Andy Dalton: Fantasy Sleeper


It’s become de rigueur in supposed ‘expert’ leagues to draft your quarterback late, but usually that just means trying to snag Tony Romo at QB12 before somebody who owned Tom Brady in 2008 swoops in to draft their QB2. True Late Round QB will go nearly extinct this season. The incentive to use a QBBC drops precipitously when the difference between QB5 and QB12 vanishes. The depth at quarterback changes strategy in the same way the depth at RB1 should change your early round approach.

And since you should never, ever waste a Top 150 pick on your QB2, players like Andy Dalton are completely devalued.

Oh, are they?

My newest FanSided article looks at quarterback sleepers for 2013. Not to ruin it for you, but Andy Dalton figures prominently. In fact, I argue that Late Round QB makes more sense than ever as a veritable panoply of impressive sleepers awaits your perusal this season.

All of which leads us to Andy Dalton.

Dalton is generating no buzz for 2013, primarily because he was a second round pick and saw his performance tail off down the stretch for the second consecutive season. Dalton is perceived as a weak-armed game manager.

The perception is wrong.

1) Dalton is off to a prolific start. Only three quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown for more yards in their first two years in the league. Those players are Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, and Cam Newton. There’s no question that this is a different era, but the idea that just anybody can go out and pile up the yards is ludicrous. Through two seasons, Dalton is 18 yards ahead of Drew Bledsoe, despite having attempted 76 fewer passes. He’s far ahead of Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford. All three of those players were No. 1 overall picks.

2) Dalton is off to an efficient start. While three quarterbacks have thrown for more yards, only two have thrown for more yards and been more efficient. That’s because Dalton has actually averaged more adjusted yards per attempt than Peyton did (6.42 to 6.30). The other closest comps for Dalton are Matt Ryan (6.69), Joe Flacco (6.63), Bernie Kosar (6.52), and Josh Freeman (6.45).

3) Dalton has been dealing with a lousy offense. Dalton tends to hemorrhage credit to the supremely talented A.J. Green, but beyond Green the Bengals have been talent deficient on offense. Even if Gio Bernard fails to live up to the lofty fantasy expectations, he should add a desperately need in-space element. Tight ends usually take a while to make an impact at the NFL level, but Tyler Eifert should give them another red zone threat.

Andy Dalton has been extremely efficient throwing to his core receivers. When you consider what trendy players like Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill are contending with in terms of end zone targets, it almost seems unfair that Dalton will have Green, Eifert, super sleeper Mohamed Sanu, and the underrated Jermaine Gresham.

In fact, Dalton’s struggles at the end of last year might be directly tied to losing the emerging Sanu. The former Scarlet Knight began to play big snaps in Week 9 and Dalton rattled off his best stretch of the season, notching five straight 20-plus point games and averaging 23.5. Sanu was then lost for the season. Dalton failed to hit 20 points the rest of the way and averaged 13.7 over the final four weeks.

4) Dalton’s current ADP represents a discount to his 2012 performance. Dalton’s ADP has actually been steadily rising throughout the summer as fantasy players shrug off the pundits’ laments and begin to research players for themselves. A couple of months ago, Dalton was falling to QB19, behind players Philip Rivers, and Josh Freeman. Fortunately for you, he still trails Eli Manning.

Let’s break out the RotoViz QB Similarity Score app and compare the two players.

Andy Dalton Eli Manning
TD = 4 TD = 6 TD = 4 TD = 6
Low 12.1 14.6 Low 12.8 15.2
Median 13.7 16.6 Median 13.7 16.7
High 15.9 19.3 High 15.2 18.5

*This projection eliminates the Week 17 contest where Dalton was pulled early.

You can look at this as a coin flip, but I’d always take the emerging player in these situations. While Eli has often excelled in the postseason and put up a big 2011, his fantasy performances tend to be highly schizophrenic and frequently disappointing.

5) Dalton’s breakout potential isn’t priced into his ADP. This goes almost without saying if he’s currently selling at a discount to his 2012 results, but it’s important nonetheless. Most obvious breakout candidates lose a lot of their value because the possibility of an explosion isn’t lost on observers. Here’s where you can use the ‘Dalton as weak-armed game manager’ meme to your benefit. Dalton’s incredible success through two seasons, his similarity scores, and his age all suggest the strong possibility of breakout. When you draft Dalton, you get him at a discount to his 2012 results and receive his breakout potential entirely for free.

To further illustrate this, compare Dalton to Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford. Both players are currently being drafted after Dalton, but the hype surrounding them is so strong it would be surprising if they fail to overtake him during the fall.

Andy Dalton Ryan Tannehill Sam Bradford
TD = 4 TD = 6 TD = 4 TD = 6 TD = 4 TD = 6
Low 12.1 14.6 Low 8.5 9.8 Low 11.4 13.4
Median 13.7 16.6 Median 11.5 13.5 Median 13.8 16.7
High 15.9 19.3 High 13.4 16.2 High 16.1 19.4

Tannehill and Bradford are in a virtual dead heat to be selected QB19 in redraft. In both of the dynasty startups I’ve participated in this summer, they’ve been selected well ahead of Dalton (Tannehill, 11, 14; Bradford 12, 12; Dalton 15, 16). A quick glimpse at Tannehill’s projections, and it’s pretty clear he’s among the most overvalued players in fantasy football.

Bradford’s numbers are identical to Dalton’s at the median and high levels while trailing just slightly at the low level. I would agree with the projections on all three counts, but also suggest that while Tavon Austin has gotten all the hype, Bernard and Eifert together should make a bigger impact.

Final Thoughts

Most of the RotoViz writers love Bradford, and I agree that he remains potentially undervalued at his current ADP. I still have grave concerns about the sleeper status of Bradford and Jared Cook and believe even better values exist in the same range. (If you need more convincing on stealth stars like Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub, check out the FanSided article. I promise it will pique your interest and then you can come back here to see why Schaub is going to reprise his 2009 season.)

Meanwhile, Andy Dalton is likely to fall in your league – just as he did in ours – and get snapped up by one of the strongest players. In the RDL, that player goes by the appellation Fantasy Douche. In your league, it should be you.

Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.
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