Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may have been worthy of a $96 million contract extension this offseason, but that hasn't stopped fantasy football owners from sleeping on the fourth-year signal-caller.
Well, it's time to wake up.
Last season, Dalton broke two of the team's single-season records with 4,293 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. Those stats are certainly impressive for an NFL quarterback, but they also translated into big fantasy points. In fact, Dalton finished 2013 ranked fifth in fantasy points among quarterbacks, according to FantasyPros.com.
Take a look at the top-five fantasy signal-callers from a year ago:
|1||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||383.3|
|2||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||319.8|
|3||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||278.7|
|4||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||276.9|
|5||Andy Dalton||Cincinnati Bengals||268.6|
So, here's where the confusion comes in. Dalton's current average draft position is 11.02, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, making him the 16th quarterback taken off the board in fantasy drafts.
Aside from Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers—who was injured a year ago, so he can't be included here—that makes 10 quarterbacks who couldn't match Dalton's numbers from last season who are ranked above the Bengals signal-caller.
Sure, things change from year to year in the NFL; however, Dalton's situation this season is arguably better than it was in 2013. Much of this can be attributed to new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. NFL Philosophy summed the new situation up perfectly on Twitter:
I'm telling you though. Andy Dalton is going to look good in this Hue Jackson offense. More hot streaks, less cold streaks.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) August 16, 2014
Once again, he has A.J. Green—one of the league's most prolific wide receivers—at his disposal, and while the talented No. 2 Marvin Jones may miss a couple games due to a foot injury, the steadfast Mohamed Sanu is right there to pick up the pieces.
Second-year tight end Tyler Eifert is a matchup nightmare, and it's conceivable he'll see a bigger role this year due to increased experience and an inconsistent Jermaine Gresham.
It sure appears as though Sports Illustrated agrees:
Giovani Bernard lit it up as a pass-catcher out of the backfield last season, and now that he's atop the team's depth chart, expect to see even more involvement from him in Cincinnati's passing game. According to an early-offseason report from Kevin Patra of NFL.com, he'll also be seeing some reps out of the slot.
But, that's all just how things look on paper. Let's take a look at how Dalton has fared through two preseason contests this year:
|Week||Opponent||C / ATT||YDS||TD||INT||RTG|
So, those numbers look pretty good. NBC's Cris Collinsworth agreed:
Bengals looked great tonight until Andy Dalton left the game. Dalton contract looking better and better.— Cris Collinsworth (@CollinsworthNBC) August 17, 2014
Simply put: There's not an abundance of downside associated with Dalton this season, but the quarterback has plenty of upside. Will he earn a top-five fantasy status again? It's possible. But, even if he doesn't, don't expect his production to drop far enough to mirror his current No. 16 ranking among signal-callers.
Do yourself a favor. Target Dalton earlier than your opposing fantasy owners this year, sit back, and reap the benefits.