Andy Dalton finished his second season in the NFL with 3,669 passing yards and 27 touchdowns. Not bad for a QB dependent on one stud 2nd year WR (AJ Green caught 25% of the Bengals touchdowns) and a mediocre run game (Benjarvis Green-Ellis averaged only 68.1 yards per game in 2012). As Jamison Hensley from ESPN notes:
“In his first two years, Dalton has done something that hadn’t been accomplished in Cincinnati in more than three decades — lead the Bengals to the playoffs in back-to-back years. He also has thrown 47 touchdowns in 32 career games. The only quarterbacks who have passed for more in their first two seasons in the NFL are Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52).”
ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi said,
“If there was a year they can win the division, it’s this year.” Herm Edwards raised expectations even higher, predicting the Bengals would win the AFC North by two games.”
If we take away Week 17 where Dalton only played the first half of a meaningless game he averaged 239 Passing yards (13th in the NFL) per game and 1.73 touchdowns per game (7th in the NFL) in the 2012 season. Despite the impressive number of touchdowns per game, the Bengals Red Zone production was in the bottom half of the NFL at 53%. Enter the Bengals’ first round draft pick TE Tyler Elfert and second round pick Gio Bernard. Both can make a big impact, especially in the redzone. As NBC’s Josh Alper puts it:
“Tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard are the most intriguing additions to the offense from the draft. Eifert should give Dalton a weapon that makes it harder for defenses to sell out against A.J. Green in the passing game while Bernard is the kind of multi-talented back that the Bengals have been missing in the backfield for the last couple of years.”
Bringing the focus back to Dalton’s own abilities, Chris Trapasso points out that:
“While his completion percentage, passing yards, touchdown tosses and quarterback rating all improved last season, so did his interception percentage.”
Tyler Eifert’s 6’6 250lbs stature and downright scary red zone production appeal should be enough to get you excited about the fantasy value of Andy Dalton in 2013. Dalton’s second favorite receiver in 2012 was actually Tight End Jermaine Gresham racking up 744 yards and 5 touch downs. But let’s be clear here, Eifert will most likely be used alongside Gresham rather than compete with him in the tight end spot, especially to add some height in the red zone and give AJ Green a little space. Here’s Rotoviz’s Davis Mattek’s breakdown of Eifert here. If Eifert and Dalton can get on the same page at the start of the season, we should see Dalton in the top 5 for passing TDs in 2013.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ second round pick, Giovani Bernard, ranked second on Ryan Rouillard’s list of recently drafted running backs, but Rotoviz’s Shawn Siegele isn’t excited about his impact in the Bengal’s offense in his rookie year, as discussed in the Bengels Draft Grade Here.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport weighs in on the Bengals’ backfield situation here with an intriguing parallel.
“In both 2007 and 2008, the Giants had a very similar situation in the backfield, with Brandon Jacobs in the Green-Ellis role and Derrick Ward playing the part of Giovani Bernard.”
He adds that:
“The Bengals need to do a better job of keeping opposing defenses honest instead of allowing them to load the box against Green-Ellis and then blanket A.J. Green in coverage on third down.”
The Bengals have clearly prioritized giving Andy Dalton more weapons as Zach Kruse from Bleacher Report points out.
“In addition to bringing back a top-10 defense, Cincinnati re-signed right tackle Andre Smith and drafted Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round and UNC running back Gio Bernard in the second. The offense now has a solid offensive line, two diverse tandems at running back and tight end and one of the game’s elite receivers in A.J. Green.”
The Bengals used 7/10 draft picks on offensive players. Dalton finished the 2011 fantasy season as the 15th best Fantasy QB, and 12th in 2012. With improved red zone production, additional weapons and improved pass protection there are few reasons why Dalton can’t be a top QB this season.