth entrusting Willis McGahee, Ronnie Brown or Edgerrin James, who collectively averaged 11.3 FPPG last year, as your No. 1 back?
Only if you want to be considered the laughing stock of your league.
Sure, Manning is the torchbearer for consistency, but last year Marc Bulger finished with more 300-yard games (8) and Carson Palmer had more multi-TD efforts (10) than he did. In early drafts, Palmer has gone nearly 16 and Bulger some 30 selections after Manning. It's senseless to take Peyton over a prominent RB when the consistency and productivity of a Palmer, Brady, Brees, or Bulger can be available 15-30 picks later – especially after the abrupt retirement of Pro Bowl left tackle Tarik Glenn.
So, if you bypass Manning and are unable to land someone in the tier one class who should you square in the crosshairs? Who should you avoid?
Here is a breakdown of the risers, fallers and best backup signal callers this season:
*Average Auction Values (AAV) are courtesy of Fantasy Auctioneer.
|On the Rise|
|'06 Stats: 241.9 PYPG, 19 PTD, 13 INT, 102 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 269.5 PYPG, 25 PTD, 17 INT, 145 RYD, RTD|
|Lowdown: With Terrell Owens his primary target, country star hottie Carrie Underwood draped on his arm and a karaoke voice that can rock the house, Romo has it all – except the ability to hold a snap. After "Doo-Doo" Drew Bledsoe was flushed in Week 7, "Rambo" went on a 20.5 fantasy points per game rampage – equal to Drew Brees – in 10 starts. At times, his vulnerability to pressure and various misreads exposed his inexperience, but his adventurous attitude and leadership qualities showed he could deliver when needed. His 260.7 yards per game average and six multi-TD efforts from Week 7 on made Romo a trustworthy No. 1 QB. This year, former Cowboy QB Jason Garrett will adorn the headset as Dallas’ new offensive coordinator and will likely install several creative passing plays designed to keep Romo and whiny pants T.O. happy. With Terry Glenn and Jason Witten formidable targets and a sound running tandem led by Marion Barber III, Romo is a safe, borderline top-ten quarterback capable of averaging 270 yards per game and over 1.5 touchdowns per contest. Selected on average in the late-fifth round in 12-team drafts, Romo is a valuable asset who should take a significant statistical step forward like Marc Bulger did last season.|
|'06 Stats: 263.0 PYPG, 21 PTD, 22 INT, 156 RYD, 2 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 268.3 PYPG, 24 PTD, 21 INT, 124 RYD, RTD|
|Lowdown: If Kitna’s outlandish 10-win prognostication comes to fruition I will call Matt Millen the most brilliant general manager in the NFL by year’s end. Despite connecting 22 times with defenders last season, Kitna was the sixth-best quarterback in Y! leagues, one slot ahead of Golden Boy Tom Brady. A yardage monster, he finished second to Peyton Manning with nine games of 250-plus yards and notched a touchdown pass in 13 of 17 starts. The addition of the "Supernatural" Calvin Johnson to an air-happy Mike Martz offense that slung the pigskin 69 percent of the time in ’06 should boost Kitna's value substantially. However, Kitna's 31 combined turnovers last season coupled with an unstable line and his marginal athleticism suggests he will make numerous mistakes, which could prove costly in leagues that heavily tax interceptions and fumbles lost. The 35-year-old is a trendy sleeper this season as evidenced by his $14 average price-tag. I believe he will likely entrench himself again in the top 10 this season, but don’t snap tendons for his services. Romo, Cutler and Rivers are just as viable and available at a fraction of the cost.|
|'06 Stats: 190.7 PYPG, 19 PTD, 14 INT, 140 RYD, RTD|
|2007 Projection: 207.4 PYPG, 22 PTD, 13 INT, 146 RYD, RTD|
|Lowdown: If Judas Priest Losman can carry over his strong second half from ’06, he’ll unleash hell on the AFC East. In his first full season as the starter, Losman performed admirably, albeit inconsistently, enough to silence most of his critics who believed he couldn't develop into a franchise signal caller. Over the final five weeks of the season, he averaged a stout 208.8 PYPG and 1.8 PTD per contest, equitable to 18.5 FPPG. Because the Bills have the toughest ground schedule in '07 based on last year's defensive numbers, Losman will be leaned upon heavily to move the football. Add in a shatterproof chemistry with downfield playmaker Lee Evans and a revamped offensive line and Losman, drafted on average in Round 13 of Y! leagues, has favorable odds of turning a massive top-15 profit at his position. Draft him as a No. 2, but don't be shocked if he posts better numbers than Hasselbeck, Delhomme and Leinart this year.|
