One of the most exciting, and frustrating, parts of every football season is the fantasy draft. You might have a team with friends, co-workers, or just some random people, and your entire season is founded on one hour and a half period of time where you have to determine who will have the best performances and stay the healthiest throughout the year. This is not only an exciting time, but it is laden with anxiety for many people. The first five to ten rounds are the easiest for most fans because you have the most well known players available and you can pick them with relative ease, but once you get past round ten, the players become more obscure (for the average fan) and it becomes more difficult to find that diamond in the rough who can push you into the playoffs.
Andy Behrens, of Yahoo! Sports.com, has published a list of ten players who he thinks will have the highest impact but will also be available after the tenth round. After scrolling through the list, you see a lot of rookies (Alshon Jeffrey, Reuben Randle, and Andrew Luck) but the first name on his list is one familiar to anyone who reads this blog: Andy Dalton.
Dalton was one of four rookie quarterbacks to ever throw for 3,000 yards and 20 TDs in his rookie season, the other three being Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, and fellow rookie Cam Newton. There is no denying that those numbers are impressive and for putting up those kind of numbers as a rookie, with a rookie WR, and two other WRs who had only started a handful of games (Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell), you would think that the expectation for Dalton coming into the 2012 season would qualify him for more than just a tenth round pick in most fantasy mock drafts, right? Wrong.
Behren notes that Dalton is the "17th QB" off the boards in most of the mock drafts so far, but admits that this is a spot that he could "easily outperform" during the season. The Bengals drafted several players specifically with the goal of surrounding Dalton with weapons, namely Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, and they have several young, unproven players that many fans have been hearing quite a bit of news about during this off-season, Armon Binns and Brandon Tate. We have yet to see any of these players line up at WR during a game, with the exception of Tate but that was in New England, and we have no idea if they will end up progressing like A.J. Green 2.0 or Jerome Simpson 2.0.
Is Dalton worthy of being the "17th QB" taken off the board? Even though the Bengals will have one of, if not the, youngest group of specialists on the offensive side of the ball in the entire NFL, this is not a guarantee that Dalton will surpass his numbers from last season. Teams are no longer unaware of his talents and will be keying on putting pressure on him and making sure that Green doesn't get over the top of any of their cornerbacks or safeties. It will not be as easy to score on defenses as it was last year because they will be expecting the Dalton-to-Green combination, and they are going to force Dalton to be a QB and make him attempt difficult mid-range throws to Jermaine Gresham and his slot receivers. In other words, defenses are going to make Dalton go out of his comfort zone and put his arm strength to the test.
Dalton's arm is one of the most highly talked about and debated issues amongst Bengals fans this off-season. Has he added zip on his throws or can he make those types of "small window" throws that QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have become known for? Between the mixed reports of Dalton adding strength to his arm in the off-season and the Bengals' administration being worried that Dalton might not be the franchise QB they were looking for, we will all be able to judge for ourselves in a few weeks when training camp starts at Paul Brown Stadium.
Could Dalton be worth a higher pick than the tenth round? Sure. Will he be in most fantasy drafts? I doubt it. Too many questions surrounding him and his supporting cast linger, but if he is available in the tenth round or later he is a fantastic value pick. The ceiling for Dalton is very high and to get him in the tenth round and beyond is what fantasy experts would call a "steal."