Every week it is proclaimed that Peyton Manning is back, and then the next week he’s even more back. Soon enough he’ll be so back that time will actually move backwards, and he’ll just rejoin the Colts. I’m not sure what would come of Andrew Luck in this cosmic scenario, but I do know that Benjamin Button eventually becomes a baby and then dies.
We know that Manning has been really, really ridiculously good looking, especially this past Sunday when he seemed to remember how to throw a deep ball, and especially when he gives us two million free pizzas. Fantasy owners are rather pleased, as despite his age and the overwhelming concern about his health prior to this season, Manning is the fifth-highest overall scorer using standard ESPN scoring (142 points). That’s 15 more points than Arian Foster, who was widely a first overall pick.
But is he truly, really, seriously back? Instead of just speculating and wondering, I thought I’d do some real reporting (rare, yes) and ask someone who’s watched nearly every throw from Manning since he became a Bronco. Cecil Lammey comes aboard for this week’s Five Questions. He’s the NFL insider for ESPN Denver, a senior writer at Football Guys, and the host of their excellent and thorough podcast (The Audible).
Before getting to Manning we also discussed the fantasy values of the backup quarterbacks for the Jets and Eagles if widely-speculated moves are eventually made with Michael Vick and Mark Sanchez. And what of this Ronnie Hillman fellow who broke out Sunday night? That also seems like a good question for a Broncos insider.
1. If the Eagles make a move away from Michael Vick, what’s your outlook on Nick Foles? Clearly some rookie struggles are expected, but few rookie quarterbacks are surrounded by the kind of weapons he’d have in Philadelphia. Is there an opportunity for good waiver wire value here?
Nick Foles had a good preseason but I have doubts that would carry over to the regular season. He’s got a big arm and isn’t afraid to throw downfield. However, he is not very mobile and struggles under pressure. The Eagles O-Line hasn’t been protecting Vick very well and it would look worse with Foles back there. The matchup against the Saints this week is sweet and I expect Vick to get back on track. Andy Reid needs to look past just Vick (OL, not using McCoy enough, defense) in order to solve the teams struggles.
2. Turning to another quarterback mess, if Rex Ryan makes a move to Tim Tebow, what’s his fantasy outlook? Tebow won leagues last year, but the circumstances are much different with the Jets. Is he worth a speculative add?
It’s clear Rex Ryan doesn’t trust Tim Tebow. The Jets have seriously underused Tebow this year, although they vow to change that. Tebow is a capable runner who can surprise with some deep passes. He still doesn’t throw short passes very well. Tebow won’t get a chance to start unless there’s an injury to Mark Sanchez. However, at some point the team needs to at least see what they have with Tebow.
3. Speaking of speculative adds and sleepers, is Ronnie Hillman someone we should keep our eye on next year? Willis McGahee is still running strong, but he’s aging. Could we see a situation develop in Denver similar to the time share in St. Louis between Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson?
Fantasy owners should be looking at Hillman now. He had a breakout game against the Saints and his role has grown every week. He won’t take Willis McGahee’s job, but is capable of being a full time back. Hillman fits the no huddle, stretch play offense that Peyton Manning prefers. His dynasty upside is big as he’s the Broncos RB of the future.
4. Having watched Peyton Manning progress throughout training camp and the early part of the season, are you willing to say that he’s “back,” even if he’s not saying it yet? And for those in keeper leagues who could go into sell mode soon if they’re not in playoff contention, what’s fair trade value for Manning?
Manning is not the same player he used to be, but its pretty damn close. I’ve seen most every throw from him as a Bronco. From minicamp, OTAs, training camp, and practice during the regular season. The arm strength issues were seriously overblown by some in the media. He’s made several deep throws in camp, and even overthrown some routes that were 50+ yards. In the Atlanta game we saw some mental rust from Peyton and that’s why he threw picks. Since then he’s been very sharp and building more chemistry with his WRs. Fantasy owners should hold on to Manning right now. The Broncos’ fantasy playoff schedule is sweet. Even keeper league owners should hold. If you have to trade him then ask for an elite prospect in return.
5. Lastly, Calvin Johnson owners are surely getting concerned after he’s put together back-to-back games with less than 50 receiving yards. Between Charles Tillman two weeks ago and Richard Sherman this past Sunday, do defenses now have a blueprint to use while slowing down Johnson consistently?
Teams are bracket covering Calvin Johnson this year. This is something they did last year too, but now Matthew Stafford has less time to throw. Defenses will sometimes use a third defender on Mega as he’s running downfield. That is why guys like Titus Young and Ryan Broyles are getting open. When Calvin goes back to getting “just” double covered we’ll see the production come back. Fantasy owners need to stay the course with a talent like Don Mega.