|'06 Stats: 200.2 PYPG, 9 TD, 5 INT, 18 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 214.1 PYPG, 20 PTD, 14 INT, 71 RYD, 2 RTD|
|Lowdown: The Rocky Mountain Ginsu has all the tools to slice and dice AFC foes. Unfazed in his rookie season, Cutler accounted for an avalanche of production in Weeks 13-17, amassing 200.4 PYPG and 1.8 PTD, good for a stellar 17.6 FPPG. Outside of the numbers, many pundits gushed about Cutler's ability to face adversity straight on, delivering strong, accurate throws under pressure. Although his inexperience surfaced at times during his baptism by fire, Cutler's brief stint as the starter should greatly enhance his ability to make quality decisions in the pocket this year. With the explosive Javon Walker, an up-and-coming Brandon Marshall, an ironclad offensive line and a robust running game spearheaded by Travis Henry, Cutler has the offensive peripherals to become a dependable fantasy starter. Minor bumps are in the forecast, but given his mobility and upside he should finish with 20-23 total touchdowns.|
|'06 Stats: 234.2 PYPG, 18 PTD, 23 INT, 98 RYD, 2 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 241.1 PYPG, 21 PTD, 13 INT, 111 RYD, 2 RTD|
|Lowdown: Fully recovered mentally and physically from his Evel Knievel motorcycle stunt last summer and appendicitis, Big Ben’s numbers will be kick-started by Bruce Arians’ four-WR, spread-and-fire offense. Quietly, Roethlisberger tallied nine games of 220-plus passing yards and found the end-zone in 12 of 16 starts last season. Most owners will be petrified by his 25 total turnovers from ‘06, but don't be one of them. A full season of summer practice, an emerging PPR grinder in Santonio Holmes, a punishing ground attack and Arians' wishes to have Big Ben operate more out of the shotgun, collectively will help Roethlisberger establish a consistent rhythm this season. Currently the 22nd quarterback selected on average in Yahoo! leagues – behind the likes of Rex Grossman, Trent Green and Jake Delhomme – Roethlisberger will outperform his underappreciated 121.0 ADP and finish with 21-25 total TDs.|
|'06 Stats: 242.8 PYPG, 18 PTD, 18 INT, 29 RYD, RTD|
|2007 Projection: 241.4 PYPG, 20 PTD, 21 INT, 35 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: Propagandist for old codger products Sensodyne and Prilosec OTC, Favre is over the hill on and off the field. Last season, Favre failed to reach the 20 passing touchdown plateau for the first time since fantasy giant Bobby Herbert finished ahead of him in the category in 1993. Scrambling behind a flaccid offensive line for much of last season, the 17-year vet completed a pitiful 56 percent of his passes on a career-high 613 attempts. Despite his porous play, his five multi-TD efforts and nine games of 250-plus yards led him to yield a respectable 17.2 FPPG – eighth-best among signal callers. At 37, he still showcases a cannon arm and overtly aggressive throwing style, which nets plenty of interceptions. Underrated weapons Donald Driver and Greg Jennings combine for a fearsome, efficient receiving tandem in Mike McCarthy’s West Coast scheme. However, because of the Packers suspect rushing attack, the ancient gunslinger will be pressed again to carry the load offensively – unless rookie Brandon Jackson shines. Anticipate another roller coaster season of questionable completion percentages and plentiful picks. Draft him only as a serviceable No. 2.|
|'06 Stats: 202.7 PYPG, 24 PTD, 18 INT, 21 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 206.8 PYPG, 23 PTD, 19 INT, 19 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: If only Eli could fit snugly into his brother’s jockstrap, maybe then the ho-hum expression would disappear off his Harry Potter face. For two years East Coast-minded media pundits have artificially inflated Manning's offensive prowess. Last season was no exception. The king of inconsistency barreled out of the gates averaging 287.3 PYPG and 2.2 TD per game in the first four weeks only to follow with a woeful 174.5 PYPG and 1.2 TD per game average over the remainder of the season. Manning does possess the natural gifts to be a revered quarterback, but his tendency to throw off his back foot coupled with his bungling decision-making has killed him in critical situations. If he can avoid threading the needle unnecessarily and rookie burner Steve Smith can serve as an adequate downfield threat, he might be able to vault into the elite class. But, it likely won't happen. The retirement of Tiki Barber (58 receptions in '06) and with dinosaur Amani Toomer coming off a major ACL injury, Manning will only suffice as a fantasy No. 2.|
