Faceoff: Dez Bryant
Jeff Tefertiller: Many worry both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin getting enough pass targets for each to be effective. Can both produce viable fantasy numbers? The answer is "yes". Last year, the Cowboy receivers not named "Miles Austin" had 1435 receiving yards. There are plenty of Tony Romo passes to go around to satisfy both of the young studs in Dallas. Bryant is an enormous upgrade over Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton. Williams has shown flashes but has also exhibited inconsistent effort and poor hands. The rookie from Oklahoma State should easily be able to outplay his ADP of WR32. Bryant is very talented and has impressed in the early camps.
Last year, the WR32 was T.J. Houshmandzadeh. This was not the Houshmandzadeh we saw in Cincinnati. It is an older, less productive version. He had 911 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and only outproduced Roy Williams by a paltry seven fantasy points over the entire season.
Yes, rookie wide receivers struggle in year one. That is a given. Most young receivers improve in year two. There is so much to learn as the player transitions to the professional level. But, Bryant landed in a great situation and has little to beat out for enough pass targets and playing time to exceed his draftstatus. Last year, four rookie wide receivers outplayed Bryant's current ADP. He has a great chance to put up numbers similar to those posted by Percy Harvin or Mike Wallace last season (750-800 yards and six touchdowns).
Bryant is very talented and in an high octane offense. I am not suggesting he will have a rookie season similar to that of Anquan Boldin (finishing as WR4 in 2003), just in the Wallace/Harvin range. Barring injury, the ADP of WR32 is too low. The presence of Austin, Witten, and the other Cowboy weapons will only ensure Bryant gets great matchups each week. Opposing defenses will not be able to use a top defender on the rookie. In fact, he may be better off in this complementary role, just like Wallace and Harvin were, for fantasy purposes.
One key is what you think of Tony Romo. He threw for 4,483 yards and 26 touchdowns last year. Those numbers could actually go up with the upgrade Bryant brings the receiving corps. As stated above, 1,435 of those went to wide receivers other than Austin. It is reasonable to think that Bryant can secure at least half of those yards (in order to have a rookie season similar to Wallace or Harvin last year).
To take the under on Bryant assumes he will be injured, miss time, or be outplayed by Williams. If not, how can the rookie produce less than the 2009 version of Williams? The thing too keep in perspective is that the 2009 numbers by Roy Williams (596 yards and seven TDs) put him within seven fantasy points of where Bryant is currently being drafted. This is the same Williams that the Cowboys were trying to replace by trading up to get Bryant.
Maurile Tremblay: I don't doubt Dez Bryant's talent, but it takes a lot more than physical talent to ultimately succeed in the NFL -- never mind to step in and be productive right away.
Bryant is an elite dynasty prospect, but in redraft leagues, I have two primary concerns.
1. Rookie WRs seldom make an impact. Dez Bryant seems about as talented a rookie receiver as the other highly acclaimed WRs to come out within the last few years -- Michael Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Reggie Williams, Charles Rogers, Andre Johnson . . . .
Some of those guys had good rookie seasons (e.g., Crabtree on a per-game basis), but on average they were mostly disappointments as rookies.
A few rookie WRs do well each year. But on average about 15 WRs are selected in the first three rounds each season. For one or two of them to do well each season doesn't portend great odds for any particular one of them, even the most highly acclaimed.
In addition, there are specific reasons to think that Dez Bryant may need a period of adjustment in the NFL. Bryant is used to being the most talented athlete on the field, and succeeded in college based largely on his athletic superiority. But he hasn't always responded well to physical play. In the NFL, he will face more athletic -- and much more physical -- defensive backs than he's ever played against. He will be frustrated, as all young NFL WRs are, and the question is whether he will respond by immediately refining his technique, or by going into a shell for a time. I don't trust Bryant's maturity to handle frustration productively right off the bat. It may take time.
2. Competition for targets. Last year Miles Austin got about 42% of the Cowboys' WR targets -- mostly from week five on. Roy Williams got about 29% of the WR targets. Austin is very likely to get about the same number of targets again (possibly more since he'll start from week one). Roy Williams is also still on the team, and although his targets may be reduced sharply, he still has to be accounted for. TE Jason Witten and the trio of RBs will all figure prominently in the passing game as well. That doesn't leave Bryant much room to surpass Roy Williams' production from last year.
In dynasty leagues, you can give Bryant the time he needs to develop. In redraft leagues, where you don't have that luxury, I think Bryant is more likely to be a wasted pick than a bargain.