After two straight subpar seasons by his standards, can you still trust Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant as a #1 fantasy option at his position?
Writing an article such as this hurts my heart and soul.
The main is reason is because that is exactly what wide receiver Dez Bryant is to the Dallas Cowboys. He is the heart and soul of the team. Just like his predecessor, Michael Irvin, Bryant is an emotional, flamboyant leader.
He wants the ball. He needs the ball. When he gets the ball, he does amazing, electric things with it.
Or at least he used to…
From 2012-14, Bryant was simply dominant. Three straight seasons with 88+ receptions. Three straight years over 1,200 yards. One season leading the entire NFL in receiving touchdowns and 41 altogether in that time span.
Since then, he’s been slowed by various injuries along with a disruption in the continuity of his quarterback.
After four seasons missing just one game, Bryant has had to sit out ten games in the last two years. Injuries to his knee and foot have certainly had an affect on his output.
Losing Tony Romo as his main signal caller hasn’t been much help either.
In 2015, Bryant played with three different quarterbacks. Last year, even though the position was solidified by Dak Prescott, the rookie seemed more comfortable going to the first man open.
When Prescott did look for Bryant on a consistent basis, however, the promise of dominance was evident. Seven times last season, Bryant had eight or more targets in a game. In those seven games, Bryant totaled 32 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns.
Given that Bryant only had 796 yards and eight touchdowns, it’s quite obvious that the more he is involved, the more he produces.
In the fantasy realm, there seems to be a two big questions when it comes to the decision on making Dez your number one wide receiver.
Will he stay healthy and will he consistently get enough targets?
I actually believe the injury issues have been mostly of a fluke nature. Since his debut in the league, Bryant has demonstrated a pure hatred for being tackled. He fights for every yard and will try to use his superior size and strength as an advantage.
While that isn’t likely to change, going into his eighth season, I expect Dez to be wiser when it comes to these decisions. The foot injury in 2015 and the knee in 2016 occurred because of this unwillingness to go down.
I think Bryant understands his value to the team being on the field. I think he also has something to prove and wants to be the “old” Dez again.
When it comes to his targets, however, I’m a little more skeptical.
The Dallas Cowboys offense flows best when they run the ball more than they pass. For Prescott, continuing to utilize all his weaponry will be key again this season. With more tape and time for opposing defenses to break him down, the worst thing he could do would be to force the ball to any one player.
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There is no doubt that Bryant will be his number one option but the relationship he has with Cole Beasley and Jason Witten cannot be overstated. Last year, the trio all had 95 targets or more with Beasley leading the way. I would expect more of the same.
As it pertains to fantasy football, targets are an important statistic when it comes to wide receivers. Since they are the most dependent on someone else, the number of opportunities they get is key.
Last year, Bryant’s 97 targets were only good enough for 50th best in the league. Will those go up if he plays more games? Absolutely. Just don’t expect them to skyrocket. Even if Bryant gets 115-120 targets in 2017, using last year’s totals, that would still keep him outside the top 25.
Clearly, Bryant is not an option for the first round of any 10 or 12 team draft. Drafting him in round two of a ten team league may be problematic as well. Personally, as much as I love him, he isn’t a consideration until round three for me.
When it comes to other options, clearly Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are the top two receivers in my fantasy rankings. Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Jr., Jordy Nelson and Brandin Cooks would also likely be above Bryant for me as well.
That’s not to say he couldn’t be your number one wide receiver though. It’s highly unlikely you’re drafting two of the six guys above unless you’re at the end of round one and don’t like your running back options.
If you draft running backs with both your first and second round selections, those six, along with A.J. Green are probably no longer on the board. At that point, Dez would certainly be a viable number one option based on his propensity to score touchdowns.
Despite his second straight down year in 2016, he did finish tied for ninth overall in receiving touchdowns. There is no reason to believe a healthy Bryant won’t score ten or more times in 2017.
My advice depends on your draft strategy. If you pass on a running back in round one in favor of a receiver, Dez Bryant isn’t your guy. If you go back-to-back at running back though, Bryant would be a nice building block for your fantasy receiving corps in round three.