Last year was the worst of Eli Manning’s career by a lot of measures, but he’s in line for a big rebound this year.
From two Super Bowl MVPs to three years leading the league in interceptions, Eli Manning has had an up and down career. Last year was a season of lows, with a nine-year low in passing yards (3,468), the second-lowest full season passing touchdown total of his career (19) and his consecutive start streak being brought to an end.
Rather than draft Manning’s successor this year, the Giants took running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall. That was a clear measure of faith in the 37-year old, and new head coach Pat Shurmur has had nothing but praise for Manning.
Shurmur is now setting some expectations for Manning this year. More specifically, according to Steve Serby of The New York Post, a very high bar has been set for Manning’s completion percentage.
“I think it’s important that you get him in the high 60s, bordering on 70.”
Manning has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in four straight seasons, with a career-high 63.1 percent in 2014. So Shurmur is envisioning something like a five to seven percent boost from that career-high mark.
Case Keenum completed 67.6 percent of his passes last year as the Vikings’ primary quarterback, and with Shurmur as the offensive coordinator. That was a jump of almost seven percent from his career high, and almost five percent above his career completion rate. Narrowing to fantasy football terms, Keenum finished as QB14 in ESPN leagues last year while starting 14 games.
Based on average draft position (via Fantasy Football Calculator, 12-team standard scoring), the Giants have RB5 (Saquon Barkley), WR3 (Odell Beckham) and TE6 (Evan Engram). And yet there’s Manning at QB24, despite having three guys who are in line to finish in the top-10 at their position.
That kind of talent will naturally lift Manning’s numbers (and his fantasy stock), as long as he keeps things between the lines and doesn’t throw interceptions in bunches. To that end, Manning has posted an interception rate less than 3.0 percent in four straight years (precisely 2.3 percent three times over that span).
A 70 percent completion rate is an unrealistic expectation for Manning this year. But some boost is in order with Shurmur calling plays, along with Barkley being added and hopefully having Beckham healthy all season.
Manning has the potential to finish as a top-10 fantasy quarterback, with a draft position nowhere near that. He’s one of the poster boys for waiting to draft a quarterback this year.