So I’m going to mostly predict that Peyton will recover enough to be at least partly Peyton again. There is risk involved here but I just don’t see him starting the season still hurt. I truly have no idea how sound his body will be but he’s still Peyton Manning. The good news is that Manning is the perfect QB to play with a diminishing skill set. His ability to read defenses and make the easy throw should allow him to compensate for less arm strength. So with that caveat out of the way, what does Peyton do for this Broncos’ offense in terms of fake football?
First off, he helps everyone. Tim Tebow bogged that passing offense down like nobodies business, at least until the 4th quarter. That’s pretty much undisputed no matter what your feelings on Timmy Ballgame are. On average Tebow completed 10 passes a game or 46% of his passes. That’s not very good and made it so there just weren’t many catchable balls to go around. For Manning’s career he has completed 22.5 passes per game at a 65% clip. No duh you say and I say the same but it’s still worth looking at the disparity since it is so wide.
Some players will benefit more than others of course and those that can get on and stay on the field will benefit the mostest. Let’s first take a look at the receivers since Manning will be throwing the ball to them and then the RB(s) and then a TS and some other guy.
Demaryius Thomas: First off, why the “y” and the “i”? I see no need for both. But I digress. The one thing Tim Tebow did do well was flood DT’s inbox with targets. Some were pretty spammy but enough of them were well thought out and helpful enough for him to gain yards, TDs, etc… There is a decent chance that he’ll be Manning’s #1 target this season but it’s hard to see him getting more targets than Tebow was chucking at him toward the end of the season. The good news is that those targets from Manning will be better passes. For one thing teams won’t just assume Manning will throw the ball to Thomas, which will help, and they will also be more accurate and easier to catch. I see his production staying somewhat similar all around to his last 5 games last season which makes him a top 20 WR with upside to the low teens.
Eric Decker: I’m putting most of my marbles in Decker’s bag. That doesn’t sound quite right does it? Well, I’m doing it anyway. I’m a fan of his ability and I’m also liking this Manning guy. The best news for Decker is that Manning knows how to not lock onto one receiver like Tebow was wont to do. For the last 7 weeks of the season Thomas averaged 8 targets a game to Decker’s 4 and that included a 1 target game for DT. Last season was an odd one for Decker. He started with Kyle Orton as his QB for the first 4 weeks and he averaged 9 targets a game, 5 receptions, 67.5 yards and 1 touchdown under him. After Orton left, he averaged 4.8 targets per game. Naturally the number of targets dropped under Tebow’s offense but Decker still managed to find the end zone at an incredible rate for the number of receptions he had. He finished with 8 TDs on 44 receptions. He also only had 1 TD in the final 7 games when Thomas started getting zeroed in on. It was truly a roller coaster year for Decker who was on pace for 80 receptions with Orton and ended up with 44. That’s a paltry 2 receptions per game once Tebow took over. If healthy, that 80 reception year should be there with Manning as top dog, with an even higher ceiling.
Willis McGahee: McGahee had quite a rejuvenation under John Fox last season. The run first offense was good for him either with Tebow or Orton; he had good numbers under both. With Manning the offense will change but the convergence of Fox and Manning should still have plenty of opportunity for a running back. When the Colts had a productive running back they ran the ball often. Edgerrin James never had less than 334 attempts when he played all 16 games for the Colts. That might be the biggest concern for McGahee at this point, that he won’t play 16 games. But if he can, his prospects are still quite good, especially with Knowshon Moreno possibly starting the season on the PUP list and also not being very good. They may draft a running back so keep your eye on that. If they invest a somewhat early pick on one my McGahee love will temper even more.
Jacob Tamme: After paying Tamme 3.5 million guaranteed and 3 million a year for 3 years there’s little doubt that he is the starting tight end, especially with his history with Manning. Tamme showed his connection with Manning in ’10 after Dallas Clark went down with an injury. In 10 games he averaged 6.7 receptions a game which is pretty outstanding in PPR leagues. That’s 107 receptions in 16 full games. Of course this is a new offense and a post injured Peyton, but in 1 point PPR Tamme is very much worth a backup TE slot on your team.
Andre Caldwell: The sleeper pick in this horse race is Caldwell. He’ll most likely play the Austin Collie role as a slot receiver. If this Broncos’ offense can gel quickly Caldwell could see PPR relevancy. I for the most part will be staying away from him in 12 team leagues but he’s worth keeping an eye on. His ability hasn’t just been waiting for a Peyton Manning type to turn him into Wes Welker but if he gets the opportunity he’ll be ok.
Overall I’m very much interested in seeing where Decker and Thomas go in drafts this season. I really like both but the name Peyton might inflate their price way too much for my liking. Manning does have risk of being reinjured and even more risk of diminished skills so the sky isn’t the limit for this offense. It will be much improved though and there is some real talent there for Manning to utilize. In early mocks at Fantasy Football Calculator Demaryius Thomas is going 49th overall (19th WR) and Eric Decker is going 68th overall (29th WR). I don’t mind those spots at all, but like Decker’s more. I do think those numbers will start moving up as all the Eric Decker sleeper posts start piling up, so grab him while you can!
As far as drafting the man Peyton Manning himself? That’s a tough one. Right now he’s going as the 56th pick and the 8th QB off the board. I don’t mind grabbing him in the 5th round but I also would most likely rather grab Rivers, Romo, Ryan, Schaub, or Roethlisberger for their price much later in the draft. If I don’t get a stud QB early I’ll most likely skip Manning based on the health risk and the possibility that his attempts will be somewhat down under John Fox. But those two things aren’t all that convincing and if he falls at all I’d still feel pretty good with him as my QB as long as the news out of camp is positive.