Eli Manning has never really spurred confidence in fantasy footballers. He has been quite the interception machine over his career. In his 12 seasons, Manning has led the league in interceptions three times, hitting over 20 each time. In 2013, he threw just 18 touchdowns compared to 27 picks, his worst number ever. That season thankfully appears to be a turning point, as the Giants hired the quarterbacks coach, Ben McAdoo, from the Packers that offseason to be their new offensive coordinator.
McAdoo came from a short precision-passing game that opened up big splash plays. In Green Bay, those were executed by Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. The Giants didn't have those players to start McAdoo's first season, as Odell Beckham Jr. was a rookie and injured, and Rueben Randle couldn't live up to his potential, but that didn't stop McAdoo from implementing his offense and Manning took to it. Of course the wins didn't come, but Manning's efficiency stats began to emerge and were surprisingly good.
McAdoo upped the pace so much that Manning quickly saw the most pass attempts in his career with 601 in 2014 and 618 in 2015. His previous high came in 2012 with 589, but his average for 16 games was 534 passes coming into 2014. That's a pretty big jump in attempts, but McAdoo and Manning managed to keep interceptions down and completion percentage up despite the glut of passing.
Manning's 5.7 touchdown percentage last season was the best of his career, which of course showed in his totals, as he threw 35 touchdowns, the most in his career. Over the last two seasons, Manning has also cut down on his interceptions, with a 2.3 interception percentage, which he only topped once, when he threw the ball just 479 times in 2008. In 2014, he hit a 63.1 completion percentage, which was his highest ever. He had a slight drop in 2015 to 62.6, which was still his third-best finish. So, it is pretty clear that Manning is playing better under McAdoo and is getting enough volume to be a fantasy factor. The question is, can he take another step forward in his 13th season?
For the last two years, Manning has finished as the 10th-best fantasy quarterback. That's good, but there does appear to be room for improvement. Manning is now in his third season of McAdoo's offense, and McAdoo is also in his third season of running an offense. We can also be assured that the Giants aren't going to switch up to a rushing-based offense. They currently have Rashad Jennings as the lead back, and he is 31 years old. He also is a good pass catcher, as are Shane Vereen and rookie Paul Perkins as well. The only non-pass catching back is the thoroughly underwhelming Andre Williams, who shouldn't see much work. That group should keep the Giants throwing without much trouble.
Then, there's Odell Beckham Jr., who has put together one of, if not the best first two wide receiver seasons of all time. Beckham is in no way a fluke, so they have their No. 1 receiver taken care of, but who else will Manning be throwing too? Well, they aren't deep at the position. Rueben Randle went to the Eagles in free agency, but that might be more of a blessing than a curse, as Randle was average at best and never played up to his perceived ability. Victor Cruz is back, kind of, but anything from him this year would be seen as an extra. Dwayne Harris is actually a pretty good player, but he'll never be a top target. I also like tight end Will Tye, who came on after Larry Donnell's injury last season to catch 42 passes for 464 yards in three touchdowns, mostly in the second half of the season. If Tye can improve on that start, the Giants could have a nice player, but the receiver who should quickly fill in as the No. 2 target is rookie Sterling Shepard, and he is going to be good.
Sterling Shepard was widely considered the best route runner coming out of college in the recent draft, and he and Beckham Jr. will frustrate defensive backs often, as Beckham is also an excellent route runner. The Giants want that technical expertise as their offense is quick and requires succinct routes over and over again. Manning has already praised Shepard in the press, which probably doesn't mean much, but it does mean he's already high in the pecking order. Shepard really couldn't have landed in a better spot for his skill set.
For Manning's 2016 outlook, I feel confident in his progression in this offense, the opportunities he'll have to score fantasy points and the young, but strong supporting cast he has in the offense. His floor and upside are much higher than they were before McAdoo and Beckham Jr. were in New York, which makes me feel much safer when drafting him this season.