- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I was all set to impress you by working a George Santayana (Google him) reference into a lead about why you should avoid Peyton Manning this season, but then I watched his Fantasy Football Channel commercial with brother Eli and his series of Gatorade commercials and I’m wavering on whether you should target Manning in the first round because any athlete who can be that self-deprecating and hilarious deserves your support.

Seriously, though, don’t draft Peyton. If you do, your team won’t necessarily be doomed, but you should learn from recent history. There is no way he repeats his record-breaking numbers from last season. He won’t throw 55 touchdowns again. The first time he set the single-season record, in 2004 with 49 touchdowns, he followed up with a 28-TD season. A similar regression (which I expect) would put him at 34 in 2014.

Sure, that’s still really good, but these days a 30-touchdown season is fairly common. Fun fact: Andy Dalton threw 33 touchdowns last season; that’s two more than Joe Montana (yes, that Joe Montana) ever threw in a single season.

Given how the game has changed and the very high odds that Manning will not come close to duplicating his 2013 success, there won’t be enough separation between him and numerous other signal-callers to justify selecting him early in the first round. I don’t even think he’s the first quarterback who should be taken. Or the second. While you wrap your head around that, a breakdown of the position:

The elite:Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees

The biggest reason Manning will not post video-game numbers again? After the Super Bowl debacle, he will make sure his offense is more balanced. An improved defense should allow him to be more methodical in moving the ball. The best pure passer in the game, a healthy Rodgers is more than capable of throwing 40 touchdowns. Brees has thrown 128 touchdowns the past three seasons. I’ve already taken him first overall in a two-quarterback league.

Overrated: Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel

Stafford is still living off his 41-touchdown season of 2011. He throws too many interceptions to be rated just below the Big Three. Newton is still living off the first two games of his career. His overall value is based on his running making up for his passing, but he’s coming off ankle surgery and has an entirely new wide receiver corps. You can’t count on him for either this season. Other than his lack of size, mediocre arm and tendency to make bad decisions, Manziel is ready for the NFL.

Underrated: Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers

Ryan had almost the same season as Stafford in 2013 despite his No. 1 receiver missing 11 games. Brady’s receiving corps can’t possibly be more of a patchwork this season. Expect him to rebound. … Playing opposite the worst defense in the league, Romo is likely to lead the league in pass attempts. Rivers’ 2013 resurgence was not a fluke.

The (Sort of) Big Four: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick

I’m on the This-Is-Luck’s-Breakthrough-Fantasy-Season Bandwagon — hoping not to get spit on. There’s a lingering concern that Griffin can’t read defenses, but that won’t matter if he doesn’t learn how to avoid big hits in the open field. Wilson could go in the overrated category, but how can you say anything too negative about the local champion? Much like his Redskins counterpart, this is a pivotal fantasy season for Kaepernick. And like RG3, he can’t use lack of weapons as an excuse.

Best of the rest: Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton

If he stays healthy, Cutler can be the guy Stafford is mistaken for. The Steelers are a passing team, and Roethlisberger is a dependable veteran. If you can take the awful with the awesome, Dalton is a viable option.

Don’t bother:Eli Manning

Peyton has to hate listening to his little brother’s Super Bowl stories on Thanksgiving. Coming off the worst season of his career, it’s not a good sign that Eli is struggling to pick up a new offense.

Worth mentioning: Carson Palmer, Josh McCown, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford

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