Value Check: Dez Bryant

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There’s no hiding the fact that Dez Bryant had an abysmal performance in Week 1 of the 2016 regular season. On paper, he had an appealing matchup against a less than stellar New York Giants defense. However, Dez was limited to one reception in the game for merely eight yards. He did appear to haul in a touchdown, but the play was shortly overruled as an incomplete pass. Nonetheless, in a game where Dallas’ quarterback Dak Prescott had 45 pass attempts, it is hard to believe that Bryant was unable to lead the team in receiving. In light of his recent performance, the fantasy community is left to wonder how Dez will perform for the remainder of 2016. Below, I will make a case for Bryant, which supports him being valued as a back-end WR1 despite his underwhelming Week 1 production.

Part of the reason why fantasy owners could be nervous about their investment in Dez Bryant for 2016 revolves around his uncharacteristic 2015 season. Last year, Dez suffered a Jones’ fracture to his foot, which eventually required him to have two separate surgeries. As a result, he was limited to 9 games and never truly returned to full strength at any time during the season. At this point in 2016, Bryant’s health is not a concern. The only obstacle that stands in his way of returning elite value at the wide receiver position is the absence of Tony Romo, who could be sidelined until Week 9 with a compression fracture of his L1 vertebrae.

Although Romo’s absence puts a dent into Bryant’s value, it is difficult to ignore the wide receiver’s accolades since 2012. For a closer look at how dominant Dez has been over the course of the last four seasons, reference the following table:

Year Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2012 92 1,382 12
2013 93 1,233 13
2014 88 1,320 16
2015 31 401 3

That’s right, before his injury plagued 2015 campaign, Dez had collected at least 88 receptions for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns in each season since 2012. Yes, during Bryant’s remarkable stretch of elite output from 2012 – 2014, Romo only missed two regular season games. It cannot be assumed that Bryant will replicate this kind of production in 2016 under the direction of Dak Prescott and added offensive weapon, Ezekiel Elliott. However, Dez does not necessarily have to reach these totals to perform as a back-end WR1 in 12-team team leagues, especially if he is able to find the end zone on a regular basis. Consider that in PPR formats, he finished as the WR3 in 2012, WR7 in 2013 and WR4 in 2014. During this span, Bryant’s value was carried by touchdowns. It’s safe to assume that level of production is unobtainable without Tony Romo, but Dak Prescott has impressed in a small sample size thus far. According to ESPN, Prescott averaged a 9.4 average depth per throw in his first professional start, which bodes well for Bryant’s value moving forward as a red zone weapon.

At the very least, Bryant’s Week 1 performance has created a small window of opportunity to buy-low on the 27-year-old wide receiver. Although Prescott has stated that he will not force the ball to Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys need to feature him in order to remain competitive. The team simply will not be able to rely on Cole Beasley as its premier option in the passing game all year, despite the fact that he recorded 8 receptions for 65 yards on 12 targets in Week 1. It’s shocking, but Beasley did indeed receive 7 more targets than that of Bryant in the Dallas Cowboys first regular season game. Obviously, this is a trend that is highly unlikely to continue. The good news is that Bryant was not limited at all in his first week of action, as he was on the field for 72 of 75 possible offensive plays. Even more, if Bryant ultimately was able to secure the touchdown that was overturned in the end zone during Week 1, would there even be skepticism about his value? There surely wasn’t when the duo of Prescott and Bryant connected with one another for numerous touchdowns in the preseason. Winning in fantasy football sometimes requires taking risks, and Dez Bryant could easily be worth the investment while his value is arguably at its lowest possible point.

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