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Fantasy Football Sleeper: Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

By Keith Hernandez

I know it's early, but I'm developing some love for Andy Dalton as a sleeper QB in 2013 already. I really like the way the Cincinnati Bengals' offense is shaping up heading into the summer.

In the draft, they added two playmakers on offense that could make immediate impacts. Tyler Eifert, the consensus No. 1 tight end by a land slide in the draft class, went to the Bengals 21st overall. Cincy surprised many and made Giovani Bernard, a running back out of North Carolina, the first runner off the board with the fifth pick of the second round.

Cincinatti Bengals QB Andy Dalton
Dalton: QB1 many weeks

Although the Bengals' O-line allowed the seventh most amount of sacks (46) last year, they enter 2013 as a top-10 ranked offensive line. A good chunk of the sacks were probably on Dalton. They can protect with the best of them, and they'll open plenty of running lanes for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard.

Bernard should see a decent amount of work to complement the Law Firm, especially since Bernard Scott is rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 5. Bernard can catch passes, too, making their running attack more diverse. This will only help Dalton.

Dalton hasn't had a lot of help in his two seasons under center in the receiving game outside of A.J. Green. Green is probably the best wideout in the NFL just behind Calvin Johnson, and he's justifiably Dalton's favorite target.

The Bengals are no longer relying on a power-running game and a strong defense these days. They're diversifying their offensive attack through the air, and they've assembled the pieces to allow them to stretch the field and score often and quickly. It began last year, when the coaching staff allowed Dalton to do a little more; he attempted 12 more passes than his rookie season and delivered, raising his completion percentage from 58.1 percent to 62.3 percent. He also improved in yardage (3,669) and TDs (27) but threw three more picks than in 2011.

Mohamed Sanu, entering his second year, could become more of a threat if he can play a full season and take some attention away from Green. He has the size to become a beast, as well, but it won't happen immediately. Regardless, he and Andrew Hawkins can hurt opponents if they put all their eggs in Green's basket.

At tight end, Jermaine Gresham has disappointed in black and orange, but with more viable weapons around him, maybe that boosts his production. Eifert isn't as versed in blocking schemes as Gresham is, so we might see Eifert in more obvious passing situations out of the slot. Two-tight end sets will give enemy D's more looks and more to think about.

Dalton will come into his third season more experienced and likely more confident with more at his disposal. This vertical offense can be downright scary and will be able to put up points in a hurry. I doubt Dalton immediately comes to mind when others think of QB1s, but I promise he'll deliver that kind of production more often than not. You'll be set if he's your backup in 2013.


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