The rise of Andy Dalton has been a joy for Cincinnati Bengals fans to watch unfold.
After being a solid starter through his first four seasons, Dalton took his game to another level in the past two years. During that span, Dalton has totaled 43 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores while completing 65.2 percent of his passes and throwing just 15 interceptions. His passer rating also topped 90 in both seasons after he failed to reach that mark in his first four seasons.
Even after a so-so 2016 season, Dalton is still getting some respect in various quarterback rankings. That includes the latest from SB Nation, which based their list on if every current NFL quarterback was available in a draft and teams selected a quarterback in the reverse order of the current Super Bowl 52 odds.
Being in the prime of his career led to Dalton coming in somewhat high on this list at No. 13, though younger guys with more upside like Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott went higher. Not all quartebacks went to their current teams, but Dalton did.
13. Cincinnati Bengals — Andy Dalton
After five straight winning seasons, Dalton posted a losing record with the Bengals for the first time in 2016. At 29, he’s a known commodity at this point, but he’s been fine for Cincinnati and getting him at No. 13 is just fine.
Some of the guys behind Dalton in the draft order are Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Age was a factor here, both when it came to old and young players.
Dalton would be higher on this list if had been done after his 2015 season, when he took his game to an MVP level. Despite not playing in the final month of this season, Dalton still threw for 25 touchdowns and 3,250 yards vs just seven interceptions, good for a career-high 106.3 passer rating. He also rushed for three scores and helped lead the Bengals to a 10-2 start, atop the AFC standings, before going down with a thumb injury.
That earned Dalton a spot on the NFL’s top 100 Players of 2016 ranking, checking in at No. 35 in 2016, though he didn’t make the list for 2017. While Dalton isn’t among the most elite quarterbacks, what he does excel at is reading defenses and getting the ball out quickly. That’s big for a Bengals team that had offensive line concerns in his first two NFL seasons, and that was a big reason why Cincinnati overcame said issues and went 19-13 with two playoff berths from 2011-2012.
That scenario could play out again this year with two young starting tackles protecting him, as well as a new starting right guard. It will be critical to the Bengals’ success that Dalton put guys like Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi in the best position to win.
And when he is able to drop back, Dalton must continue to perform at the high level we’ve seen in each of the past two seasons. From 2015-2016, we saw Dalton account for 50 scores and just 20 turnovers while becoming more of a franchise quarterback than the game manager he was made out to be previously.
You could certainly make an argument for Dalton going higher in this “draft”. Perhaps he will boost his stock this coming season with as much potential for a great 2017 season as there is for Dalton and the Bengals.