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Fantasy Football Outlook: The Enigmatic Situation With Bengals QB Andy Dalton

It's the time of year when football geeks everywhere build their fantasy football rosters. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is an intriguing player to watch.

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Like athletes, gamblers understand the words "competitive advantage". No matter the game and/or the stakes, anybody who has their money on the line looks to find little secrets to win the bet. With the popularity behemoth that has become fantasy football, even the most causal of NFL fans know the ins and outs of players around the league and their shortcomings.

One would be hard-pressed to find a bigger media scapegoat than Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton over the past couple of seasons. Though he has averaged ten wins a season and set franchise marks in his first three pro seasons, Dalton has the innate ability to play poorly when the most people are watching. Even with the gaudy numbers over the past two seasons, these poor primetime performances have seemingly hurt his fantasy football stock.

Everybody has the same names at the top of their fantasy football quarterback lists--the same ones that also happen to be media darlings. In his franchise record-setting 2013 season, Dalton had the fifth-highest amount of fantasy points at the position last year, per a breakdown by the SB Nation mothership. The interesting situation resides with only a 60 percent ownership rate in ESPN fantasy leagues.

Why? Daniel Kelley gives his reasoning:

Dalton had three games last year in which he put up 30 or more fantasy points. Only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees (five each) had more. So, you know, bully for that. On the flip side of that coin, Dalton had four games of fewer than 10 fantasy points. Among regular starters, only Joe Flacco (six), Eli Manning (six), Geno Smith (five), and Chad Henne (five) had more.

In other words, Dalton had great games, but he pretty much balanced them with extreme clunkers. He put up 20-29 points only two times all season; Flacco and Eli Manning were the only top-20 quarterbacks with fewer.

But there's no one to balance against a boom-or-bust quarterback. If you ran Andy Dalton out there every week, you'd have some wildly successful weeks, but you'd also have some weeks were he basically lost you your matchup single-handedly. Interestingly, the 2012 iteration of Dalton was just about the polar opposite. He never exceeded 24 fantasy points in a game, but had at least 20 seven different times. It was only good enough for 12th among quarterbacks.

Even with his often-impressive production last year, I can't rank Dalton as a QB1, or even particularly close to one. Even if he repeats last year exactly, the lows for a quarterback matter so much more than the highs that he would be a concern, and repeating last year seems unlikely.

I rank Dalton as my No. 16 quarterback for the season, but he's closer to the Nos. 19 and 20 -- Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco -- than he is to Jay Cutler at No. 15. There's a huge gap between quarterbacks 15 and 16, and Dalton's on the wrong side of it.

Just add to the pile of Dalton criticism, Mr. Kelley. Given the ownership metrics and the statistical production of Dalton, he should be a late-round steal in most leagues. If you are unable to get one of the "elite quarterbacks" (See what I did there?), Dalton is a good option--even as just a fill-in guy.

As obvious as this sounds, Dalton's play on the field mirrors his fantasy value. What I mean by that a bit more specifically is that his peaks and valleys of good and poor play make him an unstable quarterback option in the eyes of many fantasy football dweebs. The heavy media scrutiny also seems to be playing a major role in the lack of perceived fantasy value as well.

It all comes down to the magical "Hue Jackson Effect" that the team and we at Cincy Jungle have been touting. If Dalton can limit the mistakes and rely on running the ball more effectively in the big games, he and the team will be successful. That will obviously translate to fantasy football as well, as long as the (hopefully) improved running game doesn't chew into his passing stats all that much.