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Spotlight: Dez Bryant

posted by Will Grant on Aug 10th


Will Grant's thoughts

As rookie WRs go, Dez Bryant had an above average season until he went down to an ankle injury and was lost for the season. In his 12 games, Bryant posted 561 yards receiving and added six TDS. After a slow start, he finally reached the end zone in week six. He proceeded to score at least one TD in four of the next five games, and was well on his way to a solid season before being blanked by the Saints in week 12. While he definitely made a few rookie mistakes, his passion for the game is strong and he made a few athletic catches as well, proving the Cowboys really have future star in the making.

Bryant's injury concerns are behind him
He had surgery in December to repair the ankle damage he sustained in week 13 and fully recovered during the off season. He was off of crutches by January of this year and was doing light jogging by March. He attended most of the player-hosted workout this season and performed well during that time. Teammates remarked at his work ethic and supported him in his recovery process. He also lost 10 pounds over the summer, adding even more speed to his game. He was cleared to play again at the end of July and is working hard with his team preparing for the upcoming season.

Off the field issues are still a challenge for Bryant
He ran into several legal and financial issues over the summer, causing a distraction and showing that he may not be as mature as the Cowboys would have hoped by this point. Bryant's mentor, Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders publically cut ties to Bryant, and recently blasted him again in the media for not being focused on himself and his career. Bryant has quietly dealt with his off the field issues and provided minimal responses to criticism from Sanders. In practice, he remains very focused and dedicated to improving on his rookie season.

2011 will be a season of opportunity for Bryant
He's been working closely with QB Tony Romo during the player-only camps this summer, and both will be 100% when the season starts. Veteran Roy Williams was competing with Bryant in a very public battle last summer, but has since been released. Bryant is now working out with the first team, shadowing Miles Austin and working hard to learn the new playbook (a challenge for him in the past). With all obstacles removed, Bryant will be given every opportunity to shine this season and should make the best of it.

Positives

  • Great physical skills. He's big, fast and very athletic. A true threat to score every time he touches the ball
  • Bryant and Romo are back to full strength and have been working with each other all summer
  • Departure of Roy Williams means Bryant is the starter and he can focus on improving his game rather than proving he is better than Williams

Negatives

  • Off the field maturity issues are still a concern. His teammates are all publically supporting him, but that could also be a sign that he needs the support to avoid slipping back into bad habits
  • Injuries are still a concern. He'll be seeing more playing time against physical corners, and he will also be returning kicks. Can he make it a full season this year?
  • Competition for receptions is still pretty fierce. Miles Austin and Jason Witten are both coming off of disappointing seasons, and all three will be looking to improve on last year's totals

Final thoughts

Quiet optimism is probably the best approach with Dez Bryant. He has a great opportunity to really catapult himself into the elite tier of NFL and fantasy WRs this season if he can stay healthy. Romo will spread the ball around, which may lead to a few inconsistent performances, but overall Bryant has the potential to be a solid WR2. If he can put his off the field issues behind him and focus on improving his game, Bryant has the potential for a 1000 yard, 10 TD season. However, caution is advised because he still has a lot to prove and he's on a team with a ton of talent around him. Bryant can be a very special player, or he can fade back into obscurity this season as well. Resist the urge to over-draft him this year, but if you can land him as your WR2, be happy with the upside that he brings to the table.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

LHUCKS said:

Dez Bryant oozes athleticism but looked a bit unpolished at times with his route running and pass catching. That being said Terrel Owens proved you can get away with a few technical deficiencies early on in your career if you can outrun and outjump defenders so I wouldn't be surprised if Dez follows a similar path.

Another issue for Dez will be targets. Miles Austin and Witten are Pro Bowl players that will want the ball and rarely do you have tier one fantasy players at all three positions.

I'm lukewarm on Dez mostly because of opportunity as I think his targets may see an above average deviation from game to game, Romo has too many weapons and will try to spread the ball while Dez is still refining his game.

rzrback77 said:

I do not doubt the talents of Dez Bryant, but I think the combination of his kh (knuckle-head) factor as well as the abundance of other offensive weapons (Austin, Witten, Felix, D. Murray, and maybe still Roy) in Dallas will limit his chances more than most others will think. I doubt that he will be drafted by me.

Bankerguy said:

From a fantasy perspective Dez might be one the players who could make or break your roster. From watching him very closely last year I can assure you he is already the most talented pass catching option on the Cowboys. However, he is also not a slam dunk FF stud as of yet.

Pros
-Fantastic hands
-Physical WR with outstanding body control
-Strong offensive team that can spread out defenses and attack in numerous ways.
-The swinging gate at RT should be fixed allowing for a more vertical passing game that Garrett likes to run.
-I project (Have heard Garrett discuss in PC's) that the Cowboys will move away from the 22 package as their base offense and move to the 11 package. This bodes well for the pass game and for Dez.
-Redzone stud.

Cons
-Miles Austin and Jason Witten have to factor in huge when projecting Dez. It will be VERY tough imo to project TD's. A swing of 5-7 TD's up or down is not out of the question because of the strenth of the surrounding cast.
-Injuries. He plays hard and does kickoffs, its not out of the question to see him knicked up and miss a couple of games, although I rarely forecast injuries.
-His off-season has been a bit troubling

Overall
Kid is a player and all heart on the field. It's hard to miss the upside here with an asterisk. Dez will be an integral part of the Cowbows offense.

Ridgelake said:

Dez is the most physically gifted receiver in Dallas. But last year his relationship with Romo was off because he did not know the play book. Romo didn't trust him to be where he was supposed to be. If Romo is the QB all season, Dez's numbers will be dependent upon how well he's learned the playbook.

This is one impact of the lockout. Not having someone stay on top of him and keep him working is likely to hurt Dez more than most. Of all the guys on the roster, he most of all needed this offseason program to develop.

I believe he will have highly volatile numbers week to week. His physical ability will lend to some monster games. But his still-developing mental game will likely cause some bad ones too.

2012 is when I think he ascends to stardom.

fightingillini said:

Dez Bryant is a guy that I will try to draft in every league that I am in. Incredible talent, and with Austin on the other side, you can't easily double team him. With Romo back to throwing for 4000+ yards, there will be opportunity for Bryant to shine. It's clearly a WR1a/WR1b situation in Dallas. With the DAL D looking suspect, DAL is going to have to light up the scoreboard to win games. Has a ton of upside.


Dez Bryant projections

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Will Grant669571000
Message board consensus719911000