|'06 Stats: 203.5 PYPG, 18 PTD, 15 INT, 110 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 209.8 PYPG, 19 PTD, 16 INT, 99 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: Hasselbeck, cursed by sipping on Donovan McNabb's bowl of Chunky Soup, posted his worst season as a pro since 2002. The victim of a right knee injury, two broken fingers on his left hand, bruised ribs, a displacement in his non-throwing shoulder, an injury-riddled offensive line and a broken Shaun Alexander wheel, Hasselbeck's '06 was wrought disaster. In 12 games, he completed an inaccurate 56.5 percent of his passes and averaged 1.25 picks per game, the highest mark in his career. In January, Hasselbeck went under the knife to repair his injured left shoulder and is optimistic he'll be able to participate fully in camp. Even if healthy for Week One, he'll need Deion Branch and, particularly D.J. Hackett, to pick up the slack for the departed Darrell Jackson. Given his spiritless play in the red-zone last season (37.5 CMP%), question marks in the receiving corps and a healthy Shaun Alexander, he probably won't average more than 220 YPG in Mike Holmgren's balanced attack. With an ADP in the high 60s, he's not nearly as attractive as risers Romo or Roethlisberger.|
|'06 Stats: 167.7 PYPG, 7 TD, 9 INT, 59 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 206.7 PYPG, 18 PTD, 15 INT, 44 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: The once-lush Green has browned. Green never really regained his composure after he was steamrolled by Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers in Week 1 of '06. His 167.7 PYPG and 0.87 TD per game average in eight contests were the lowest of his career. Shipped to Miami in early June, the 37 year-old passer has faith that re-teaming with Fins sideline general Cam Cameron will reinvigorate his once prominent career. It won't. Green's accuracy has fallen in three consecutive years ('04: 66.4, '05: 62.5, '06: 61.1) and being blessed with the mobility of a hippopotamus behind a shaky offensive line will cover him in grass stains. Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, Derek Hagan and speedy rookie Ted Ginn Jr. are better weapons than what Green had in KC, but he's merely keeping the seat warm until BYU product John Beck is ready. Numerous quarterbacks in his Round 12 ADP tier – Grossman, Schaub, Roethlisberger, Delhomme and Losman – are far more desirable.|
|'06 Stats: 190.6 PYPG, 16 PTD, 12 INT, 119 RYD, RTD|
|2007 Projection: 188.7 PYPG, 15 PTD, 13 INT, 107 RYD, RTD|
|Lowdown: McNair, more McNaughty than McNice last year, averaged an atrocious 190.6 passing yards per game – his lowest total in a full season since 2000. To his credit, McNair’s completion percentage did improve every month from September to December, showing his comfort level in Brian Billick's offense. Of course, completion percentage rates don't equate to fantasy wins and when you tally the same number of multi-TD games (four total) as Bruce Gradkowski and Damon Huard in seven more starts, you deserve to be a fantasy afterthought. The emergence of razor-sharp route-runner Mark Clayton and with sure-handed Todd Heap as primary targets, McNair has the weapons to produce respectable numbers when the matchup warrants. But, like teammate Derrick Mason, he's one of those "name" players incompetent owners will reach for thinking his 2003 numbers are perpetual. As he's selected on average in Round 8 of Y! 12-team drafts, it's best to let someone else pray for a revival.|
|Backups to Watch|
|'06 Stats: 203.3 PYPG, 12 PTD, 15 INT, 24 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: 209.9 PYPG, 20 PTD, 17 INT, 28 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: Harrington will likely enter the season as the Falcons starter, the offshoot of Michael Vick's legal problems involving allegations of dog fighting. A better Billy Joel impersonator than an NFL quarterback, Harrington is arguably the most inconsistent passer in the league. Just look at his Canton-worthy 68.2 QB rating in 11 starts with the Fish last season. Regardless of his inadequacies, Harrington still possesses one of the quickest releases in the game and enters a revamped Bobby Petrino offense that will install many three and four-WR packages. Harrington's arm strength is better than advertised and he works best with passes thrown in between the hashmarks, which means he has the tools to shine in Petrino's spread attack. If he can bury the mental mistakes that have plagued him his entire career, it wouldn't be unfathomable for Harrington to hover in the fifth tier alongside guys like Alex Smith, Jason Campbell and Chad Pennington. With a power rushing attack led by newly anointed starter Jerious Norwood and a satisfactory battery of receivers topped by veteran Joe Horn, Harrington has the assets to be more livable than laughable. That is, if Daunte Culpepper doesn't enter the picture.|
