There are many reasons for optimism for the upcoming Andy Dalton fantasy season. Surrounded by some of the best weapons in the game, the Cincinnati Bengals are in line to be much improved in 2017. His current situation represents a unique buy low opportunity in dynasty leagues. Dalton’s recent performance over the past few seasons has shown significant growth, while his dynasty stock remains at a depressed cost. Coming off an outlier fantasy season for the ages, savvy owners should be trading for Dalton now before he bounces back with a strong fantasy season.
The new and improved Andy Dalton
Through the first few years of his career, Dalton earned the stigma of being a boom-or-bust fantasy quarterback. Everybody remembers that Thursday night, Week 10 game in 2014 versus the Browns where he had a QB Rating of 2.0.1 Even in his overall QB 3 season in 2013, Dalton had more games outside of the top-12 than in. But over the past two seasons, Dalton has been a vastly different QB.
Since 2015, Dalton has quietly been tenth in completion percentage, fifth in yards per attempt, fourth in adjusted yards per attempt, and has the seventh lowest interception rate.2 As a result, Dalton has become a much more consistent fantasy asset. The wonderful Mike Beers made a special request #chartsonchartsoncharts to show Dalton’s progression over the past two years.
If we don’t penalize him for the Week 14 game in which he left with a first-quarter injury, the growth has been incredible. The Dalton bust game has all of a sudden become a rare occurrence.
But, why don’t we remember Dalton playing this well?
New Hair, New Andy
When you look at the end of year standings, you see he finished as the QB 19 in 2015. Dalton was playing out of his mind that season, but he missed the final three games. Instead, if you look at the per game averages, he comes in as the QB 8; much better. But again, if we do not penalize him, and remove the game in which he was injured, Dalton’s per game averages get him to QB 5. Boom/
While 2016 was either a career-best or near the top in a number of metrics for Dalton, his fantasy season could have been much more. Dalton shows up as the QB 11 in total points. This was really just a matter of playing all 16 games as he was just the QB 18 in points per game. Without Tyler Eifert for the first half of the season, Dalton could just not recover once A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard went down in Week 11. He scored nearly three points per game fewer from that point on. Both of his QB3+ performances occurred during this stretch.
Right now you’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute. I thought you said he was good last year?” Well, remember that thing from earlier about touchdowns?
Bouncing Back with Regression
Last year’s poor fantasy finish can all be explained by throwing only 18 touchdowns. Dalton’s touchdown rate dropped to a career-low 3.2 percent, ranking 24th in the league. Prior to that, his touchdown rate over his career had been 5.0 percent. Since he entered the league, the NFL average is 4.4 percent.
J.J. Zachariason recently examined Dalton’s poor touchdown rate in great detail. The late round QB master pointed out that if Dalton just got to his now 4.6 percent career rate, he would have jumped all the way to QB 6 on the year. Zachariason dubbed Dalton as the perfect late round QB for 2017.
Another way to see just how much of an outlier Dalton’s 2016 was is by factoring in the 4,206 passing yards he amassed. Based on all QB seasons since 2000, we would expect a QB with that many passing yards to throw for a little more than 26.5 touchdowns. If you adjust this for the pass happy period since 2011, you can add another 0.6 touchdowns to that total.
Buying the Bengals Offense
A sneaky reason to trade for Dalton is getting exposure to the pieces around him. Cincinnati is currently the only team that has a running back, wide receiver, and tight end being selected in the top 12 of dynasty drafts. If you want to trade for those ancillary pieces on Cincinnati it could get quite expensive.
The Dynasty ADP App shows Joe Mixon is being drafted as the RB12, Green as the WR6, and Eifert as the TE5. And that’s not even accounting for the new fastest man in the NFL and ninth overall pick John Ross, who’s going in the first round of rookie drafts. By trading for Dalton, you are getting exposure to a dynasty stud at each position. Even better, you can get the QB of this high-powered offense at a massive discount.
Cost and Outlook
Over the past three monthly mock drafts administered by Dynasty League Football, Dalton has gone off the board as the QB18, QB16, and QB19. He’s now going after young guys like Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson, while still being taken after the 35-year-old Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers. We’ve already seen Dalton’s massive upside and you are buying him at his floor!
The RotoViz team thinks Dalton is a great value for this upcoming season. Hasan Rahim thinks Cincinnati is going to be a more pass-happy offense, and with the return of his offensive weapons, he’s even pegged Dalton as this season’s Kirk Cousins. Anthony Amico comped him as the perfect arbitrage play on Jameis Winston. Jordan Hoover noted that Vegas is predicting a 2.5 win increase for Cincinnati over last year, and RotoDoc’s Pythagorean Expectation study agrees with this. This could lead to a boon in fantasy points.
The RotoViz staff projections currently have Dalton as the QB12 ahead of the more expensive Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and Wentz. Getting similar production, at a cheaper cost is how you win your fantasy leagues.
I’d be looking to sell either Stafford or Carr to acquire Dalton and an additional piece. Even if you have one of those 35-and-up aged QBs, you could flip them for Dalton to even out a package where you take the perceived “hit” at QB. I am far from a QB ageist, but if you can get a similarly performing QB with tons of upside, who is cheaper, that happens to be more than five years younger, then that’s the play to make. If you’re joining a startup soon, know that you will be able to wait and buy Dalton late as your QB for now and going forward.