Dez Bryant: Plummeting Star or Sleeping Giant?
The 2018 offseason is not one that three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant will look back on fondly. On April 13, the Dallas Cowboys cut the eight-year veteran wide receiver. His contract would’ve counted $16.5 million against the cap this season and the Cowboys ultimately decided they would prefer to pay an $8 million hit to clear him off the books for 2019. This is not a good look for a 29-year-old receiver who will see his 30th birthday come and go this November.
The news came as a shock to many in the fantasy community because Dez is viewed by most as at least a former, if not present, star wide receiver. He was a monster early in his career, putting up top-20 finishes in four of his first five seasons.
Dez Bryant Career Stats
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The 2015 season, however, marked the beginning of Bryant’s decline. His catch rate dropped an astonishing 21.7% from the previous season and he averaged nearly ten fewer FPTS/G in PPR scoring. Dez was a victim of circumstance to a certain extent as he suffered a fracture of his 5th metatarsal in the first week of the season. That kept him out of the lineup for six weeks and definitely had a lingering effect for the remainder of the season. He also dealt with poor quarterback play. Tony Romo played in just three of the games Dez was active for and the rest was a mix of Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore. Not ideal. Nevertheless, this was a precipitous drop in efficiency for a player who had been very efficient in his first five NFL seasons. The numbers normalized a bit in 2016 with 13.8 PPR FPTS/G (21st overall WR in that category) but the catch rate was pretty low once again at 52.1%. That trend continued in 2017 with a 52.3% catch rate. His 11.7 PPR FPTS/G was good for just 30th in the league amongst wide receivers on a per game basis. That is just awful for a player who was the 12th most targeted at his position with 132 targets.
According to Dynasty RedZone ADP, Bryant is currently being drafted at 99.5, which equates to an early eighth round pick and 43rd WR off the board. While the positional rank may appear to be bearable, it is still way too high for a receiver on the back end of his career who has yet to find a home. Remember, Dez required WR1 level targets to produce as a WR3 on a per game basis last season. Wherever he ends up, he will not be the number one option, which means he won’t be the beneficiary of a 25% target share. On a league-wide basis, the number two receiving option averaged 90.6 targets in 2017 (that number includes RBs and TEs). That being said, Dez will be lucky to sniff 100 targets in 2018 and if he continues to catch the ball at a 52% clip he will need to hit the touchdown jackpot in order to produce as a WR3 again.
Could Ego Be Problem?
Another angle to consider with Dez Bryant is that he is used to being the go-to receiving option on his team. We’ve seen him blow up on the sideline multiple times throughout his career when he wasn’t happy with his targets. How will he handle playing second fiddle to a younger, better receiver? I haven’t seen anything to suggest he would handle that gracefully. He is also used to being the highest paid receiving option on his team. He reportedly turned down a deal from the Ravens similar to what Michael Crabtree ultimately signed (Three-years/$21 million/$7million signing bonus/$11 million guaranteed). That was one of the few opportunities he had to remain a WR1 in this league and he was too blinded by his ego to see it. These are all important pieces of information NFL general managers will be looking at when considering the prospect of signing Dez Bryant. Between cap considerations and character issues he has probably eliminated two-thirds of his market if not more. That tells me there is a non-zero chance he sits out the entire 2018 season. Bryant presents way too much risk for an eighth-round pick in dynasty startups. I have him ranked as my 65th WR and 150th player overall.