Eli Manning, New York Giants
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Criticism and scrutiny is nothing new to Eli Manning, but even he had to be shocked when ESPN’s Louis Riddick named him the fifth best quarterback in the division.

The 2017 season was one of the least productive of Eli Manning’s career. For only the second time since his rookie campaign, he failed to throw 20 touchdown passes and for the first time since 2008, he failed to have at least 3,800 passing yards.

That was enough for ESPN’s Louis Riddick to rank Manning as the fifth-best quarterback in the NFC East heading into the 2018 season.

Here are his rankings:

  1. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Alex Smith, Washington Redskins
  3. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
  5. Manning

That’s right, in a four-team division, Eli ranks fifth, according to Riddick.

But there were good reasons for Manning’s struggles last season. His best receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., only played in four games last season while his second best receiver, Sterling Shepard, missed five games due to a sprained ankle and migraines. He was also without Brandon Marshall after Week 5, when he was lost to season-ending ankle surgery.

He also played behind a porous offensive line that saw its three best linemen—Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and D.J. Fluker—miss most of the season due to injuries.

So it should have been expected for Manning to have a subpar season.

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You can’t argue that, when healthy, Carson Wentz is a better quarterback than Manning as he was on his way to being named MVP before he tore his ACL and LCL in Week 14.

You can also say Smith should be ranked higher than Manning since he’s been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons. He’s thrown 41 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions during that time while completing 67 percent of his passes.

But Foles and Prescott being ranked higher than is very questionable to say the least.

Yes, Foles was the MVP of the Super Bowl but prior to the NFC Championship Game, he was struggling mightily at the end of last season.

As great as Foles was in the Championship Game and Super Bowl, those two games alone should not put him ahead of a future Hall of Famer in Manning, especially considering what Manning had to endure last season.

The success Prescott has experienced in his first two years in the league is more of a product of playing behind a great offensive line and having one of the best running backs in the league in Ezekiel Elliott.

This was proven last season when Elliott was suspended for six games, and Prescott struggled. In those games, Prescott threw five touchdowns to seven interceptions and the Cowboys went 3-3. Only once during that stretch did Prescott have over 220 yards passing.

Perhaps Riddick is giving his honest analysis, or perhaps he’s bitter that Giants went with Dave Gettleman instead of him as their new general manager. Riddick was one of the finalists for the position but co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch felt Gettleman was the better man for the job.

You have to wonder: If Riddick was named GM, would they have taken Sam Darnold instead of Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft based on his assessment of Manning?

It’s unlikely that Eli will address this publicly, but you know he’ll use this as motivation. It’s similar to 2011 when people ridiculed him for thinking that he was an elite quarterback.

Let’s see if Manning makes Riddick eat his words with his performance in 2018.

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