Eli Manning Is a Great Buy in Fantasy Football

Manning hasn't put up very many useable weeks so far in 2016, but there's a really good chance that changes moving forward.

Coming into the 2016 season, there was much optimism for the fantasy prospects of Eli Manning. The offensive coordinator who helped revitalize Manning's career, Bob McAdoo, became the head coach, Victor Cruz returned from injury, the Giants added Sterling Shepard via the draft, and they still employ some dude named Odell Beckham -- all of which put the Giants into the conversation of the best offense to play with on Madden.

As a result of all the good feels, Manning was being selected as the ninth quarterback off the board in the preseason, according to FantasyPros.

That's why they play the games.

The Bad

Through seven games, Manning is QB18 in fantasy. His real-life numbers haven't been good, either.

According to our in-house metric, Net Expected Points (NEP), among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes, Manning is 22nd with 24.84 Passing NEP and 23rd in Passing NEP per drop back. On a per-drop-back basis, he is adding 0.09 expected points for the Giants. To put that into perspective, every time Matt Ryan drops back and throws a pass this year, he is adding 0.36 expected points, and the league-average mark in 2016 is 0.14.

There have been some ugly performances by Manning this year. Last week's game against the Los Angeles Rams, in which he went 24 of 37 for 196 yards with no touchdowns, was the most recent. In Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers, Manning went 18 of 35 for 199 yards with 1 touchdown. There have been no meltdowns like what occurred multiple times during his brutal 2013 campaign though. To refresh, in that season, Manning had three games with three interceptions, a four-interception game, and the epic five-pick game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Good

Now here's the thing. At times, Manning has actually been pretty good this year.

He's thrown for the most yards of any quarterback (262) against the vaunted Minnesota Vikings defense. He has two games with 3 touchdowns, two games with over 350 yards, and one game with over 400 yards. Manning's 64.8% completion percentage is the highest of his career, and his clip of 7.35 yards per attempt is the fourth-highest.

Overall, Manning is on pace for 4,534 yards, which would be his second-highest single-season total, and 617 attempts, one fewer than last year's 618 passes. He's also thrown six interceptions, putting him on pace for roughly 13 picks, which would be his second-fewest in a full season.

Where Is This Going?

In the illustrious words of Vince Lombardi: "What the hell's going on out here?"

Touchdowns. Pure and simple.

Manning is on a pace to throw 18 touchdowns. If you take out his rookie year, in which he only played nine games, that mark would tie for the lowest of his career. His other 18-score was the utterly forgettable 2013 campaign in which he threw 27 interceptions.

Earlier this year, T.J. Hernandez of, wrote an article on the most predictable year-to-year stats for quarterbacks. Through his study, he found that there could be huge swings in touchdown-scoring tendencies from year to year. With that said, he did say that it could be possible to gauge whether or not a quarterback is due for regression if the sample size of data is large enough.

Below is a chart showing Manning's touchdown rate throughout his career.

YearTouchdown Rate

One caveat from using Hernandez's study is that he was trying to predict year-to-year totals. This season is only seven weeks old, so his study may not be completely applicable here, but the sample size of Manning's career is large enough to draw some conclusions.

Even when his poor rookie year (2004) and his nightmare 27-interception season (2013), which is a massive outlier, Manning's career touchdown rate is 4.6%. As we covered above, Eli is having a solid year, per most statistics; he's just getting burned by some bad touchdown luck.

Positive regression is coming his way, and in addition to that, his upcoming schedule is pretty nice. Outside of two games with the Philadelphia Eagles -- our top-ranked pass defense -- his rest-of-season schedule is awfully attractive.

Opponent Rank in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per Drop Back
Bengals 15th
Bears 20th
Browns 27th
Steelers 29th
Cowboys 22nd
Lions 32nd
Redskins 23rd

Going forward, Eli Manning is going to be fine, because Eli Manning is fine. He's a little down on his touchdown luck -- that is all -- but some positive regression is coming. And thanks to a juicy rest-of-season schedule, when the positive regression comes, it could come in a big way.