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Spotlight: Andy Dalton

posted by Andrew Garda on Jul 28th

Andrew Garda's thoughts

Dalton had a tremendous rookie season, albeit one whose success is better measured in wins and losses for his NFL team than your fantasy team. Still, he had enough success in many owners' eyes to warrant a pick in their upcoming drafts. I'd caution any owner to draft him as no more than a backup though, because I expect Dalton to be no better than he was in 2011.

I actually think he could even do a bit worse.

It's not unusual for any player to hit a bump their second year. Very few players start hot in their rookie year and sustain it for their second year; quarterbacks even less. Dalton will prove no exception. There are a lot of things that will contribute to this.

First and foremost, the opposition now has a full season of tape on him, with plenty of time to highlight his weaknesses and plan to exploit them. We already saw the results of this towards the end of the season as Dalton had four straight sub 200 yard games between Weeks 13 and 16 and only two games over 200 in seven weeks.

Week Team Opp Cmps Atts Yards TDs INTs Rush RuYds TDs FPTs
10 CIN PIT 15 30 170 2 2 0 0 0 14.5
11 CIN BAL 24 45 373 1 3 4 32 0 20.8
12 CIN CLE 21 31 270 1 0 6 23 0 20.8
13 CIN PIT 11 24 135 1 0 2 6 0 12.3
14 CIN HOU 16 28 189 1 0 1 2 0 14.6
15 CIN STL 15 26 179 0 1 2 -2 0 6.7
16 CIN ARI 18 31 154 2 0 5 48 0 22.5

That's in the heart of your run at, into and through the fantasy playoffs.

Even his last games, while he played efficiently, were nothing to write home about from a fantasy scoring standpoint. While Dalton ended up with 20 touchdowns, only six came after Week Ten. The fact is, as is the case with most rookies or new starters the opposition had enough film to get the measure of Dalton. This isn't going to change with a full offseason.

That goes the same for his biggest weapon, A.J. Green. Green has elite talent but not much around him and while he will still get his, Dalton may find his best target well covered.

After Green what is there? A pair of rookies whom I like (Mohammad Sanu and Marvin Jones) but who will have some issues adjusting to the speed and size of NFL defenders, Armon Binns, Brandon Tate and Jordan Shipley none of which are striking terror into defenses and secondaries. Jermaine Gresham is an asset, but it's unknown how much of one he will be. While he was targeted 98 times in 2011, he only caught 56 of them. He's hardly Dalton's most reliable set of hands.

The running back position is also a bit of a question mark. BenJarvus Green-Ellis fit in well when he played against nickel defenses and shared the load with other backs. As lead back here in Cincinnati, he'll be going up against defenses that aren't all that afraid of the quarterback.

Conversely, Green-Ellis isn't going to pull defenders off the receivers or pressure off Dalton, especially not at first when he is an unknown quantity.

All in all, Dalton faces a steep set of challenges in his second year-and we haven't even factored a schedule which includes two games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh each, as well as tough defenses in Denver, Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants.

If there is one thing that stands out about Dalton and has since his college days, it's Dalton's IQ. The guy is very sharp and studies the playbook night and day. This served him well at TCU, where they ran an offense which skewed to his talents in a controlled multi-read offense.

It makes up for some shaky long accuracy - Dalton has the strength to make long throws but the longer they go, the worse his accuracy. So Dalton sticks to a lot of the shorter routes, though having an all world receiver like Green will help cover any mental errors he does make.


  • Has one of the best young wide receivers in the game with A.J. Green
  • Had a low total of interceptions, protects the ball
  • Dalton is one of the smarter players you will ever read about


  • Shaky long accuracy
  • No other threats at wide receiver to open Green up
  • Seemed to tire as the season wound down-can he be consistent for a whole year

Final thoughts

Again, Dalton may do enough on the field to help his NFL team, but it's unlikely he'll be all that great for your fantasy team. This is still a team trying to find all its pieces and get them into place offensively.

A.J. Green can make up for a lot of things but even he may struggle a bit with the attention he'll get out of a great 2011. When Green is covered, who will step up?

The situation is far too uncertain to trust Green as anything but a QB2 with some upside. Don't get too caught up in what was a fairly nice rookie season. Grab him as a backup and you should be quite satisfied.

Grab him as a starter and you're going to have some disappointing weekends.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

mlball77 said:

I think Dalton can probably improve on last year a bit with a full offseason to dial-in the nuances of the CIN offense and really work with his receivers. Yet despite this, I'm not sure the Bengals have all of the necessary pieces and development at this point needed to blossom into a special offense. It seems like they could be moving in that direction (Green, Gresham, etc.), but I'm just not sold that they have made enough strides on that front yet. The potential is there though.

TheDirtyWord said:

With the AJ Green Spotlight and the Year 2 Julio vs. AJ debate, this seemed a good time to bump the Andy Dalton Spotlight because expectations and comparisons to Julio Jones.

Dalton had a much better than expected rookie year insofar as he didn't fall on his face. While recently, some prized Top 5 picks have had some recent rookie year success, the idea that a 2nd round choice could come in and play competently was untested. So Dalton leading the Bengals to the playoffs could be construed and nothing else but a huge success. Statistically speaking though, Dalton was ordinary...passing for a shade under 3400 yards in an NFL where 4000 yards has become commonplace seems less impressive from a fantasy perspective than ever before. In 2011, passing yardage overall was up 14% than it was in 2008, and Ryan was able to able to compile his similar yardage totals with 82 fewer pass attempts.

Indeed, Dalton's biggest contribution to fantasy rosters will be how he affects AJ Green. Green was everything he was advertised to be his rookie year and is a bonafide #1 WR. But behind Green, the Bengals didn't provide him with much and quite frankly, the roster currently seems devoid of a clear #2 target much less WR. The RB, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, that was brought in to replace 2009-2011 RB1, Cedric Benson, seems even less a threat to provide much support in the passing game. And in 2011, when the Bengals were forced to throw to someone else other than AJ Green, it produced a Joey Harrington-esque 5.85 YPA. And his 6.56 overall figure has to be stepped up regardless because I don't see the Bengals becoming a pass first team yet.

This is not to say that Dalton is or has maxed out...but I do feel that Green's ceiling is limited so long as the Bengals fail to establish complimentary weapons in the passing game and I'm a bear on Dalton for 2012. Last year, they were able to get by in large part because they played a dilapidated AFC South & NFC West (a combined 56-72 record in 2011; this year, they have the AFC West & NFC East). They were not able to make the Bengals pay for their lack of diversity on offense and as such, the Bengals were able to compile a 6-2 record against this part of their schedule.

If I'm projecting out Dalton for 2012, I think his match-ups look more difficult in that these teams have the talent and personnel more likely to take away Dalton's deep threat and safety blanket (Green & Green) more consistently. How Dalton is able to incorporate and exploit other components of his offense will be the barometer of success in CIN and quite franlkly, I think the Bengals talent there is not sufficient enough to compensate yet. So while I'm not buying in 2012 and...I can certainly be proven wrong, I won't be spending picks on any Bengals probably this year (with the possible exception of Gresham who falls under 'flier' status).

Sabertooth said:

I really like him in a Superflex as a flex option this year. I think he improves too. He's got the best young weapon in the NFL for his WR.

Andy Dalton projections

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