The broken bone in Dez Bryant’s foot represents the first real earthquake, a shift of plate tectonics in fantasy leagues that instantly changes the outlook for many Cowboys players and fantasy teams. Whether you own Bryant or not, you should be spending a lot of time thinking this week about the wisdom of executing a trade with him in it.
When will Dez be back?
We’ve heard anything from 4-6 weeks to 8-12 weeks, but 6-8 weeks is the typical return from this type of surgery, and Dez tends to be on the under of these kinds of propositions. Our Dr. Jene Bramel weighed in yesterday:
The Cowboys have a bye in Week 6. I think it would take a miracle recovery for Bryant to make it back before Week 7. The most optimistic comp for Bryant is Marvin Jones, who worked to return from a similar injury in 6-7 weeks only to fight through multiple compensatory injuries.
On the positive side, players recover from fifth metatarsal fractures well. There are multiple instances of wide receivers -- most recently Julio Jones and Devante Parker -- returning to full form. Many players have needed a screw revision procedure later in their careers, but those players -- including Jones and Parker -- had their first procedure before Anderson modified his technique to include a bigger screw and bone grafts.
The Cowboys get the Giants Week 7, Seahawks Week 8, and Eagles Week 9. Bryant is going to push to get back on the field during that stretch. Still, even if Bryant doesn’t get back on the field until Week 10 or Week 11, you can be reasonably confident that you’ll have him for the last few weeks and playoffs.
I’ve had some ask about the Jets in Week 15 and Buffalo in Week 16 being a disincentive to adding Bryant. If you trade for Bryant and make the semis, that’s a win. Bryant having a bad matchup in the semi and final weeks is a good problem to have, because it means you made it that far. Bryant is also the kind of talent that can rise to the occasion in tough games, one of the very best in the game. Plus, things change. Darrelle Revis could get hurt. The Bills offense could sputter and demoralize the defense by December. I wouldn’t let that stop me from acquiring Bryant, or encourage me to trade Bryant, but I would play it up if I was trying to acquire Bryant.
What is six or seven weeks of Bryant worth?
We already have the work of our Chase Stuart on using VBD instead of total points to value players who are missing games at the beginning of the season. The bottom line is that true difference makers don’t lose as much value when they miss half of the season as you think. Our Adam Harstad has also told you about the importance of playoff points vs regular season points. Even with the Jets/Bills discount, I sure would like to have Dez in my lineup for the decisive weeks of the fantasy season.
Should you trade Dez?
In dynasty the answer is a firm no. No way. Right after an injury is the worst time to trade a player in dynasty leagues. In redraft, it comes down to an assessment of your team’s ability to be competitive without Bryant. You know how strong your draft look at the other positions. A key question here is how much you like the receivers/flex that will replace Bryant in the lineup. I would be comfortable holding Dez if I had any of the following receivers (generally drafted in the sixth round or later) on my bench:
John Brown, ARI
Stevie Johnson, SD (PPR)
Kendall Wright, TEN
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
Roddy White, ATL
Mike Wallace, MIN
Jeremy Maclin, KC
Martavis Bryant, PIT (assuming an adequate - not great - Week 2-4 replacement is also on bench)
I would also be willing to give these possible waiver wire pickups a shot before abandoning Bryant:
Donte Moncrief, IND
Terrance Williams, DAL
James Jones, GB
If your team is especially strong at most of QB/RB/TE/WRs other than Bryant, that’s another good scenario to argue for not trading him.
Alternatively, if another important part of your wide receiver corps came from this disappointing list, you might feel more urgency to trade Bryant:
Andre Johnson, IND
Golden Tate, DET
Sammy Watkins, BUF
DeSean Jackson, WAS
Amari Cooper, OAK
Allen Robinson, JAX
Who should I try to get for Bryant?
The earlier list of good enough replacements that went in the sixth or later in most drafts (Brown/Fitzgerald/Wright/Stevie/White/Wallace) is the floor of what you should accept. This is a worst case scenario and probably only applicable in deeper leagues with thin waiver wires and limited trade opportunities. If you are looking at your team and you just don’t think you can be competitive without replacing Bryant, this is at least gives you a fighting chance. Still, you should push for more at the margin as you negotiate down this road. Add a swap of players that benefits you. Dez Bryant’s name carries a lot of value (as it should) and it’s hard to talk yourself out of trade for him when you’re closing in.
The ideal trade would be a bigger deal for Beckham/Calvin/Demaryius/Green coming off of a poor Week 1. If the owners of these receivers are strong at receiver otherwise, but also have a big weakness that you can address with a strength of your roster, it can happen. This can look like a win/win if you craft it right. Chances are you’ll have to aim lower. Here’s your target list in a one-for-one wide receiver trade:
Alshon Jeffery, CHI
Mike Evans, TB
TY Hilton, IND
Brandin Cooks, NO (PPR)
Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
Jordan Matthews, PHI
Julian Edelman, NE (PPR)
Keenan Allen, SD
Jarvis Landry, MIA (PPR)
Brandon Marshall, NYJ (PPR)
The basic calculation (other than a sober assessment of your team to determine if you can survive with Bryant on your bench) is whether the advantage the wide receiver acquired will give you over your best replacement during the time Bryant is out will be greater than the advantage Dez would give you over them when he comes back. There’s the aggravating factor of Bryant’s absence possibly being longer than expected or a setback when he returns, but there’s also a mitigating factor of your ability to find a waiver wire pickup or make a smaller trade to upgrade your replacement for Bryant. Certainly you should scour your league’s rosters to see if another team has a wide receiver surplus that you can tap into without trading Bryant away.
Should you trade for Dez?
Y’all know I’m always in favor of adding a first-round pick at a big discount. That is how you build a lineup that is unfair to face in the playoffs. I don’t mind Bryant facing the Jets and Bills in the last two weeks if he’s my WR2 or lower. I like those odds. If the Bryant owner is sending out distress signals, you definitely want to jump into those talks.
A key variable here is how strong you drafted at wide receiver. If Brown/Fitzgerald/Stevie/Marshall/Landry, etc is your WR3 or lower, you can afford to do this. It might cause a bit of hesitation, but it’s a deal you can handle.
In a perfect scenario, you can offload a wide receiver you’re worried about anyway. Your Andre Johnson/Cooper/Tate/ARobinson/Watkins types. Sweeten away to get that deal done.
I would also be open to any trade where you’re giving up a quarterback (except maybe Andrew Luck in this buy low moment). Quarterback is the easiest position to recover losses from over the course of the season. You can win your league with a QBBC/streaming approach. A luxury Week 1 breakout player like Danny Woodhead/Tyler Eifert/Marcus Mariota, or an underperforming Week 1 player with high expectations like Greg Olsen could move the needle. Throw everything against the wall. Some owners will be scared off by the new report of 8-12 weeks on Bryant’s return. You might be surprised at who the Bryant owner covets on your roster. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.