The 2015 season was on track to be Andy Dalton's best by a wide margin. Not only did he complete 255 of his 386 passes for 3,250 yards, 25 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, but he helped the Bengals jump out to a 10-2 start before going down with a thumb injury in Week 14 against the Steelers. Had he not been hurt, there's a significant chance the team could have finished better than their eventual 12-4 record and he could have broken a few NFL records along the way.
At this point, it seems unthinkable to even question whether or not Dalton is a franchise quarterback. He's improved every year he's been in the league, so just imagine what the next step for him could be. However, his breakout 2015 season wasn't quite enough to get him onto Pro Football Focus' list of the top 101 players from 2015. They did, however, note that he just barely missed the list, and was the No. 2 player among their 10 players who just missed the list, list.
2. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Argument for Top 101 inclusion:
This was by far the best season of Andy Dalton's career, earning a passing grade more than 10 points higher than any other season as a pro; he began the year with a stretch of five or six games that was as good as any quarterback in the league. Through six games, he trailed only Carson Palmer's overall grade among QBs, and he ended the year having completed 66.1 percent of his passes for a QB rating of 106.3.
Why he isn't in the Top 101:
After those first six weeks, the wheels fell off the wagon a little, and Dalton regressed back to closer to his previous form. There weren't the horrendous games of past seasons, but there also wasn't another game that threatened his early-season form. Injury also robbed him of the opportunity to enhance his case in the playoffs, where the Bengals desperately needed him
It's nice that PFF finally recognized Dalton's breakout 2015 season, but it's still pretty confusing how he wasn't ranked higher. Six quarterbacks made the list and some like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Cam Newton are very hard to argue against, based on very solid 2015 seasons. But, take note of the fact that Russell Wilson came in at No. 32. A quick look at Wilson's stats from 2015 show pretty similar numbers to what Dalton was on track for prior to getting hurt.
Wilson threw 483 passes for 329 completions, 4,024 yards, 34 touchdowns, and eight interceptions last season. If Dalton hadn't been hurt and stayed on the same statistical track that he was on for the first 12 games of the season, he would have ended up with around 514 passes for 340 completions, 4,333 yards, 33 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
Those stats are very comparable to Wilson's, yet Dalton was essentially ranked 71 spots below him on PFF's extended list. It doesn't make sense why he wasn't ranked higher, given how high Wilson was ranked based on his performance.
Another player who probably should have made this list but wasn't even mentioned was Carlos Dunlap. Among players at his position, he ranked fourth overall in total sacks last season (13.5), 16th in combined tackles (55), and even forced a couple of fumbles, recovering one. The fact that other defensive ends like Green Bay's Mike Daniels, Denver's Derek Wolfe, and St. Louis' William Hayes made the list despite ranking lower than Dunlap in every major statistical category seems suspicious.
That said, it is still true that the Bengals were very well represented on PFF's top 101 list this year. Geno Atkins made the top 25, Andrew Whitworth and A.J. Green came in among the top 41, and the bottom 25 on the list saw Tyler Eifert and Adam Jones. Dalton really should have been on the list and Dunlap should have at least been mentioned, but that's just more motivation for them to continue their stellar play.