Player Spotlight: Andy Dalton

A detailed look at Andy Dalton's fantasy prospects for 2015

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is under some pressure to get his team past the first round of the NFL playoffs this season. A lot of fans around the league are asking themselves ‘is this guy a good quarterback?’

What they need to be asking themselves though is, ‘is this guy a good fantasy quarterback?’

It’s a good question. Back in 2013, we saw Dalton reach career highs in yards (4,296), touchdowns (33) and passing attempts (586). Unfortunately, he also reached a career high in interceptions (20) and a low in completion percentage (61.9).

As Dalton’s numbers fell back down to earth in 2014, fantasy GMs are left to wonder which is the real Dalton?

Post-Season woes don’t matter

Before we go any further, make sure you don’t get twisted about what Dalton’s lack of post-season success means for redraft fantasy. Yes, fans and the team are looking at Dalton’s post-season losses as a minus, and hoping he finds a way to be better. That doesn’t matter at all for you, the Fantasy GM, as you only care about his regular season—and only about 14-16 weeks of it at that.

For Dynasty, Dalton’s future is a bigger issue (as is any post-season league you might enter) but as far as we are concerned for redraft purposes, it’s a non-issue. Ignore it, don’t look at it and don’t factor it in.

Keep your process between the lines of the regular season.

Injury plagued 2014

While Dalton himself wasn’t hurt—in fact he has yet to miss a start—but losing A.J. Green to injury last season was a big deal. Missing Week’s 6 through 8 forced Dalton to focus on Mohamed Sanu and tight end Jermaine Gresham both of whom got the bulk of the targets during that stretch.

At a quick glance, it seems as if that was a huge issue at that. Dalton had just one game where he threw for over 300 yards, had just two touchdowns but threw three interceptions.

Losing Green appears to have thrown him completely off.

However, looking at the games after Green returned, Dalton continued to struggle.  Over the remaining games, Dalton threw interceptions and touchdowns in equal measure (13 to 13, or a 1:1 ratio) and topped 300 yards just once (Week 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers).

In other words, Dalton wasn’t just average—he was slightly below it.

That was despite having his best player who, while still not 100 percent, was better than any receiver on the field.

So did injuries impact Dalton’s 2014? To an extent. But not enough to ignore his other issues, such as a staggering lack of accuracy by Dalton at times.

Friendly Fire

Dalton’s accuracy issues are about more than his interceptions, though those numbers aren’t good either.

 While a 64. percent completion rating isn’t the end of the world, it’s well outside the top ten quarterbacks and actually behind Alex Smith and Teddy Bridgewater. You can argue that Dalton threw more than both of them, but it’s still not a great result. Especially when you look at how poorly Dalton was graded out by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). When sorted by pass grades, Dalton was ranked at No. 22.

Breaking it down further, PFF had negative grades for most of the field when Dalton threw – any amount of distance to his left, and anything deep got negative grades. Short/intermediate throws down the middle or to the right were positively graded. Now again, you could write off the left side of the field for the lack of a healthy Green but it’s not like the receiver was gone 16 games and looking at 2012 and 2011 (both require subscriptions), Dalton has always struggled to his left.

So the side where his strongest receiver dwells is the one he has the most issues with?  That’s a negative.

His numbers should bounce back to a normal status from last season, but overall, Dalton isn’t the most accurate guy.

One of the reasons why—and why he isn’t fantastic with the deep ball as well—is that Dalton lacks the arm strength to get enough zip on his passes.

Arm Velocity

People confuse strength as it pertains to velocity with strength as it pertains to overall throwing. Dalton can throw any almost distance on the field, but he lacks velocity. What does that mean and why does that matter? I’m glad you asked.

It matters because the deeper the pass, the more it floats. Now all truly deep balls float a bit. You can’t throw 30 yards and not have the ball hang a little. But Dalton’s sails more often than many of the best quarterbacks. A guy like Green can adjust and make the catch but a less-skilled receiver—Mohamed Sanu for example—has a lot less success. The softer pass on a deep throw allows defenders to adjust—cornerbacks to position themselves to make a play and safeties to move over and double the coverage.

Which is one reason his deep balls are less successful.

Now, many quarterbacks can be successful without a laser deep ball—Alex Smith comes to mind—but it hampers their fantasy numbers.

Another issue with Dalton’s velocity is on his shorter passes. Dalton lacks the arm to truly fit a ball between two tight defenders in the way an Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger does.

So when he makes a mistake short, it’s a problem.

At the same time, Dalton isn’t afraid to push the limits a bit, which is why his interceptions have climbed over his first four years (though they did drop a tad last year). As Dalton gets more confident, he opens himself up to more mistakes.

So if you have him on your squad, be prepared for more interceptions.

Positives

  • Dalton gets A.J. Green back, fully healthy
  • The Bengals’ ground attack will keep defenses from teeing off on Dalton or overcommitting against the pass
  • The offense should play to Dalton’s strengths and allow him to put up plenty of yards

Negatives

  • The Bengals schedule is brutal. Besides the tough AFC North, they face Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, Houston, Arizona, San Francisco and Denver.
  • Dalton continues to throw too many interceptions and the numbers aren’t trending down 
  • Problematic arm strength not only results in interceptions, but fewer touchdowns.

Final thoughts

For the most part, Dalton gets the job done from an NFL standpoint, but he’s not reliable enough to be a fantasy factor. He’s a good bye week filler, but with the schedule the Bengals have, you have very little high upside games to choose from. I’d actually avoid him even as a bye week filler, unless your primary quarterback’s bye week coincides with one of his good matchups.

G

Passing Yards

TDs

INTs

Rushing Yards

Rushing TDs

16

3700

23

17

145

1

Other Viewpoints

Kyle Phelps of SBNation’s Cincy Jungle thinks Dalton’s needle is pointing up, though is limited because the offense should revolve around the ground game.

ESPN’s Coley Harvey asked fellow AFC North beat writers Jeremy Fowler (Steelers), Jamison Hensley (Ravens) and Pat McManamon (Browns) if Dalton can take the next step.


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