When it comes to Bengals quarterbacks, it's Andy Dalton and everyone else.
There's no quarterback competition in Cincinnati, nor is there reason to believe Dalton won't be starting every game in 2015 as he's done in each of his first four seasons. Having never missed a start in his career, Dalton was quietly a reliable fantasy football QB in his first three seasons. That changed in 2014.
'Elite' and 'Andy Dalton' in same sentence?
Dalton finished the 2013 season ranked fifth in FF points by a QB. . At the end of the 2014 NFL season, Dalton's touchdown total was at 99. That's only 12 less than future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning had in his first four years. Dalton’s FF ranking took a steep decline to 18th in 2014, but he cannot be entirely faulted for that.
Dalton was without Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones for essentially all of 2014. Those two accounted for 12 scores and 90 catches in 2013. Also missing significant time in 2014 was All-Pro receiver A.J. Green, who caught just six touchdowns after scoring 11 times in 2013. If those three can remain healthy in 2015, Dalton should once again be a reliable FF QB.
Still, the Bengals have two stars in the making at running back between Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and Hue Jackson has made it a point to run the ball more since becoming the team's offensive coordinator. Dalton's passing attempts dropped from 586 (under Jay Gruden as OC) in 2013 to 481 in 2014. Given Dalton has a 4.7% touchdown percentage, meaning the percent of times he’s attempted a pass in his NFL career that resulted in a touchdown, equates to about 5 touchdowns during a 16-game season when he’s throwing nearly 500 passes.
That could amount to a big difference in fantasy points. Last year, Matt Ryan (who had 268 FF points), Tom Brady (267), Ryan Tannehill (266), Eli Manning (263), Tony Romo (258), Phillip Rivers (254), and Joe Flacco (249) were separated by a total of 19 points. 20 Points would have been the difference between finishing in 7th and 13th place among FF QBs.
Another knock against Dalton this year is he's going against one of the more brutal schedules you'll see any quarterback face. According to FFToday, Dalton will face the No. 1 (Seahawks), No. 2 (Chiefs) No. 3 (Bills), No. 7 (49ers), No 8 (Browns, twice), No. 9 (Rams) and No. 13 (Chargers) defenses in terms of FF points allowed by opposing QBs.
That's right. Dalton is facing seven matchups against top-10 defenses against QBs this year. Making matters worse is all seven come before Week 16, meaning they'll all occur before your league's FF championship.
There's a good chance Dalton is about to have his worst year in terms of FF.
At the end of the day, you're not going to want Dalton as your
real-life fantasy starting QB.. Depending on how deep of a league you're in, he's a decent No. 2 who you should feel confident enough about starting 1-2 games for your FF team. With all of his weapons back, Dalton should put up some good numbers in several games this year, but playing in a run-heavy offense against a brutal schedule for QBs keeps him from being someone you'd want for a full season.
It’s more than likely Dalton will be undrafted in most fantasy leagues. Keep him on your watch list though for later in the season when your starter hits a bye week. Looking at some of the guys people will roster as their No. 2 QBs (Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill), you could pick up Dalton off the waiver wire and possibly get as much production from him as any of those other guys for one week.
What about AJ McCarron?
The Bengals may think AJ McCarron has the potential to be a starting-caliber QB, but he still should be nowhere near a fantasy roster this year. He's simply not going to see the field unless Dalton gets hurt. Even if that happens, the Bengals will likely go more conservative and more run-heavy than they already are and keep the ball out of McCarron's hands as much as possible.
Even in deep dynasty leagues, McCarron isn't worth a roster spot, at least until we see what he can do in the preseason. After all, he's yet to even throw a pass at the NFL level, including the preseason.
If for some reason McCarron is not the backup QB, journeyman Josh Johnson is next in line. In 29 career games (five starts), Johnson has thrown for more than 156 yards just once. His best game as a pro was a 240-yard, two-touchdown (but three pick) game against the Eagles in 2010.
No, just, no.