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Takes 2 to Tango -- Drafting a Potential Pass-Catch Combo Can Energize a Fanasy Team
Bob Cunningham
August 21, 2006

Are two heads, indeed, always better than one?  Depends on your perspective.  If I’m starring in a horror flick, trying to kill off some nasty looking creature before it feasts on me and my pals, I’d prefer to deal with just one until it can safely be removed.

But in fantasy football, dos cabezas can be an advantage.  Particularly, when you’re talking a quarterback-receiver combo which figures to hook up a lot during the course of an NFL season.

Drafting a quarterback and receiver from the same NFL club has its advantages.  In fact, if done well, it can be a major boon.  In my primary league, a keeper format, I’ve won the title in three of the last five years, to go with a runner-up finish last season.  Those teams were all spearheaded with a dynamite pass-catch combination.  First, it was Kurt Warner and Torry Holt of the Rams.  Eventually, it evolved into Marc Bulger and Holt.

Every time my QB hooks up with my receiver, it’s a double shot of points - BAM!  And when Warner or Bulger would throw a TD to, say, Isaac Bruce instead, I’d still be getting some production.

Few things are more frustrating in fantasy football than owning Plaxico Burress and hearing “Eli Manning has just tossed a 55-yard touchdown pass… to Amani Toomer!”  But if you own Eli Manning as well as Burress, you get a consolation score.

I’ve been utilizing this combo strategy successfully since the days of Dan Marino and Mark Clayton with the Miami Dolphins of the 1980’s.  During that same span, a buddy of mine parlayed Steve Young and Jerry Rice into multiple titles.

But you don’t have to sport mega-stars on your roster to parlay the benefits.  Sure, having both Young and Rice was obviously a coup.  In reality, though, if just one of the two is prolific, he can increase the value of the other.

If you had Peyton Manning as your QB last year or the previous year, for instance, drafting Reggie Wayne ended up being just as good a move as taking Marvin Harrison – and Wayne could have been had as many as three or four rounds later than Harrison.  This year, most published player rankings have Harrison and Wayne at roughly the same value.

On the flipside, a stud receiver can elevate a QB’s worth, too.  Think Carolina’s Jake Delhomme would be as much of an asset if he didn’t have Steve Smith to throw to?  Would anyone even remotely consider drafting Oakland QB Aaron Brooks if Randy Moss wasn’t also donning the silver and black?

The strategy has been consistently successful if deployed wisely.  There is a downside to it, though, which critics immediately point to:  You’re putting more of your fate in the hands of… well… fewer hands.  If for example, you have Delhomme and Smith and the Panthers are held to 10 points by Tampa Bay, your team takes a hit at two positions instead of one.

That’s why implementing this approach with forethought is so crucial.  Here are some basic guidelines I suggest if this strategy appeals to you:

  1. Only consider either a QB or WR who is, in your opinion or statistically or both, top 10 in the NFL at his position.  You can’t draft Cleveland’s Charlie Frye and Braylon Edwards, and expect consistently good results, because neither guy figures to be among the top 20 at his position, let alone the league’s upper crust.

  2. Avoid WRs who are the No. 2 options on their NFL teams unless the WR would be no higher than fourth on your depth chart (Wayne would be an exception, of course).  Green Bay’s Brett Favre and Robert Ferguson might end up being a cool combo this season.  But if you acquired Ferguson with the idea of him being a regular starter for you, you’re missing the point.  If Ferguson isn’t starter-caliber on his own, having him tied to your QB won’t help much.  As long as Donald Driver remains the Pack’s No. 1 wideout, Ferguson is a fantasy depth guy only.

  3. You’re better off with a premium receiver and a middle-of-the-pack QB than the other way around.  Look to get your No. 1 receiver in Round 2 or early Round 3, then determine where his QB should be drafted and plan accordingly.  Only one owner has a chance at getting Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson, and only one other will have a shot at Manning and Harrison or Wayne.  A receiver I really like, as do most fans and pundits, is Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. On taking him in the second or third round, I would begin planning on where Kurt Warner might fall, then wait until the appropriate time to get him.  Warner would have more value to me than other comparable signal-callers because of my acquisition of Fitzgerald, but only if I can get Warner when he should be slotted… somewhere between rounds 6 and 9.  Taking him earlier weakens your club elsewhere, even if the tandem turns out to be as effective as you had hoped.

  4. Don’t try to acquire a tandem that is on the same NFL team as one of your starting running backs.  That would qualify as too much of a good thing, and make your club too dependent on a single NFL offense.  If you’re fortunate enough to obtain Palmer and Chad Johnson, let someone else draft Rudi Johnson.  On the other hand, if you’ve obtained Seattle’s Shaun Alexander as your featured runner, you’re wise to go a different direction than Matt Hasselbeck/Darrell Jackson.

  5. Consider the strategy for quarterback-tight end instead.  If you tab Dallas’ Terrell Owens as your No. 1 WR but fail to land QB Drew Bledsoe, consider hooking up your top tight end with his QB.

I’m not insinuating that this pass-catch strategy assures a high finish.  That depends on the quality of QB and receiver you acquire as well as the overall make-up of your team.  But it has been successful for me… its benefits have clearly and consistently outweighed the negatives.  Just be smart about it.

My Top 15 Passer-Catcher Combinations:

  1. Carson Palmer-Chad Johnson, Cincinnati
  2. Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis
  3. Peyton Manning-Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
  4. Marc Bulger-Torry Holt, St. Louis
  5. Jake Delhomme-Steve Smith, Carolina
  6. Drew Bledsoe-Terrell Owens, Dallas
  7. Kurt Warner-Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
  8. Daunte Culpepper-Chris Chambers, Miami
  9. Steve McNair-Derrick Mason, Baltimore
  10. Mark Brunell-Santana Moss, Washington
  11. Brett Favre-Donald Driver, Green Bay
  12. Kurt Warner-Anquan Boldin, Arizona
  13. Tom Brady-Deion Branch, New England
  14. Jon Kitna-Roy Williams, Detroit
  15. Matt Hasselbeck-Darrell Jackson, Seattle