Why Andy Dalton Can Continue His Fantasy Football Tear
The Cincinnati Bengals finally look like they can get over the hump this year -- offensively, at least.
And much of the credit for the Bengals' success so far this year (the offense ranks third in the NFL according to our metrics) should go to two specific people: Hue Jackson and Andy Dalton.
In fantasy football, when the late-round quarterback strategy is employed, it can hit big. This year, it's yielded some amazing results, and no quarterback used from this strategy has outperformed Dalton. On a points per game basis, Tom Brady is actually the only quarterback outscoring Dalton. And, to be honest, Brady was a late-round target in many leagues because of his supposed suspension.
Although Dalton has had success previously in pretend pigskin, he wasn't taken as a legitimate option -- for most -- at quarterback before the season. While quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill received breakout hype prior to the year starting, Dalton was left as just another streaming quarterback option.
Now, Dalton has vaulted himself in to the top tier of fantasy quarterback options. And for many reasons, he should remain there all year long.
While much is made of A.J. Green -- and rightfully so -- the entire Bengals' offense has a plethora of talent that makes this offense a high-powered machine. In terms of Net Expected Points (NEP), the Bengals lead the NFL with an 85.83 Adjusted (for schedule) Passing NEP, which accounts to a 14.31 per-game average, which is almost a full point ahead of the almighty New England Patriots.
This should come as no surprise, as Cincinnati boasts one of the top combinations of skill players, with a top-10 wide receiver in Green, a top-5 tight end in Tyler Eifert and a top-10 running back in Giovani Bernard. With a supporting cast as stacked as this, it's easy to instill confidence in a quarterback and see him succeed.
Although Green is a volatile weekly must-play for his owners due to the overall talent on offense for Cincinnati, he's the 10th-ranked wide receiver among those with 19 or more targets with a 0.88 Reception NEP per target. Their number-two receiver, Marvin Jones, and slot receiver, Mohamed Sanu, are also producing at high levels, as they rank 36th and 18th among the qualifiers within this metric, respectively.
In other words, Dalton's working with some really strong wide receivers.
And then there's Tyler Eifert. Against Seattle, Eifert displayed his prowess, as he turned his 12 targets in to 8 receptions for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. Among tight ends, Eifert's third with a 36.49 Reception NEP total, and on a per target basis, he still ranks fifth.
While Jeremy Hill is in the midst of a sophomore slump, his running mate, Giovani Bernard, is producing at a high level. Although Bernard has produced only one 100-yard rushing game this year, he's averaging an impressive 5.5 yards per carry. Bernard's work on the ground is no fluke, as his Rushing Success Rate -- the percentage of runs that contribute positively towards NEP -- is 50.6%, ranking him fifth among running backs with at least 40 carries. Additionally, Bernard has the second highest Rushing NEP and the fourth highest Rushing NEP per rush average.
The overall balance and skill in the offense provide all the help that Dalton needs to remain a top fantasy quarterback option.
Although the schedule going forward for the Bengals isn't the most friendly -- they play against three of the top-10 teams in terms of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP -- Dalton has hit the point where it's honestly safe to call him matchup proof.
Dalton has already faced two of the top-10 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP teams in Seattle (with Kam Chancellor) and Buffalo. In both of these tough matchups, Dalton produced QB1 numbers, accumulating 26 and 21 fantasy points, respectively.
While the Broncos, Cardinals, and Rams all present strong challenges going forward, Dalton has shown a willingness to spread the ball around to the open receiver rather than force it where it should not go. In matchups like these, he can still succeed passing the ball to the combination of Jones, Eifert, and Sanu if Green struggles at all against any of these teams' top cornerback options. That hasn't always been the case.
Though our projections have Dalton ranked as the 10th best quarterback for the rest of the season, his games against the Browns and 49ers, bottom 12 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP teams, should help boost his value for the rest of the year. These games should also help increase Green's value and usage, which will help Dalton out even more going forward.
Things are about to get tougher, sure, but Dalton's shown us that this isn't the typical season from him. This is his best yet.