Let's start off with Manning, who remains a No. 1 fantasy quarterback across the board. In fact, I have him ranked seventh at the position and in the same tier as Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick and Eli Manning. I expect the elder Manning to come off the board somewhere between the third and fourth rounds in drafts.
Sure, there is some concern over the fact that's he's coming off multiple neck surgeries. But all reports on his recent workouts with NFL teams have been positive. Also, there was an amateur video on YouTube taken of Manning throwing the football at Duke University a few weeks back. In the footage, he sure looked like the old strong-armed gunslinger that led so many fantasy owners to championship upon championship in the past.
A consistent and durable performer before last season, Manning had finished no worse than sixth in fantasy points at his position since 2006. He was also a league leader in fantasy land in 2004, when he threw for 4,557 yards and what was at the time an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes.
With Manning under center, I will now make my fantasy man crush on Demaryius Thomas very public. I would have listed him as a potential breakout candidate even with Tebow under center, but now his stock will soar in fantasy land. The Georgia Tech product showed flashes of brilliance last season, and that was with Tebow and his 46.5 completion percentage leading the offense. Imagine the statistical damage he could do with Manning at the helm?
Think that's too high for someone like Thomas?
From 2001-2010, Manning's last 10 full seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, his leading wide receiver averaged 99.7 receptions, 1,351 yards and 10.4 touchdown catches. I don't think those totals are out of the realm of possibility for Thomas, not at all. Manning's presence is also good news for Eric Decker, who becomes a more attractive middle- to late-round option as a No. 3 fantasy wideout, not to mention the team's eventual No. 1 tight end (Jacob Tamme) as well as their top running back, Willis McGahee.
And then, there's Tebow.
Reports have already started to surface that he's on the trade block, and a deal to a team that gives him a chance to start is the only way he'll have any fantasy appeal in 2012. He could end up with a team like the Miami Dolphins, who don't have a No. 1 quarterback and could use someone like Tebow to draw attention to a struggling franchise. Of course, that sort of scenario would mean new coach Joe Philbin would have to alter his offense -- I'm not sure he's willing to do that unless pushed by upper management. The Jacksonville Jaguars could be another popular Tebow destination, though the team already has Blaine Gabbert and just signed Chad Henne to a two-year contract.
Manning's decision also clarifies the quarterback situations in San Francisco and Tennessee, at least somewhat. The Niners will look to bring back Alex Smith, who has already met with the Dolphins and could be looking for a bigger financial commitment from the team. The Titans will now hold a quarterback competition between Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, the latter of which would be a fantasy sleeper if he wins the top spot on the depth chart.
One final thought on Manning's effect on fantasy football -- with a player of his caliber back in the mix, not to mention the addition of rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the quarterback position is going to be very deep in 2012. So if you don't land an elite signal-caller in the first two rounds, there will still be plenty of great options to choose from in the middle stanzas.