There are a ton of awesome nicknames in the world of sports. “The Muscle Hamster”, “Megatron”, “The Amish Rifle” and, compliments of Brad “The Big Noise” Evans (another nickname), “Purple Jesus”, but his parents probably call him Adrian Peterson. All of these names are very fun, but on nickname doesn’t get nearly enough recognition as it deserves…
It’s not flashy, and considering how blatantly obvious it is, doesn’t blow anyone minds. But it is solid, and on most occasions, gets the job done. Interesting. Sounds a lot like the owner of the nickname, Andy Dalton, doesn’t it?
I’ll admit it. Between watching him play, watching Hard Knocks and surveying the talent around him, I’m beginning to come around on Dalton as a viable fantasy football signal caller. Sure, there are probably a handful of critics out there that don’t think Dalton has what it takes to be trustworthy as a fantasy starter or a real life quarterback. They look at him and see a poor deep ball passer, who, in 2012, completed just 26.3 percent of his passes that traveled 20-yards or more downfield. They see a guy who looks as confident as anyone under center, and then the next week, looks like a rookie. They see a quarterback who has failed to get over the hill that is the first round of the playoffs in two consecutive years. All of those points are fair and valid, but entering his third season in the big leagues, Dalton is primed to be a very good fantasy option.
Dalton in 2012
Quarterback is insanely deep right now, and considering the tons of stellar fantasy quarterbacks from 2012, Dalton got lost in the crowd. However, Dalton did have a stretch where his play resembled his hair; Red hot. During his first six games, Dalton eclipsed 300 yards and tossed three scores in half of them. He looked awesome, and during that stretch, was one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy football. As a result, owners were rushing to the waiver wire to acquire him. However, after that impressive run, he failed to throw for 300 yards again, and only threw three touchdown passes in one game for the rest of the season. During his great performances, Dalton looked like a legitimate QB1. But when he was bad, he was really bad. Take the playoff game against the Texans, for example. His final stat line was 14-for-30, 147 yards and an interception, posting a dismal completion percentage of 46.7. He made poor reads, was shaky in the pocket and displayed poor footwork. At the end of the day, Dalton’s 2012 campaign was still good enough to finish as the 12th-best among all fantasy quarterbacks. And at 25-year old, Dalton still has a ton of upside, if you ask me. No, he obviously didn’t put up some of the astronomical numbers that the elite guys did. If he had, I wouldn’t even need to write this article. But Dalton did provide fantasy owners with (here’s that word again) some upside last year. A beautiful stat I love to look at is FPPDB, or fantasy points per dropback. It’s a very compelling statistic when analyzing players, and Pro Football Focus gets a hat tip for this one. Anyway, Dalton scored a solid 0.46 points per dropback, which ranked 13th. I think that number will be higher in 2013 because the playcalling may be a bit more aggressive. Last year, the Bengals only had 37 passes travel more than 20-yards and an average of 5.99 yards per pass attempt. Not exactly what you’d call exciting. I’m telling you right now. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden believes in his quarterback, and with the new weapons in town, his playcalling will back that up.
How about those new guys?
The Bengals truly had a stellar 2013 draft. They took the first running back off of the board in Giovani Bernard, who is crazy dynamic. He will probably be the biggest component to Dalton’s eventual success in 2013. Like I mentioned earlier, Dalton averaged just 5.99 yards per pass attempt, but with a guy like Bernard in the backfield, those short passes can suddenly transform into monster gains, which bodes well for Dalton’s fantasy prospects. Watching Bernard play, he is one of the most elusive backs in football already, possessing lightning quick cuts. He’ll help make Dalton’s job a heck of a lot easier. Oh, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is there too. So, there’s that.
Meanwhile, the Bengals invested a first round draft pick on a monstrous tight end in Tyler Eifert, who very well may already be a better player than teammate Jermaine Gresham. At 6’6″, 251 pounds, Eifert has the size to go up and make any play with any defender. He’s also a scary-good athlete with tremendous hands. With both Eifert and Gresham in the mix, many are assuming that the team will implement some two-tight end sets, á la the Patriots. I honestly believe 30 touchdowns is in the realm of possibility for Dalton this year, especially with these two giants in the red zone.
As for the wide receivers, have you ever heard of A.J. Green? Outside of Calvin Johnson, I think Green is the most polished receiver in the game of football, and has developed a strong rapport with his red-headed quarterback. He runs elite routes, makes big plays, makes yards after the catch, catches end zone fades. He can do it all. And while Dalton has struggled in the deep ball department, a guy like Green will continue to serve as a top-notch option for him, and I think both are just scratching the surface of their potential. The two young guns continue to develop into one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in football, and another year with Green lined up outside can only help. Meanwhile, guys like Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones definitely have some talent, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Sanu had his moments last year, and while he isn’t crazy fast by any means, he is a legitimate threat in the slot, as well as a productive red zone option for Dalton. As for Jones, he missed five games last season and wasn’t very productive, but he has the skills to take a big step forward in year number two.
Dalton in 2013
In fantasy football, there is a distinct top-12 at the quarterback position. In my eyes, Dalton falls just outside that top tier, ranking 15th among signal callers for me. You aren’t drafting/starting him over the better options (duh), but if you are serious in your attempts of potentially streaming quarterbacks this year, I absolutely love Dalton. The first half of his schedule is a bit rough, but then the middle of it reminds me of the middle of a chocolate chip cookie; Soft. With that being said, Dalton owners can comfortably start him during those weeks, while looking elsewhere during the more difficult matchups. And while many owners prefer two elite quarterbacks in two-quarterback leagues, I would be perfectly fine with Dalton as my second guy. All the pieces are in place for Dalton to take another step forward in his young career.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.