Fantasy Football Profile: Andy Dalton (BUY)
There are some players who are continually overvalued, expected to break out any year, and with most, it never happens. There are others who somehow sit back in the shadows, continually perform, yet are not loved by the fantasy community for whatever reason. Andy Dalton happens to be the latter.
Lack of Weapons
Since coming into the league in 2011, Dalton seems to keep improving, despite losing some of his top weapons to either free agency or injury. Outside of A.J. Green, here’s a list of wide receivers that Dalton has thrown to, along with how many seasons they were with him (minimum 20 targets): Jerome Simpson (1), Andre Caldwell (1), Andrew Hawkins (3), Mohamed Sanu (4), Marvin Jones (3), Brandon Tate (5), Brandon LaFell (1), Tyler Boyd (1), and Cody Core (1). Not exactly guys that you’d be running to grab in free agency. Both Sanu and Jones left via free agency last year and didn’t top what they’d done with Dalton in Cincinnati.
Quietly a QB1
If you were to remove his rookie season, Dalton has finished inside the top-12 quarterbacks in three of five seasons. That sounds nice, but it gets even better. While he finished as the No. 18 quarterback in 2015, you must remember that he missed the final three games due to injury. On a per-game basis, he was the No. 9 quarterback that season. So, in review, Dalton has essentially finished as a top-12 quarterback in four of his last five seasons, yet he’s never been drafted higher than the QB16 according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Not only has he finished as a QB1 in four of the last five seasons, but he’s done that while throwing the ball fewer than 590 times in each and every season. He’s able to do that because his yards per attempt (one of my favorite QB stats) is among the best in the game. Since the start of 2013, here’s the list of quarterbacks who have a higher YPA than him (minimum 1,000 attempts): Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers. Almost all of them have been in the conversation for MVP at some point in their career. Notice that Tom Brady is not on this list? Dalton has thrown for more yards per attempt since the start of 2013.
Don’t forget who Dalton has thrown to while accomplishing all of this, which is something that you shouldn’t take for granted, because the Bengals haven’t. Realizing what their strengths and weaknesses were, they went out and drafted Boyd with a second-round pick last year, re-signed Brandon LaFell this offseason, and then drafted John Ross with the No. 9 overall pick, as well as pass-catching running back Joe Mixon in the second-round. Dalton’s going to have the most talented group of pass-catchers he’s ever had in 2017 and it’s not even close.
Getting Everyone Healthy
There’s been just 15 full games that the tandem of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert have played together over the last two seasons, and in those games Dalton has thrown for 3,826 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions, averaging 18.1 fantasy points per game, which would have ranked as the No. 7 quarterback in 2016. As of right now, both Green and Eifert are expected to be healthy for the start of the season. Ross had offseason shoulder surgery, though he’s also expected to be ready for Week 1.
There are plenty of concerns about the Bengals offensive line as we head into 2017, and rightfully so. They lost left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency, both of whom who are among the best at their position. It also doesn’t help matters that they didn’t draft an offensive lineman until the fifth-round, and it was a center. There is no disguising that this is bad for Dalton’s outlook, but we also can’t pretend his offensive line was good in 2016, as he took the second-most sacks in the NFL (41). Whitworth and Zeitler were a bigger loss for the run game, which was already awful in 2016.
If you’re worried about the sacks, don’t be. Okay, that came off bad, but seriously, it doesn’t matter much for fantasy purposes. Tyrod Taylor, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Phillip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers were all among the top-12 most-sacked quarterbacks in 2016; it didn’t seem to slow them down much. He’ll be under pressure in 2017 and likely more than he’s used to, though his weapons should help compensate for that. If there’s one thing that Mixon does better than most running backs, it’s catching the ball out of the backfield. Dalton’s also a sneaky good scrambler, totaling 17 rushing scores over the last five seasons.
Dalton is currently being drafted as the No. 17 quarterback, according to early ADP. Remember that he’s never finished worse than the No. 18 quarterback and has essentially finished as a QB1 in four of the last five years. He finished as the No. 5 quarterback in 2013, but he continues to be shoved away from the cool kids table. Instead, Dalton sits on the draft board, waiting for his name to be called to make an impact on your fantasy team. If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that Dalton is one of the best buy-lows in all of football at the quarterback position, where it’s often impossible to get someone for cheaper than they’re worth. In redraft leagues, it’s very simple to pair him with Tyrod Taylor in the double-digit rounds and you might just have yourself a pair of top-10 quarterbacks.
If you’ve missed any of the other Player Profiles that have gone up, you can see the full list right here.