Today's Pigskin

December 13 2015: Quarterback Andy Dalton (14) of the Cincinnati Bengals throws against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter of the Bengals 33-20 loss at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photograph by Mark Lyons/Icon Sportswire)
Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton is an underrated fantasy quarterback

(Photograph by Mark Lyons/Icon Sportswire)

The Cincinnati Bengals’ 2015 season ended in familiar fashion — with a disappointing and very unbelievable postseason defeat, the franchise’s seventh straight.

The last team Cincinnati beat in the playoffs was the Houston Oilers. That team moved to Tennessee and changed its name almost two decades ago, so that should give everybody an idea of how long it’s been since the Bengals experienced postseason success.

For once, though, it wasn’t Andy Dalton’s fault.

He suffered an injury in December and wasn’t able to play during the postseason. Although the “Red Rifle” has yet to answer his doubters and deliver a postseason victory, fantasy owners should like what he did through the first three months of the regular season last year.

Dalton officially played 13 games, but in Week 14, he only played one series. For all intents and purposes, let’s forget about that 13th game and only look at his three-quarters of a season.

In those first 12 games, Dalton had 3,191 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also had 142 rushing yards and three scores on the ground. That means he was on pace to post about 4,255 yards, 33 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.

As explained in this week’s Fantasy Football Podcast, it’s not always fair to extrapolate stats from a handful of games over the course of a whole season. Players rarely keep up with averages from small sample sizes.

Dalton’s case is slightly different for a couple of reasons. For one, 12 contests isn’t a handful of games, so extrapolating that is a little bit more understandable. Plus, he’s a veteran player, and not some rookie who could have just been a one-hit wonder.

Anybody who watched Dalton last season saw a vastly improved signal caller. He’s actually always been a good September quarterback, but even after the calendar changed to October, he threw multiple touchdowns in six of eight games. He also had two rushing touchdowns during that time.

Assuming the “Red Rifle” would have maintained his pace through 13 weeks, Dalton would have joined Tom Brady and Russell Wilson as the only other quarterbacks with at least 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and under 10 interceptions.

Plus, Dalton was on pace for 189 rushing yards and four more scores. With that included, he would have ranked fourth among quarterbacks in standard scoring behind only Brady, Wilson and Cam Newton. Even if his play dipped just a bit in December, Dalton likely would have posted a top-five fantasy season among quarterbacks.

And for owners who love consistency, he scored at least 18 points in 10-of-12 games in standard scoring formats.

It’s the season-ending injury and poor postseason reputation that’s keeping Dalton underrated in the minds of owners this summer. The consensus rankings at Fantasy Pros rate him the No. 18 quarterback and 123rd overall. There are so many great quarterbacks, so it’s understandable for Dalton to be outside QB1 range, but that far outside of it is pretty outrageous.

Again, he has potential to be a top five quarterback if completely healthy.

That’s what makes him a complete steal in the 13th round of 10-team leagues. Wait on quarterback as we have been suggesting for weeks, targeting somebody like Philip Rivers or Blake Bortles in the middle rounds and then grab Dalton as a backup after the 10th. Teams that do that will be absolutely set under center.

Another interesting strategy would be pairing Dalton with Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback is going to miss the first four games of the year, but Dalton plays his best football in September. Over his career, he’s averaged 16.5 fantasy points during the first month of the year. Then when Brady returns, owners will potentially have two QB1s and didn’t use a pick before the seventh round to acquire them.

Either way, Dalton is a guy owners should be targeting as a very strong backup and potential starter this fall.

Andy Dalton is an underrated fantasy quarterback

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