(“Metrics that Matter” is a short feature that appears several times a week, highlighting a notable fantasy lesson to be learned from PFF’s advanced stats.)
On a podcast last week, I was asked to play a fantasy football-related trivia game. I was tasked with guessing the name of a specific player based on a number of (very obvious) hints regarding his statistics. I’m typically great with statistics and most football-related trivia questions, but in this instance, I failed miserably. If I had been asked the same question off-air, I’m sure I would have guessed correctly within the first hint. So why did I draw a blank? Because I’m the 2016 Andy Dalton of fantasy football analysts – I’m terrible under pressure.
- Last season, Andy Dalton posted a passer rating of 91.8. This ranked 16th-best among all 30 quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts.
- When under pressure, his passer rating fell to 57.1, which ranked seventh-worst.
- When blitzed, he posted a passer rating of 76.2, which ranked fourth-worst.
I’m not sure this is just a one-year outlier either. Since he entered the league, Dalton ranks 14th-worst in passer rating when under pressure, among all 39 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts over that stretch.
The Bengals offensive line was responsible for 28 of the sacks of Bengals QBs last season, which ranked third-most. Our data suggest Dalton was more to blame in this category than the offensive line. As a team, the Bengals surrendered only 181 pressures, which ranked sixth-fewest. Dalton was sacked on 22.7 percent of his pressured dropbacks last season, which ranked highest among all 30 qualifying quarterbacks.
Last season, Cincinnati’s two highest-graded offensive players were Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Whitworth was our second-highest-graded pass-blocking tackle last season, and led all tackles in pass blocking efficiency. Whitworth has been one of our three highest-graded pass-blocking tackles in five of his past seven seasons, and top-10 in six of his past seven. Zeitler was our fourth-highest-graded pass-blocking guard last season. He has ranked top-six in pass-blocking efficiency in each the past three seasons. He has played on 2,229 snaps over the past two seasons, and over that span, has allowed only one sack.
Neither Whitworth or Zeitler will be playing for the Bengals in 2017. In one offseason, it appears Dalton will go from having one of the best offensive lines in the league to one of the worst. Here’s his projected offensive line in 2017:
What does this mean?
Throughout his career, but especially last season, Dalton struggled immensely when under pressure. Given the current state of the offensive line, we should expect Dalton to be pressured at a higher rate this season. It seems safe to conclude then that we should also expect a decline in efficiency.
There is cause for optimism, however. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert combined to miss 14 games last season. Both expect to be ready by Week 1. The team also drafted wide receiver John Ross in the first round.
Last season, Bengals quarterbacks recorded a 116.3 passer rating when targeting Green — eighth-best among all wide receivers to see at least 65 targets last season. In 2015, Bengals quarterbacks averaged a 145.1 passer rating when targeting Tyler Eifert — highest among all receivers to see at least 50 targets. Last season, University of Washington quarterbacks averaged a 131.7 passer rating when targeting Ross, 11th-best of all 149 wide receivers to see at least 75 targets last season.
Although Dalton clearly benefits from an improved receiving corps in 2017, assuming everyone stays healthy, I still don’t think this completely offsets the state of the offensive line.
In MFL10 fantasy leagues, Dalton is being selected as the No. 16 quarterback off the board. With Philip Rivers going No. 15 and Tyrod Taylor going No. 18, I'd much prefer either option to Dalton.