|'06 Stats: 172.9 PYPG, 11 PTD, 12 INT, 195 RYD, 2 RTD|
|2007 Projection: (5 starts) 202.5 PYPG, 5 PTD, 3 INT, 62 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: Carr, more Hyundai than Hummer while in Houston, was salvaged by the Panthers this past off-season. The numero uno pick in the 2002 draft has stated he feels reinvigorated in Carolina blue. Unlike the misguided Houston coaching staff that tinkered with his unorthodox mechanics for years, John Fox and company have lifted all restrictions on his throwing style in an attempt to allow Carr to find his happy place. Because he has a stronger arm, is more mobile and accurate ('06 CMP%: 68.3) than starter Jake Delhomme ('06 CMP%: 61.0), this philosophy could pay enormous dividends if Delhomme were injured or ineffective. If Carr, perpetually covered in grass stains as a Texan (249 sacks in 76 games), were to emerge as the starter, he could thrive operating behind a more inflexible offensive line. With the NFL's best wideout in Steve Smith and explosive second-year standout DeAngelo Williams as weapons, Carr could become this year's Jeff Garcia.|
|'06 Stats: 196.7 PYPG, 6 PTD, 5 INT, 3 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: (2 starts) 248.6 PYPG, 3 PTD, 2 INT, 6 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: Plagued by fumbles and a severe case of concrete pocket feet last season, the 36-year-old was permanently replaced by Matt Leinart in Week 5 – the third time he had been Wally Pipped in five years. In five starts, Warner found the end zone six times and compiled a sparkling 254.4 passing yards per game, including a 356-yard, one-TD effort at San Diego in relief of an injured Leinart in Week 17. Warner is a smart, savvy and pinpoint accurate backup who, despite his turnover deficiencies, can still bedazzle defenders with his crisp short-to-intermediate passes. Given the rich receiving talents of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson and a more rigid offensive line, Warner would become an instant waiver wire warrior if he were called upon to take snaps with the first team.|
|'06 Stats: 342 YDS, 3 TD, 0 INT, 3 RYD, 0 RTD|
|2007 Projection: (4 starts) 228.6 PYPG, 5 PTD, 2 INT, 21 RYD, 0 RTD|
|Lowdown: With Jeff Garcia now in Tampa, Apple Jacks Feeley steps in as the primary backup to the fragile Donovan McNabb. Feeley soared in his lone start last season completing 22 of his 33 attempts for 321 yards and three scores versus Atlanta in Week 17. The seven-year veteran is an athletic, competitive signal caller who is equipped with above-average arm strength and velocity. Because McNabb has suffered season-ending injuries in three of his past five seasons (19 missed games in all), Feeley's chances of logging significant time behind center are favorable. Although he's not nearly as refined a passer as Jeff Garcia, Feeley's skill set is sufficient enough for him to emerge a reputable No. 2 fantasy quarterback in a pass-prominent Andy Reid West Coast system.|
|'06 Stats: (LSU) 240.6 PYPG, 28 PTD, 8 INT, 142 RYD, RTD|
|2007 Projection: (10 starts) 201.4 PYPG, 9 PTD, 12 INT, 81 RYD, RTD|
|Lowdown: The number one pick in this year's NFL Draft is a carbon copy of what Daunte Culpepper used to be. Standing at 6-foot-6 and tilting the scales at a hefty 263 pounds, Russell is an athletic marvel whose brute arm strength could knock Al Davis unconscious in his owner's box from midfield. Like any rookie quarterback, Russell will need some time to absorb the Raider offense and build confidence. Heading into training camp, baby-faced Oakland head coach Lane Kiffin was hesitant about throwing Russell into the fray initially, leaning toward Josh McCown as his starter. As fantasy followers saw in Tennessee (Vince Young), Denver (Jay Cutler) and Arizona (Matt Leinart) last year, inevitably, Russell will get his opportunity. However, because the Raiders worst-ranked offense from a season ago is in the early stages of recuperation, its unlikely Russell will have the initial success as last year's unprecedented rookie class. Certainly, draft him with confidence in the late rounds of dynasty leagues, but don’t waste a bench spot in yearly formats.|
- Peyton Manning