The Year of the Quarterback, part deux

Somewhere Don Coryell is smiling.

As the good folks at Pro Football Talk pointed out, the NFL is on the verge of breaking the single-season record for 400-yard passing games. And we’re only through Week 5. Perhaps the most surprising part is just who is putting up these gaudy numbers so far. Sure, you’d expect it from Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.

But Chad Henne? Cam Newton … twice? With all apologies to Earth, Wind and Fire, that’s the way of the NFL world.

The reasons for this passing fancy are legion. But we know that you, dear fantasy owner, are only interested in the “who” and the “what” rather than the “why.” At this point, the list of quarterbacks who can give you a quality fantasy start is growing by the week. If anyone tells you that they predicted Newton or Matt Hasselbeck to be top-10 fantasy quarterbacks at this point, check to see if their pants are on fire.

What it all means is that there is plenty of value available at the position, some of which can even be found on the waiver wire (Hasselbeck is only owned in 47.7 percent of NFL.com leagues).

So what’s the catch? It’s who’s catching the ball. In Week 5, 164 different players caught passes. That works out to nearly seven different receivers for each team. Quarterbacks are definitely spreading the ball around, making it hard to pin down a consistent fantasy receiver. Rodgers found 12 different receivers against the Falcons.

So you just simply find the team’s No. 1 receiver and you’ll be fine, right?

Well, who was Week 5’s leader in receptions? If you came up with Jason Avant, I’m calling shenanigans. Avant had nine receptions for the Eagles. Behind him with eight catches each were Doug Baldwin, Victor Cruz, Early Doucet and Jimmy Graham. Of the top ten receivers in receptions this week, only one — Dwayne Bowe — was considered top-10 receiver before the season started.

Confused? Well, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see running backs Fred Jackson and Javon Ringer had six catches apiece with Darren Sproles and Arian Foster each making five grabs.

That’s the other part of this brave new pass-happy world — the interchangeable pass-catcher. You know what you’re going to get from Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker, but which Devery Hendeson  is going to show up from week to week? Is Josh Freeman going to throw to Mike Williams or Earnest Graham?

It’s a quandary that fantasy owners have learned to solve. For now, stock up on as many top-tier receivers as possible and play the matchups to fill the rest of your slots.

While you’re at it, a nod to coach Coryell wouldn’t hurt.

– Marcas Grant

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