Andy Dalton's rise to stardom on the field has also made him a superstar in fantasy football.
Prior to 2015, Dalton was viewed more as a backup fantasy quarterback, or even someone you'd pick up off the waiver wire as a spot starter. That notion changed in 2015 as Dalton became an elite passer who was on pace to break most of the franchise single-season passing marks before his Week 14 thumb fracture.
Even so, Dalton still finished 2015 ranked 18th overall in total fantasy points, according to ESPN's fantasy stats. Had he finished the season, he was a lock to make the top 10, and possibly even sneak into the top five.
And don't forget that Dalton led the NFL in fantasy points in October of last year. That's why former Bengals great and current Pro Football Focus analyst Cris Collinsworth is very high on Dalton's fantasy prospects. Collinsworth listed Dalton as his second-favorite fantasy player to target in drafts this year.
2. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
I think most people have forgotten how good Dalton was in the 13 games before his injury last year. He finished with 25 touchdown passes and three more as a runner, but he easily would have surpassed 30 and maybe even 35 total had he remained healthy – and that would make his numbers look a lot different. Remember that fantasy points per dropback stat I was talking about with Taylor? Well, Dalton ranked third in it last year, behind only Newton and Wilson. Both of those guys are being drafted as top-four fantasy QBs.
The Bengals have one of the best offensive lines in football, two good running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and two of the NFL’s truly dominant red-zone threats in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert (assuming Eifert gets healthy). This team is clearly one of the favorites in the AFC this year, after winning 12 games last year. Like Taylor, Dalton isn’t being drafted as a QB1 in many leagues.
If we're going off just last year, Dalton figures to once again put up huge numbers that make him a solid QB1 option. Dalton completed 255 of his 386 passes for 3,250 yards and 25 scores vs just seven interceptions.
He set career highs in QB Rating (106.3), yards per attempt (8.42), completion percent (66.1%), and a TD to INT ratio of 3.57:1, more than twice his previous best (1.69:1 in 2012).
Boyd, LaFell making great impressions in training
Two of the Bengals biggest offseason additions are already adding quite a bit to a receiver position needing players to step up.
Dalton also finished 2015 with the NFL's eighth-best completion percentage, second-best yards-per-attempt average, second-highest passer rating and fifth-best QBR.
It also helps that several other quarterbacks either regressed in 2015 or may miss time in 2016.
- Andrew Luck had an injury-plagued up and down 2015 season, not to mention he led the NFL in interceptions when his season ended in Week 9.
- Aaron Rodgers had arguably his worst year as a pro last season.
- Tom Brady will miss the first four games of 2016.
- Cam Newton plays a style of football conducive to many more hits and potential injuries.
- And then there's Carson Palmer, who was great in 2015, but can he keep that level play up at age 36 this year, not to mention with much of the Cardinals’ roster aging as well?
All of this may allow Dalton to once again be one of the best fantasy passers this coming season.
But you also need to consider that Dalton may be poised for a significant drop off this year after losing so much of his offense this offseason. Between Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones leaving, Tyler Eifert sidelined for who knows how long, and Tyler Kroft currently sidelined, Dalton is going to be throwing to guys who may not make Dalton look as good as he really is.
And don’t forget about Hue Jackson leaving. Even with a depleted offense in 2014, Dalton still finished with a career-high 64.2 completion percentage in Jackson’s first year as Bengals offensive coordinator. Year 2 of Jackson’s reign as OC in Cincinnati saw Dalton’s completion percentage rise to 66.1 in addition to all of the career-high numbers he put up.
It’s quite possible that Dalton will take a step back in production this year, which makes his fantasy status seem shakier than Collinsworth lets on.