​Are Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor Every-Week Starters for Fantasy Football Teams?

Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor have produced well through the first three games of the season, but can this production continue?

The first three weeks of the 2015 NFL season have been marked by surprises and key injuries at quarterback that have left many fantasy owners wondering what they have at the position.

Early in the season we have seen under-performances by Andrew Luck and a handful of middle-tiered quarterbacks like Sam Bradford or Ryan Tannehill. Many owners drafted these players to be every week starters for their fantasy teams. Additionally, notable injuries to Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger have left their owners without an every week quarterback.

Thankfully for owners who are in need of quarterback help, we may have seen the emergence of two quarterbacks, Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor, who both posted strong early season returns. According to FantasyPros, Dalton and Taylor were not drafted as every week starters, as evidenced by being the 23rd and 24th quarterbacks drafted overall. Because these players were not selected as every week starters, owners who took a late-round flier or recently picked up these quarterbacks may be left wondering if they can trust them for the rest of the year.

Are Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor every week starters now, or have these two players taken advantage of soft early season matchups? Let’s look at their prospects for the rest of the season.

How Good Have They Been?

According to, Dalton and Taylor are currently the third and fifth ranked quarterbacks respectively through three weeks.

In the case of Dalton, he finished 9th, 12th, and 2nd in quarterback scoring through the first three weeks of the season, averaging 23.6 fantasy points per game. Taylor has finished 14th, 6th, and 4th in quarterback scoring and averaged 22.1 fantasy points over this time period.

In addition to finishing strong in fantasy points, both players have been very efficient with their play. Here at numberFire, we use Net Expected Points (NEP) to determine player efficiency by comparing the player’s production to league expectation level. (Check out our glossary for more information on NEP.) Both have also been efficient with their opportunity, ranking in the top 10 in Passing NEP.

Despite the strong individual performances, there is still a question of whether the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills can support a strong enough offense to produce consistent offensive fantasy numbers for our fake teams. In years past, each team has had a reputation of executing a rather bland, run-first game plan. Can these two offensives support passing production?

Breaking Down the Offenses

The narrative of both teams being run-based has been true through the first three games of the season. The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills ranked in the bottom three (along with the Minnesota Vikings) in offensive pass-to-run ratio. Despite the run-based approach, both teams have managed to produce strong passing numbers.

Based on our Adjusted Passing NEP per play metric, the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills rank fourth and seventh in passing offense so far this sesaon. Although the passing volume has not been there, both offenses have produced strong passing statistics based on efficiency.

In the case of the Bengals, Dalton finally has his full complement of healthy targets in A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Marvin Jones. To date, pass-catching back, Giovani Bernard has also earned plenty of snaps recently and provides another passing option for Dalton out of the backfield. While the Bengals' offensive game plan is more run-heavy given certain matchups, the upside of Dalton’s targets should keep him fantasy-relevant. In a Week 1 matchup against the Oakland Raiders that featured a run-heavy game script, Dalton still finished ninth in quarterback scoring. 

Although his targets aren’t as heralded as Dalton’s, Taylor can rely on a strong run game, anchored by LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams, who leads the league in Rushing NEP through three weeks. In addition, Taylor has found chemistry with pass catchers Percy Harvin and Charles Clay. The more regarded Sammy Watkins is currently nursing a calf injury, but he has also flashed at moments during the season (Week 2 versus the New England Patriots). Thus, Taylor’s underrated offensive skill position players should also be able to help him produce.

Even though the Bengals and Bills have featured run-based offenses and still do so far this season, they have still been able to generate passing production based on efficiency and with talented skill position players. A look at the future schedule can also provide insight on future returns.

What Can the Schedule Tell Us?

The defenses that Dalton and Taylor have faced have not exactly been the 1976 Steel Curtain Steelers. Neither player has faced a top-10 pass defense yet, according to our metrics, though their success has played a part in that.

The table below diagrams the regular season schedule for Dalton and Taylor, and the strength of the pass defenses that they will face.

Here is Dalton's schedule.

Week Opponent Adj D Pass NEP Rank Week Opponent Adj D Pass NEP Rank
1 @Oak 31st 9 Cle 15th
2 SD 13th 10 Hou 9th
3 @Bal 19th 11 @Ari 2nd
4 KC 18th 12 Stl 12th
5 Sea 11th 13 @Cle 15th
6 @Buf 7th 14 Pit 23rd
7 BYE   15 @SF 26th
8 @Pit 23rd 16 @Den 1st

For Dalton, the schedule gets tougher after his Week 4 match with the Kansas City Chiefs. Of his remaining games, he will face 6 top-12 pass defenses, including a brutal Week 16 game with the Denver Broncos. Overall, Dalton is looking at a mix of opponent level in terms of pass defenses, though he will get four (pretty promising) divisional games between Week 4 and Week 16.

Further, a Week 15 matchup against the 49ers (after a home game against Pittsburgh) could make Dalton a prime target for fantasy playoff success even if the Week 16 matchup is a nightmare.

What about Taylor?

WeekOpponentAdj D Pass NEP RankWeekOpponentAdj D Pass NEP Rank
8BYE 16Dal14th

For Taylor, the schedule is much lighter, with only 4 of the remaining games against top-12 defenses and 4 games against bottom-12 defenses. These favorable games include matchups with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, who he's already performed well against.

While Taylor's upcoming games offer some beatable secondaries, he faces 3 top-10 defenses (based on our ranks through Week 3) in a 5-week span during the second half of the season. His rushing upside can help mitigate the tougher matchups, but for now, the upcoming schedule is promising. And that's a good sign.

Are They Every-Week Starters?

Dalton’s recent performances and offense shows promise that he can continue to produce, especially in favorable matchups. As has been the case historically, start Dalton with some confidence in favorable pass matchups; however, because we haven’t seen him play against top-12 pass defenses, it’s advisable to roster a second quarterback for the upcoming difficult games against the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills to see if he’s truly matchup proof.

Based on his softer schedule and past performances, Taylor can be started with confidence until he proves us otherwise. His continued passing efficiency and rushing volume is making him a high-floor quarterback -- at least in positive matchups.