Andy Dalton: The Most Undervalued Player in Fantasy Football

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Why do redheads get such a bad rap? Are we intimidated by the fiery brilliance of their hair? Jealous that they’re more follically unique? Brainwashed by that one South Park episode from 2005? For anyone maintaining a prejudice against gingers, here is a list of incredible people you may be surprised were or are redheads: Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus (you know, he sailed the ocean blue), Galileo (basically invented science), Oscar-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Sansa Stark, the list goes on.

And Andy Dalton. That’s right, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback — and famous redhead — who is being unfairly excluded from fantasy teams across the country. Enough is enough. Dalton has fallen in drafts for far too long. Set your presuppositions aside and take a look at the facts — facts that make Dalton the most undervalued fantasy football player in 2017.

Check out where Andy, Mike, and Jason have Andy Dalton in their QB rankings and Top 200 found in the Ultimate Draft Kit.

The History

Like many of the notable gingers mentioned above, Dalton has a reputable and impressive history. For some reason, the fantasy community is intent on forgetting it. These are his fantasy finishes in standard leagues since coming into the NFL.

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While it may not be all that impressive at first glance, here are a couple key notes to consider. First, Dalton was the No. 5 QB in all of fantasy in 2013, despite a monstrous 20 interceptions. Second, his 2015 pace — before an unfortunate thumb fracture cost him almost four full games — was 18.8 fantasy points per game, which would have made him the No. 7 QB, one spot above Aaron Rodgers. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Dalton has never finished worse than 18th among quarterbacks, despite a flood of bad luck and injuries to himself and his key pass-catchers.

In other words, Dalton is currently being drafted right around his floor, as Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP numbers have him at QB17 in standard drafts.

The Arsenal

This undervaluation would be concerning enough if The Red Rifle was wielding the same weapons in the same states of health as last season — when A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovani Bernard all missed time with injuries. But it’s plain criminal when you consider the cast he could have in 2017.

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A.J. Green is fully healthy following a hamstring injury in 2016, and even hopes to play another seven seasons in the NFL. Whether that’s possible or not, Green is a downright elite wide receiver when he’s on the field, and elevates Dalton’s play in all areas.

Tyler Eifert also claims to be 100% healthy after having back surgery in December and is a key cog in Dalton’s expected touchdown regression. That’s positive regression to the mean we’re talking about, as the 29-year-old QB posted a measly 18 touchdowns last year on an outlier 3.2% TD rate (touchdowns per passing attempt). Eifert has scored a Gronk-like 18 times over his past 21 games and could help skyrocket Dalton’s touchdown total if he remains healthy.

Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport

There’s also the return of Giovani Bernard, one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, who missed six games in 2016 with a torn ACL. Bernard has averaged 3.4 receptions per game over the course of his career and can be a huge help out of the backfield when Dalton needs to check it down.

And we’re not done yet. The Bengals also drafted talented running back Joe Mixon, and the all-time fastest combine participant, wide receiver John Ross. Mixon provides additional pass-catching expertise from the RB position and Ross could stretch the field for Dalton like a DeSean Jackson in his prime.

With Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell also in the mix, and fourth-round rookie Josh Malone as well, it’s pretty clear this is Dalton’s best set of skill-players to date, and his ceiling is being massively underestimated.

The Potential and the Value

Dalton has delivered two straight seasons of less than 10 interceptions after struggling with mistakes earlier in his career. His receiving corps is better than it has ever been. He’s right at the peak of the quarterback age curve as far as historical performance. He plays for a solid NFL team with a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.

All signs are pointing up for Dalton, and both his floor and his ceiling are incredibly high. Barring a litany of injuries in Cincinnati, tempered expectations for Dalton should be right around QB13, which is his average finish over a six-year career. But considering his increased maturity — and weaponry — I see no reason he can’t surpass his 2013 numbers while heavily reducing the interception total. That could mean a stat line on the order of 4,400 yards, 35 total touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, which would not only make him an easy QB1 in fantasy, but likely earn him another top five finish at the position.

All this from a quarterback going in the 12th round of standard drafts, Dalton is an absolutely ideal late-round QB target and a steal in 2QB leagues. While your league mates waste mid-round picks on Derek Carr and Jameis Winston, you can stock up on skill position sleepers and grab your starting quarterback five rounds later.

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Whatever Eric Cartman may say, Andy Dalton does have a soul — and he also has the value to win you a fantasy title.

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