Last Sunday, when Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison in the 4 th quarter against the Rams, it marked the 86 th time that the two had connected on a score, and it put them in the record books. The pair is now the top quarterback-to-receiver touchdown tandem in NFL history, besting the previous mark of 85 touchdowns between Steve Young and Jerry Rice.
Fantasy owners on the whole have no doubt been disappointed by the Colts duo this season. The two have combined for only 323 yards and four scores. That average total is not what people expected out of these players in 2005, particularly Manning.
It is a distinct strategy to draft or trade for a top QB-WR tandem. When the players are among the best at their respective positions, this choice can lead to huge fantasy totals. However, on off days or off starts to the season this strategy leaves teams thin.
That unexpected Indianapolis malfunction has not been the end of passing fancies for fantasy purposes. Carson Palmer has come of age and has 13 touchdowns with only two interceptions, catching top target Chad Johnson in stride for 561 yards and five touchdowns. And Carolina’s Jake Delhomme got his favorite receiver back this year, hooking up with Steve Smith for 7 stripers and nearly 600 yards receiving.
Even discounting these two terrific tandems, since most of us saw them coming, there are other surprising passing pairs able to put up points for their owners. Let’s take a look at four more duos, two of them actually trios, to see where the hot reads are this season after six weeks.
Drew Bledsoe to Terry Glenn & Keyshawn Johnson
Most expected some big things out of the Dallas running game, not the passing attack. But Bledsoe and his two veteran sidekicks have made an afterthought of Julius Jones. Bledsoe has been a surprising fantasy quarterback this year, accumulating 1663 yards passing, good for third in the league so far. He will soon surpass Marc Bulger, who has an injury to deal with. Bledsoe has been efficient so far this fall, with 11 touchdowns but just four interceptions.
Terry Glenn got off to a good start last season before becoming injured. That was with ancient Vinny Testaverde running the show. Still healthy, Glenn ranks fourth in the NFL with 582 yards receiving and has scored three times. Keyshawn Johnson has also scored thrice, and his 348 receiving yards aren’t shabby, tying him with Reggie Wayne for 24 th in the league. One or the other of these guys seems to have a big game each week.
Mark Brunell to Santana Moss
After a poor showing in 2004, Brunell was not supposed to see the field that much this season. The starter was Patrick Ramsey, and the team drafted Jason Campbell late in the first round to become the eventual leader of the offense. Instead, Brunell has been getting better each game, and developed a real rapport with young, brash and fast wideout Santana Moss.
Moss for his part has had a strong resurgence in statistical output. He has gained over 150 yards receiving twice already this year and has four touchdowns also. His pure speed and slick moves give Moss enough room once in the open to take plays the distance.
Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress
The big storyline early this season was the quick start from Eli Manning, as compared to big brother Peyton. The contrast in their touchdown and interception totals was worthy of discussion because not only was Peyton showing far less than anyone expected, but Eli was showing far more than was expected this soon. By now, Peyton has passed his sibling in passing yards (ahead by 114) and nearly caught up otherwise, though Eli still has one more touchdown (10 to 9) and one fewer interception (3 to 4). Either way, the high ratio of touchdowns to low ratio of interceptions has made Manning (Eli) a starting fantasy quarterback so far.
In week 4, Plaxico Burress gained 204 yards and two touchdowns. While that eruption means he had only 247 yards and two scores combined in the four other games he’s played this season, it is still hard to ignore such a huge output. It is clear that Burress is the top receiver on the team, and that Manning likes throwing the ball to him.
Josh McCown to Anquan Boldin & Larry Fitzgerald
McCown has thrown for a ton of yards in a little over two games this season, accumulating 932 yards passing for four touchdowns, but with five picks. He seems to have a real connection with both of the team’s young wideouts. Considering that the Cardinals will be behind in most of their games this season, due to the complete lack of a running attack and a defense that has been underwhelming, McCown could remain a fantasy factor if he continues to get the starting nod even with Warner able to play again.
Larry Fitzgerald has been a slightly pleasant surprise for owners this year. He is eighth in the league with 504 yards receiving, and has three touchdowns. His large frame and great body control earns him a lot of looks in the red zone. Anquan Boldin has one fewer touchdown, only two so far, but is ranked seventh in the league with 547 yards receiving. Boldin is able to make a lot happen after the catch, so he will remain a focus of each game plan.
The players in these underrated pass-catch combos represent great fantasy value this season. Owners of these players may not fully understand their worth yet, and may make a trade for name players who simply will not match these guys this year. If you can acquire them in such a deal, do so.
Hire Joe Levit for corporate or client appreciation events at fantasyfootballspeaker.com. His fantasy football columns appear on SI.com and thehuddle.com. Joe, a PFWA and FSWA member, writes about the NFL for patriotsinsider.com and is a fantasy football analyst on radio. He is the creator of the Sleeper League and FF Hold ‘em League concepts.