It was reported Monday morning that the Cincinnati Bengals have given QB Andy Dalton a six-year, $115 million contract. Dalton was a top QB in fantasy football last year, but many are viewing his 2013 performance as a fluke. Clearly Cincinnati thinks Dalton is a franchise QB and has given him the reins for more than half a decade. Does that also mean fantasy owners should trust him in 2014?
In standard scoring leagues last season, Dalton scored 279 points to claim the No. 5 QB spot. While impressive, Dalton was inconsistent, failing to put up double digits in three weeks last year. He also threw 33 TDs and 20 INTs, a 1.7 TD to INT ratio that was good for 20th best among QBs in 2013.
Many attribute Dalton’s success last year to then offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Gruden has a reputation for being pass-heavy, but Dalton should still perform similarly with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Dalton only threw for 586 pass attempts in 2013, the eighth-most in the league.
In fact, Cincinnati only passed on 56.97 percent of plays last year, and the Oakland Raiders under Jackson passed on 56.34 percent of plays last year. Dalton’s success in 2013 was more due to his own growth and the offense’s improvement as a whole more so than Gruden’s supposedly pass-heavy play-calling.
Dalton set a career-high passer rating of 88.8 in 2013 and passed for over 4,000 yards for the first time. The Bengals have built a solid team around him with a strong offensive line, a top WR in A.J. Green and a strong running game headed by Giovani Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jeremy Hill. Dalton has the supporting cast to potentially even improve upon his 2013 stats.
However, though Dalton performed admirably to claim the No. 5 QB spot, the No. 3 QB and the No. 8 QB last year were separated by a total difference of only 22 points. That’s a less than one point per week difference. Additionally, the No. 3 QB and the No. 15 QB last year were separated by a total difference of only 45 points. That’s still a per-week difference of fewer than three points.
At the end of the day, Dalton could repeat or top his top-five fantasy performance from last year, but it’s doubtful that he will materially outperform the other fantasy QBs outside the top three. His current ADP is in the 11th round, though, which is much later than it should be given his potential. Dalton will be the starter in Cincinnati for 2014 and beyond, and he should be a pretty reliable starting QB in fantasy.