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It's time for Andy Dalton to take the next step

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While many aren't in love with Andy Dalton, this football enthusiast says it's time to go to the bank with big red.

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote an article about three weeks ago for my another site, The Panic Button, asking whether Andy Dalton was a top-five, fantasy football quarterback.

The response overwhelmingly was that I was an idiot who had never watched football in my life.

While the Twitter sports world might not be in love with Dalton, this football enthusiast says it's time to go to the bank with big red.

While the interceptions were a tad high in 2013, the touchdowns and yards were that of an elite NFL QB.

Andy Dalton 2013 stats:

4,293 yards, (62 percent completion) with 33 TDs and 20 INTS, rushed for 61 yards and 2 TDs.

Those 4,293 yards were the seventh most for NFL QBs last season.

The 33 touchdown passes ranked third in the league.

I don't know how other people's scoring system works for QBs but if you have the seventh most yards and the third most TDs, I find it offensive that people laughed my No. 5 fantasy QB suggestion out of the building.

I'm not sure if the skinny on Dalton is that he's a pretty quiet guy from TCU who has a mop of red hair, and that people overlook him. Those stats from last season are upper-echelon, bordering on elite QB stats, but somehow he always seems to get overlooked.

The intangibles:

Look at the weaponry Dalton has around him.

AJ Green - 98 catches, 1,426 yards with 11 TDs

Marvin Jones - 51 catches, 712 yards and 10 TDs

Giovani Bernard - 56 catches, 514 yards and 3 TDs

Jermaine Gresham - 46 catches, 458 yards and 4 TDs

Mohamed Sanu - 47 catches, 455 yards and 2 TDs

Tyler Eifert - 39 catches, 445 yards and 2 TDs

Six guys for the Bengals caught 39 or more balls last season and all but Eifert had over 450 yards. That is spreading the ball around and making a very diversified offense.

The Benglas brought in Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator, and while Jackson is a guy who likes to run the ball, he would be a fool not to use all of that talent around his young QB.

The running game looks very solid with Giovani Bernard taking over the lion's share of the carries from the departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That said, the Bengals added a very nice piece in LSU running back Jeremy Hill.

Hill had 1401 yards rushing with 16 TDs and improved his ball catching skills by hauling in 18 passes for 181 yards last season.

I don't really care who gets the reps at running back, for me, it's just one more weapon at Dalton's disposal.

Where can Dalton improve:

Seeing what Dalton did each of the last three years in guiding his team to the playoffs was a nice moment. The next step for Dalton in climbing into the upper stratosphere of NFL QBs is to get some playoff wins under his belt.

The Bengals have a good shot to win their division, but either Dalton wins a playoff game soon, or fans are going to start rioting. From a fantasy football perspective, about the only area you could find fault with Dalton is the interceptions and the overall QB rating.

QBR ratings for 2013

1. Josh McCown - 85.1

2. Peyton Manning - 82.1

17. Andy Dalton - 55.8

I watched quite a bit of Andy Dalton last season and he had a couple of simply abysmal games. The ball seemed to flutter on him a few times, but I think he's shown the propensity to put those bad games behind him and move forward.

Why I expect improvement from him this season:

I like the body language coming into camp this season. The Bengals were mum about it, but Dalton showed up noticeably stronger and sources said the ball was flying off his hand.

Dalton has improved each of his three season in the NFL, but his interceptions have also gone up. I believe it is the natural progression of a QB to get command of the offense and start making less mistakes and be more efficient.

Dalton is close with his QB coach, and Ken Zampese is in his 12th season with these Bengals. I expect the continuity between Zampese and Dalton to grow and I also expect Hue Jackson's willingness to run to take the ball out of Dalton's hands where he makes less of those mistakes this season.

With less mistakes and continuity with the offense, I see this team going 11-5, winning the division, winning at least one playoff game and becoming a team that people don't look past the same way they have in the last three years.

Fantasy implications, what the experts say:

CBS - Jeremy Eisenberg - 17th

CBS - Dave Richard - 19th

Yahoo - 17th

ESPN - 17th

Fox - 16th

Rich Winter - 6th

I'm sorry but when I'm drafting a fantasy football QB, I'm not looking at anything other than yards and touchdowns. I do believe that Dalton's yards and TDs might come down slightly because of the shift to the running game, but even if he throws 28 TDs, he's right in the mix with the best of them.

I am not sure what the experts are doing on this one, but I think they are up in the night. You cannot rank a QB that is coming into his fourth year and coming off a 33 TD year as the 17th - 19th ranked fantasy QB.

This is good news for those of you that play fantasy football.

Sit back, don't wear any orange, laugh if someone mentions Dalton and then snatch him up in the 9th round and ride this red-haired former frog to a fantasy football title.