NFL Network continued its unveiling of the "Top 100: Players of 2012" series last night, rolling out Nos. 31-40. After not making the list last summer, Eli Manning debuted at No. 31. Is that high enough for the two-time Super Bowl winner, or is being outside the top 30 a sign that he isn't regarded as a truly elite QB?
No. 31 is plenty high. That's elite. Only four quarterbacks rank ahead of Eli -- Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger -- and they have all been significantly better than Manning throughout his career. I'd rank Manning No. 4 on his 2011 season alone, but we can't just ignore the fact that Manning played much better last year than any time in his career.
It was silly that Manning wasn't in the "Top 100" last year, but he's been a borderline top-10 quarterback for most of his career. He stepped up his game last year. No one completed more passes with pressure in his face. No one completed more low-percentage throws. But Manning is not at the level of Rodgers, Brees and Brady. His ranking reflects his growing stature, but let's not get carried away.
Eli Manning definitely should have made the list last year. That was one of my big disagreements when discussing the list on NFL Network last summer.
When I have watched Eli during the past few years, there is one thing that stands out: He makes "big time" throws in almost every game. This is one of the major factors I look for when scouting quarterbacks. Clearly, he is one of the top QBs in the NFL.
I think some people downgrade him because he can be inconsistent at times. Some of that is because the Giants will be aggressive throwing the ball downfield and that can affect accuracy. Also, Eli throws more interceptions than you like, but they are not always his fault. He was 10th in the NFL last year in interception percentage among QBs who threw more than 500 passes. However, he ranked third in average gain among QBs who threw more than 500 passes, which shows his ability to make big plays.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
"Peyton's little brother" should be the No. 1 quarterback on this list
Eli should be the highest-ranked QB on the list, bar none. Who would you rank ahead of him? He's a perennial 4,000-yard/30-touchdown passer. He owns more Super Bowl rings than Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. He has as many as Ben Roethlisberger, but his second is more recent -- and he's played better in the playoffs than Big Ben. Peyton Manning is coming off a major injury, so we have no idea how he'll perform in 2012. Tom Brady? The guy who's been outdueled by Eli in two Super Bowls? Manning has the advantage over everyone, and you have to give him the title of best QB in the game going into 2012.
I'm sorry if his body language isn't great, or if you still think about him as Peyton's little brother, but facts are facts.
There's no doubt the Giants' strong defense gets the majority of credit for the team's success. Manning was the seventh-highest rated passer in the NFL in 2011, and threw a league-high 25 interceptions the previous year (the key number that kept him off this list last summer).
But he really stepped up during the team's latest Super Bowl run, averaging more than 300 passing yards a game and throwing just one pick against nine touchdown passes. That sort of production on the game's biggest stage makes Manning deserving of a ranking among the league's top tier of quarterbacks and top 30 players overall.
I was one of those who laughed when Eli Manning called himself elite last offseason, and even opined it would be in the Giants' best interest to start grooming a replacement if the team faltered last year. Well, we all know how that story ended.
I have no problem with saying Eli is now among the game's best. Owning two Super Bowl rings is something that just about guarantees you entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Former Raiders QB Jim Plunkett is the only eligible quarterback with two titles who is not in Hall of Fame.) In a league where quarterbacks are measured by Super Bowl wins, how is Eli not in the top 20? There are just two other guys with multiple Super Bowl rings (Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger). I would only put those two, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers ahead of Manning on this list. If Eli is the fifth-best quarterback in this league (and I have him ahead of Cam Newton because we need to see more out of him), how does that equate to No. 31 on this list?
So, yes, I would say the players still don't believe in Eli Manning.
If Eli doesn't like his placement, he can jump in one of his Super Bowl MVP Corvettes and go let his peers know about it.
However, his ranking seems just about right to me. (Witness the fact I've got him at 32 on my own list at DaveDameshek.NFL.com.)
For now, let's ignore all the non-QBs ahead of him. Which signal callers whose names have yet to be revealed (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger) should he have leapfrogged? Brees' stats are nothing short of historic. Rodgers is the best player in the game -- period -- and only Roethlisberger shares his ability to succeed behind a subpar offensive line. Speaking of Roethlisberger, he's got two rings of his own, plus a third Super Bowl appearance.
And then there's Brady. Yes, I know Eli has faced him twice on the big stage and twice driven off in a Corvette, but QBs don't play against each other; they play against the opponent's defense. And when Tommy closes his eyes and the nightmares start, he doesn't see Eli speeding by in a sports car, but a Mack truck named Tuck bearing down on him ...