2016 Fantasy Report Card: Dez Bryant

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The changing narrative around Dez Bryant is enough to make one’s head spin. Is he an elite WR that is borderline uncoverable? Is he a diva that does what he wants, when he wants? Does his lack of a consistent training program lead to / prolong his injuries?

This past season did very little to streamline anyone’s thoughts on Bryant. The Cowboys 2016 season ended much like their 2014 season: at the hands of the Packers in the playoffs. But this time. Dez did catch it…and a lot. He ended that playoff game with 9 catches, 132 yards, and 2 TDs. Is this what we can expect from Dak to Dez in the future? Before we can decide what 2017 will bring, let’s dig into Bryant’s 2016 season.

2016: Season Review

Coming into the season, Dez was being drafted from the end of the 1st round to early 2nd in most drafts. He was the 7th WR off the board on average according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, ahead of guys like Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, and the eventual WR1, Jordy Nelson.  All of that inflation despite an entirely disappointing 2015 campaign where he only played 9 games. Considering his ADP, it’s hard not to be disappointed with his WR32 finish and utterly meh stat line:

Targets Receptions Catch % Yards TD
2016 - 13 Games 96 50 52% 796 8

His season was a roller coaster that would make Six Flags jealous. Not counting Week 17, because your season should end in Week 16, he had 3 games with 3 or fewer fantasy points and 4 games with 15 or more. He also missed 3 games due to injury. Digging deeper into his weekly ranks further illustrates his inconsistency:

  • He was a WR1 (top 12) for 5 of his 13 games
  • He was a WR2 (top 24) for only 2 weeks
  • He was outside of the of the WR2 ranks 8 times during the season, including the 3 games he missed due to injury

Besides his weekly ranking ups and downs, there are a few more things to note about Bryant’s season. My largest concern is that his 52% catch ratio is by far the lowest of his career when playing more than 10 games. The Cowboys are clearly a run-first football team and that means there will be fewer targets for Dez and he needs to capitalize on more of those opportunities.

This leads to another red flag. Despite being ranked #42 in WR targets, he finished as the #58 WR in receptions. He did, however, finish as the #44 WR in yards and his 15.9 yards-per-catch was the highest of his career. These numbers tell me that Dez has become more of the occasional big play dice role vs. being the central part of the Cowboys offense. He may not even be the center of the Dallas WR corps. Cole Beasley had the same amount of targets but caught 25 more balls than Dez, albeit in 3 more games. In a run-centric offense, the slot WR can be a QBs best friend. If this case of the Beasles continues into 2017, it will be hard to trust Dez than much more than a WR2

Final Grade: C

It’s clear 2016 was not a banner year for Bryant. His team was as prominent as they have been in 25 years while he had one of the least successful seasons of his career. He’s only 28 years old and yet I can’t help but think that his days of being a sure-fire WR1, at least in Dallas, may be a thing of the past. He is currently being drafted as the WR8 in early 2017 drafts and, speaking frankly, there is no way I’m taking him there. His 2016 was a nightmare to navigate as an owner and I will not be playing that week-to-week game of Russian roulette next year.

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