Spotlight: Dez Bryant

posted by Will Grant on Jul 6th


Will Grant's thoughts

Like most Dallas fans, I was happy beyond words when the Cowboys took Dez Bryant with the 24th pick in this year's draft. He has great physical talents, and can put up monster numbers. Despite some maturity concerns, he was easily rated as the best WR prospect in the draft. Matching up opposite Miles Austin seems like a dream come true. With a solid running game and Jason Witten drawing defensive attention as well, Bryant will see plenty of one on one coverage and should be able to exploit defenses for big plays this season.

However, while I can't wait to see Bryant on the field this season, I've taken a more reserved position on his fantasy prospects. Since Tony Romo took over the offense in 2006, he has proven that he knows how to work the field and find the open man. The Cowboys are loaded with pass catchers and Romo will have plenty of options to choose from. Austin and Witten are the primary targets, but guys like Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Kevin Olgetree and Martellus Bennett have all proven they can contribute. Let's not forget Felix Jones and Marion Barber catching passes out of the backfield. Expect Romo to go with the hot hand each game, limiting the upside of each of them from a fantasy prospective.

The Cowboys put up almost 4,500 yards passing last season on almost 350 completions. With a power running attack of Jones, Barber and Tashard Choice, you have to expect that 350-4500 is really a ceiling for the Dallas passing game. If you look at the ten teams that had more than 4000 yards passing last season, only the Pittsburgh Steelers had three receivers with more than 65 receptions each: Santonio Holmes (79), Hines Ward (95), and Heath Miller (76). The Colts and Vikings both had four guys with 50 or more receptions and Packers had three guys with 50 or more receptions. Looking at offensive firepower, I think that the Cowboys compare favorably with these teams.

Austin and Witten are locks to have 70+ reception years. Witten has averaged 90 receptions over the last three seasons and as one of our message board guys pointed out - Austin had 76 receptions over the final 12 games of the season. Bryant should be the #3 receiver by the end of the season, but his reception total probably lands somewhere in the 45-55 range. Guys expecting Bryant to be their WR2 this season are going to be disappointed unless there's a serious injury to Austin or Witten.

Positives

  • Bryant has all the physical skills to transition well to the NFL level. He was considered to be the top WR prospect in this year's rookie draft and should be an instant impact player.
  • Bryant is going to a high-powered offense that is not afraid to throw the ball. Tony Romo has averaged almost 270 yards passing per game over the last four seasons.
  • Bryant comes to a team that has many other weapons on offense. He won't be expected to be the 'go to' guy right out of the gate and will have time to develop into a solid NFL receiver.

Negatives

  • There's a ton of hype around Bryant this season. To have him on your fantasy team, you're going to have to draft him higher than he'll probably perform.
  • While Roy Williams isn't an NFL stud, he is not a complete bust either. He's the current #2 guy and Bryant will have to beat him out for the starting job. Williams has already stated that he's not ready to hand over the job just yet and will fight hard to keep himself on the field.
  • The Cowboys have a ton of offensive weapons, and Miles Austin and Jason Witten are the main focus of the passing game. No matter how talented Bryant is, he's still going to be the #3 receiving option on this team. At least for this season.

Final thoughts

There's a lot of hype around Dez Bryant already, and it's only July. Once training camp starts, if there is any positive news out of Dallas, Bryant is going to jump up the fantasy draft boards. While Bryant is going to be an excellent NFL receiver, it may not translate into big fantasy numbers due to quality guys that he shares the field with. The fact that the Cowboys have a ton of other receiving options may even lend itself to bringing him along more slowly. The potential for an over-rated season are very high. When drafting Bryant this season, keep in mind the people that are around him. By the end of the season, Bryant should have solid WR3 numbers, but won't be top 25 without an injury to either Austin or Witten. Adjust your draft expectations appropriately.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

There will be a lot of weapons for Dallas on offense this year, so Tony Romo will not be stuck throwing the ball to any rookie wide receiver. I expect we'll see some fantastic catches from Dez Bryant this year but he's also a rookie and will run rookie routes due to the fact this guy's just been more athletic than the defenses he's gone up against in college. Look for Bryant to get better as the year goes on.

faust said:

Dez Bryant looks like he is the real deal; however, I am reminded of other WRs that were supposed to be "can't fail" at the next level players like Michael Westbrook, so be wary of reaching too early for him in redraft leagues. He will likely beat out the classic underachiever in Roy Williams at some point in time; however, he will find the targets in Dallas belonging to a deep and talent group of players, and Miles Austin and Jason Witten have the trust of Romo and will get their share.

Andy Herron said:

Training camp and a few preseason games will ultimately be the greatest measuring stick as to where Dez Bryant truly is with this offense. However, by all accounts at this point Dez has already grasped a great deal of the playbook as well as the overall offensive philosophy. He's displayed an affinity to be driven to succeed, an air to prove himself and has been all ears in communicating with coaches and players.

That being said, all indications thus far point to Dez seeing a great deal of snaps this season. A majority of OTAs found Austin to be working from the slot with Dez and Roy lined up on the outside. This is not merely experimentation on the Cowboys part, it is the plan. 3-receiver sets with Felix lined up in a single back set. Witten lined up opposite Austin. Receivers will be getting open on the outside- no question. In terms of looking to the outside, the question becomes "will Romo be more apt to trust Williams and his history of drops or the newly acquired rookie who has been catching everything in practice?" Your big play guy in #88. Will he become a star this year? Not necessarily. Will he make an impact? You bet.

Romo will spread it around as he always does, but one thing he will consistently do is hit the open guy. That's all he looks for, and he'll come right out and tell you that. "I'm throwing to the guy that's open." #88 is going to be open on the outside on a regular basis. He'll get his.

MrTwo94 said:

Have you guys even looked at the Cowboys' numbers? Wide receivers have caught 155, 142, and 170 passes the last 3 years. I want you guys to try this. Write down these names: Austin, Williams, Bryant, Crayton, Ogletree, and Hurd. Now write down the number of receptions you think each one is going to get and add them up. I'd be willing to be that on your first try that number surpasses 200. Miles Austin caught 81 passes last year and wasn't even a starter for a quarter of the season. A lot of the staff here has him projected for just under 80 which I find interesting. I'm no Austin fan, but I will be surprised if he has less than 80 catches this year. I mean, he had 76 in 12 games. Witten and Bennett aren't getting any worse. Romo's got the same options at RB. I just don't see the WR receptions increasing much from 170, so if you subtract a meager 80 for Austin, you're down to 90 receptions to dole out. But just for fun, let's say we've got 100. If Bryant really catches 60 balls, you think Roy Williams & Co. will only account for 40?


Dez Bryant projections

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Will Grant52796600
Message board consensus53729600