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Player Spotlight: Dez Bryant

A detailed look at Dez Bryant's fantasy prospects for 2013

DEZ BRYANT IS A GROWN MAN

That may seem like an odd way to start our analysis of Bryant, but it's actually the most important aspect of his career development.  Bryant has always had the physical talent, the rare combination of size, speed and strength to dominate his opponents. His dominance at Oklahoma State told us he had the receiving skills to excel at the NFL level. Studying his film is all a scout should've needed to confidently project Bryant as a future star.

What we didn't know, and quickly came to doubt is whether Bryant had the maturity to let his physical talents flourish.  Unless you're new to the sport you've heard the stories. The cautionary tales. The near legal misses. The Deion Sanders soliloquy. So it's understandable if you missed the turn. I can't blame you if you passed on Bryant last year and in turn let your league mate enjoy his dominance.

  • 92 receptions
  • 1,382 yards
  • 15.0 yards per reception
  • 12 touchdowns
  • 210 fantasy points
  • #3 fantasy WR

But this year you have no excuses. Bryant seems to have cast aside the follies of youth. His head is on straight and that means the NFC East is in for a lot of frustrating matchups against the Cowboys.

SCARY THOUGHT -- LAST YEAR'S DOMINANCE WAS THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG 

As if 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns weren't enough to convince fantasy owners that Bryant is a premier fantasy commodity, we need to realize that he's capable of MUCH MORE. That may seem like a bold proclamation, but consider the fact that Bryant's dominance in 2012 really came in the second half of the season.

2012 Fantasy WR Rankings (Weeks 1 through 9)

RankName RecsRecYdsTDsFPTs
1 A.J. Green 51 735 8 123.2
2 Brandon Marshall 59 797 7 121.7
3 Victor Cruz 57 717 7 113.7
4 Vincent Jackson 31 710 6 107.0
5 Percy Harvin 62 677 3 101.5
6 Reggie Wayne 61 835 3 101.5
7 Eric Decker 46 583 7 100.3
8 Demaryius Thomas 45 760 4 100.0
9 Marques Colston 44 626 6 98.6
10 Randall Cobb 45 500 6 95.6
11 Roddy White 47 709 4 94.9
12 Julio Jones 40 628 5 94.7
13 James Jones 40 462 8 94.2
14 Miles Austin 41 637 4 87.7
15 Andre Roberts 40 540 5 85.8
16 Wes Welker 60 736 2 85.6
17 Mike Wallace 39 525 5 83.3
18 Jordy Nelson 40 532 5 83.2
19 Calvin Johnson 48 767 1 82.7
20 Larry Fitzgerald 51 585 4 82.5
21 Mike Williams 29 504 5 80.4
22 Torrey Smith 29 481 5 79.4
23 Dwayne Bowe 45 567 3 74.7
24 DeSean Jackson 36 624 2 73.5
25 Denarius Moore 30 485 4 72.5
26 Brian Hartline 41 662 1 72.2
27 Nate Washington 29 461 4 70.1
28 Steve Smith 38 630 1 70.0
29 Andre Johnson 42 562 2 68.2
30 Sidney Rice 32 421 4 67.7
31 Steve Johnson 35 416 4 65.6
32 Josh Gordon 19 409 4 64.9
33 Cecil Shorts 23 456 3 63.2
34 Malcom Floyd 33 509 2 62.9
35 Michael Crabtree 39 440 3 62.8
36 Dez Bryant 42 503 2 62.3
37 Brandon Lloyd 37 435 3 61.5
38 Lance Moore 33 494 2 61.4
39 Santana Moss 24 313 5 61.3
40 Jeremy Kerley 30 478 2 60.0
41 Golden Tate 24 277 5 59.7

In the first half of the season, Bryant was a replacement level fantasy receiver, ranking 36th. He was essentially the lowest ranked WR3 in a 12-team league. But then the light switch went on...

