How good does Wes Welker make Peyton Manning? In this era of new-look, mobile quarterbacks, could a 16-year veteran QB with the mobility of a Rocky Mountain really be the top fantasy football quarterback?
It’s that time of year when these questions are starting to arise in every fantasy football owners mind as OTA’s, mini-camps, and UFA’s start to give way to the whispers of preseason hype. The biggest offseason move a year ago was the Broncos landing Peyton Manning, and while the world watched every minute of Jets camp Peyton got his team ready for a huge turnaround season.
The big question-mark with Peyton last year was his health coming off of neck surgery. He answered that by playing every game, just like he had in every NFL season until missing 2011 with the neck issue. The only pain in the neck coming out of Denver was the Broncos passing game which Manning led to a top five finish behind the Saints, Lions, Cowboys, and Patriots.
Manning finished sixth in passing yards, third in touchdowns, and only Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, and Aaron Rodgers threw fewer picks among QB’s with 300+ attempts. Manning actually attempted 400 passes and finished just percentage points behind Matt Ryan in pass percentage. All these numbers were solid but are especially good when you consider he wasn’t Matthew-Staffording it (putting up big points on a team that was losing). The Broncos finished 13-3 and earned the top spot in the AFC Playoffs. Manning had their playoff game virtually won before Joe Flacco conjured up the ghosts of Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson for a “Hail Mary!” finish for the ages.
All those numbers definitely mean he’s a starting QB in all fantasy leagues (unless you’re in a two-man league in which case you need help). Most leagues that start one QB have few weekly locks but Peyton is definitely one of them. However, the question in the title didn’t say is he A #1 QB–that’s too easy. Is he the number 1?
Personally, I don’t think he is, but I would not blame you for taking him as the top QB off the board. A lot of it depends on your league’s scoring system. The biggest mistake fantasy rookies make is not understanding their league’s scoring. If your league scores passing touchdowns the same as rushing touchdowns, Manning takes a huge bump in ranking. Some leagues skew heavily toward rushing touchdowns which increases the value of running QB’s and makes getting an RG3 or Russell Wilson even more important since they help you in even more ways. In leagues that reward rushers, Aaron Rodgers is the clear number one QB in my opinion since he scores with his feet as well as with his Manning-esque rocket-arm.
However, if your league reward passing yards and scored passing touchdowns the same as rushing, there’s a solid chance that Peyton finishes number 1. Here’s why I think so–Wes Welker. As a Patriots fan it kills me to say this, but Welker is absolutely a perfect fit for Manning. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s tough, is willing to make the catches over the middle, and is smart enough to anticipate and read Peyton’s high-stepping machinations that will lead to plenty of “P. Manning to W. Welker for 6 yds” in the play-by-play.
Adding Welker to a great young corps of receivers with DeMaryius Thomas and Eric Decker gives Manning his best group of weapons since his record-setting 2004 when Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokely, and Marcus Pollard helped him to 49 touchdown passes… Read that again… 49 touchdown passes.
To be fair, Peyton is almost a decade past that season, so I wouldn’t draft him with those expectations. The addition of Welker gives him a legitimate shot at finishing as the top fantasy QB depending on your league scoring.
Unless you play in an all-Denver league, Manning probably won’t be the top QB pick off the board. That makes his potential value even greater, though, and if you can wait and grab him a bit later he could lead you to the promised land of your Fantasy Football Championship as he tries to do the same in Denver.
So what do you think? Vote in the poll below and tell me who you think has the best chance of finishing the year as the top-scoring QB and sound off in the comments on why Manning is in for a vintage season or why your pick is destined for fantasy greatness.