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)
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)
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.
- 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
- 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
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.
THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB
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:
Preseason Watch List: AFC North - July 22
Preseason Watch List: AFC South - July 22
Preseason Watch List: NFC South - July 22
Player Spotlight: Andre Ellington - July 21
Preseason Watch List: AFC West - July 21
Preseason Watch List: NFC West - July 21
Preseason Watch List: AFC East - July 21
Preseason Watch List: NFC East - July 21
Player Spotlight: Andrew Luck - July 14
Player Spotlight: Keenan Allen - July 11