2012 Fantasy WR Rankings (Weeks 10 through 17)

RankName RecsRecYdsTDsFPTs
1 Dez Bryant 50 879 10 147.4
2 Calvin Johnson 74 1197 4 143.7
3 Andre Johnson 70 1036 2 115.6
4 Demaryius Thomas 49 678 6 103.8
5 Michael Crabtree 46 665 6 102.5
6 Danario Alexander 34 597 7 101.7
7 Brandon Marshall 59 711 4 94.9
8 Justin Blackmon 41 640 4 90.3
9 Julio Jones 39 571 5 88.2
10 Wes Welker 58 618 4 87.8
11 Eric Decker 39 481 6 84.1
12 T.Y. Hilton 26 506 5 83.4
13 Roddy White 45 642 3 82.2
14 A.J. Green 46 618 3 81.9
15 Vincent Jackson 41 674 2 79.4
16 Lance Moore 32 547 4 78.7
17 Marques Colston 39 528 4 76.8
18 Cecil Shorts 32 523 4 76.3
19 Steve Johnson 44 630 2 75.0
20 Mike Williams 34 492 4 74.6

DOMINANCE. In the second half of the season, Bryant was the best receiver in football. He was impossible to defend. He even outscored Megatron. Process that for a second, he even outscored Calvin Johnson. The point here is to understand that what we saw from Bryant last year was a steady progression from talented but underachieving enigma to dominant, elite powerhouse. That was not a fluke, and by all accounts Bryant has looked even more unstoppable thus far in the preseason. 

POSITIVES

  • Bryant has no physical weaknesses, he's a prototypical receiver 
  • Tony Romo is one of the leagues most accurate passers and has a clear chemistry with Bryant
  • The maturity finally seems to have caught up with the skill set

NEGATIVES

  • Although it seems like Bryant has grown up, there is always a chance he hasn't fully matured
  • Bill Callahan hasn't called plays in the NFL in a decade
  • the Cowboys offensive line is suspect, and the offense would stutter if Romo gets hurt

FINAL THOUGHTS

Dez Bryant put on a clinic last year, and ascended to the elite tier. As long as his head is on straight - and I think it is - Bryant should be a dominant fantasy WR1 for years to come. Don't hesitate to target Bryant in the late second round and if he's still on the board in the third he should be a priority.

PROJECTIONS

 GRSHYDY/RTDRECYDY/RTDFPT
David Dodds 16 3 20 6.7 0 87 1288 14.8 11 197
Bob Henry 14 3 35 11.7 0 88 1320 15.0 13 214
Jason Wood 16 0 0 0.0 0 90 1400 15.6 11 206
Maurile Tremblay 16 1 8 8.0 0 88 1282 14.6 9 183

THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB

Justin Bonnema of Fake Football is drinking the Dez Bryant Kool Aid: 

Nonetheless, I can fearlessly say that Bryant is a rare talent, which he proved during the last half of last season. Make no mistake about it; he will receive plenty of attention from both quarterback and corner back alike. Bracket coverage will be a mainstay for the next five or so years. But like Johnson, he has the skills to turn double coverage into mismatches and subsequent touchdowns.

So allow me to pour you a glass and challenge your palate. I promise that by the end of it, you’ll be coming back for more.

John Paulsen of 4for4.com notes that Bryant led the league in second half improvement

Dez Bryant leads the pack with an outstanding second half of the season. He averaged 6.3 catches for 110 yards and 1.13 TDs in his last eight games. That projects to 101-1760-18 (or 284 fantasy points) over the course of a 16-game season. Since 2001, only Randy Moss (2003, 2007) and Calvin Johnson (2011) scored more than 260 FP in a season, so Bryant finished on a torrid pace. He’s the real deal.


More from Jason Wood:

On Second Thought: Defenses and Kickers - August 28
On Second Thought: Running Backs - August 28
On Second Thought: Tight Ends - August 28
On Second Thought: Quarterbacks - August 28
On Second Thought: Wide Receivers - August 28
What If Roddy White or Julio Jones Are Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Robert Griffin III Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Cecil Shorts Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
Player Spotlight: Philip Rivers - August 8
Player Spotlight: Jordan Cameron - August 7