Curious Case of Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant has had a turbulent year. Getting suspended by the NCAA not for receiving money, but having a friendship with a professional (still one of the worse reasons I’ve ever heard), then having his draft stock rise and fall like a yo-yo, and now he is at the point where he could very well be off the draft board for a number of teams. Bryant is still the consensus number 1 wide receiver among draft analysts (I would say it should be Demaryius Thomas), but has seen his stock take a hit.
First let me say, I believe there is a difference between character concerns and off the field concerns. When I hear off the field concerns I think getting in trouble with the law, that is not the path I see Dez Bryant going down, he will not be the Pacman Jones by any means. What I do see as a problem are serious character concerns. It is a worry when Bryant forgets his cleats for his Pro Day, even more so considering teams hadn’t seen him much this season. It is also a concern that while he put up some impressive numbers in some drills, he just quit on other ones. While Bryant ran an okay 4.54 time in the 40, considering he didn’t have cleats, that isn’t a time that really separates him from the pack. What was really troubling for me is not so much that he forgot the cleats, but rather that he didn’t hold himself responsible. And made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. This screams to me that Bryant has a serious entitlement issue and thinks he will enter the NFL and dominate from day one. That isn’t going to happen. Few rookie receivers over the years have had 1,000 first year campaigns. Most of those that do produce in year one, do so because they fell in the draft to better quality teams. I think Bryant is in for a rude awaking in the NFL, because he won’t have the Baylor’s and Rice’s on his schedule to beat up on.
Bryant has impressive collegiate stats for the games he played, but he never seemed to dominate against front line competition. While I wouldn’t go so far to say he was ineffective against the other top teams in the Big 12 (or that he faced out of conference). The only time he really dominated a top team was his freshmen year against Kansas, when he had 8 catches for 155 yards. But it should be noted that Kansas’s top corner Aqib Talib shadowed the Cowboys top receiver Adarius Bowman, allowing Bryant plenty of freedom. Bryant had solid numbers as a freshmen, but they weren’t what you would call elite. His sophomore year he put up big numbers, but that is my central problem, you are basing his ‘game play’ or ‘film’ on basically one season. And in that season he didn’t exactly dominate the top teams he faced. I really have trouble believing that Bryant is supposed to come in and succeed against the best defensive backs, when he wasn’t able to truly dominate college.
I like Bryant as a receiver, but thinks that he needs to mature as a player to be successful in the NFL. His game actually reminds me of two players who both ended up being 2nd round picks, Antonio Bryant and Devin Thomas. Antonio Bryant actually has a very similar skill set to Dez, as their speed is extremely deceptive. Devin Thomas reminds me of him, because of the size comparison. Both A. Bryant and Thomas fell to the 2nd round due in part to character concerns (which have both come to fruition somewhat). While Thomas seems to be finally learning that he isn’t just naturally better then the defensive backs in the NFL, he still has yet to prove his worth as a 2nd round pick. A. Bryant has had a very up and down career and even had to sit out a season, because no one wanted him. Since returning to the NFL it looks as though he is moving in the right direction and has become a very good number 2 receiver.
To me, this is what we will see out of Dez Bryant (and it is up to him as to how long it takes him to reach that level). I think he can be an excellent number 2 receiver in this league, a guy who can routinely go for 70 catches and 1,200 yards a season. He will need to work opposite another quality wideout, but can be a very good pass catcher in the NFL. It’s my belief that since his ceiling isn’t as a top 10 or even 15 receiver, he shouldn’t be drafted in the top 10 or 15 picks (even top 20 is a stretch for me). And since I do wonder how long, if ever he will reach that ceiling I do knock him down my draft board considerably. I’m fairly confident he doesn’t get past Denver at the 11th pick, but I don’t think they will see the return on investment they are expecting.