Is Dez Bryant a top fantasy option?

Dez Bryant has struggled with injuries and in-season battles in the past two years. Bryant was once a top five receiver in fantasy. From 2012-14, he finished in the top five in fantasy points in the receiver group. But with struggles with injuries and a transition to a new Dallas offense and quarterback, will Bryant return to being the elite fantasy player that he was early in his career?

Throw up the X: 2011-14

After his rookie season, Bryant came to life. In 2011, Bryant became a top option for Tony Romo behind Jason Witten. He finished with 63 receptions, 928 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished in the top 20 that year in fantasy for receivers.

The following season, Bryant broke onto the scene. He had his first season over 1,000 yards and had over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns. He finished in the top 10 in receptions (92), yards (1,382) and receiving yards per game (86.4). His 12 touchdowns were top-three. Bryant finished third in fantasy that season.

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant and Tony Romo (Photo by: zimbio.com)

In 2013, he had another solid season. He saw his targets spike from 138 to 160. He finished in the top five in fantasy again under receivers and his 93 receptions ranked eighth. His 13 touchdowns again ranked third.

Bryant did see a small decline in receiving yards with 1,233 and his receiving yards per game (77.1) that both ranked outside the top 10.

However, Bryant did perform in the top two inside the 10-yard line of the red zone. He led the league in targets (16), receptions (11) and touchdowns (9). He finished second in yards (38) and target percentage (43.2).

Bryant developed into a red zone weapon and also ranked in the top 10 in receptions (13) and target percentage (29.9) inside the 20-yard line. He was also second in touchdowns with 10 inside the 20.

2014 was probably Bryant’s best fantasy season to date. He finished third in fantasy points among receivers, his third top five finish in a row. He led the league in receiving touchdowns with 16. Bryant also improved his receiving yards (1,320) and receiving yards per game (82.5), which ranked eighth and 10th respectively.

He did have less receptions (88) but averaged 14.3 fantasy points per game, a career-best that season which ranked third. He also had his best PPR fantasy points per game at 19.8. Bryant also doubled his catches of 20-plus yards with 22 that ranked fifth in 2014.

In those four seasons, Bryant totaled 4,863 yards and 50 touchdowns. During that time, just Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green had more yards than he did. His touchdowns were the most during that timeframe, and no other receiver had more than 43 touchdowns.

Injuries and quarterback issues: 2015-16

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: whatthebuc.net)

Before the season, Bryant resigned with the Cowboys on a five-year, $70 million contract that included $45 million of guaranteed money and a $20 million signing bonus.

In a game against the Giants on Sep. 13, 2015, Bryant had a foot injury. The x-ray revealed a fracture in the foot that required surgery. He returned in week eight and struggled, getting two receptions for 12 yards.

In a season in which he struggled with health issues, he caught 31 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Before the injury, part of Bryant’s success was having Tony Romo as the quarterback. They only played three games together in 2015 as Romo had a back injury.

Bryant played with two other quarterbacks (Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore) that season. All of his three touchdowns came from a different quarterback. On Jan. 6, 2016, he underwent foot and ankle surgeries.

In 2016, his favorite quarterback in the preseason went down with another back injury and rookie Dak Prescott became the starter. It proved again that Bryant missed Romo as the quarterback as he and Prescott only connected on 16 of their first 41 targets in their first five games together.

This led to inconsistent fantasy numbers, as Bryant had just three games with 10 or more points, but two games with less than two points. He also missed three games with a knee injury. However, removing week 17 where they played only one series, Bryant and Prescott came to life.

In the final eight games including the playoffs, Bryant had 66 targets, 43 receptions, 646 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s a 65.2 percent completion rate. It seemed that Bryant came back to being the receiver he once was.

2017 outlook

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: sbnation.com)

In 2017, there is some concern regarding Bryant. Besides adding no receiver help to complement him, Bryant will face Janoris Jenkins twice, Josh Norman twice, Aqib Talib/Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson, Marcus Peters, Desmond Trufant, Jason Verrett/Casey Hayward and Richard Sherman.

In the two matchups with the Giants last year, he was held to just two catches for 18 yards on 14 targets and fumbled once that clinched the Giants win in the second meeting.

The last time he played against Sherman, he totaled just two catches for 12 yards on six targets.

And expect Norman to shadow Bryant this year after not doing so in 2016. In the first three games for Bryant, he plays the Giants at home and then goes to Denver and Arizona on the road. We could see again early season struggles for him.

He has missed 22 games in two seasons. He is also in a run-heavy offense with a great offensive line and a premier running back. The defense in Dallas hasn’t improved, especially in the backfield which could lead to Prescott throwing the ball more if they have to play catch up. That would benefit Bryant but the game plan will be to run the ball to protect Prescott.

But how good will Prescott be if he has to throw to win? That’s a question for another article.

Bryant is a top-10 fantasy receiver that should be drafted somewhere in the third round. Be cautious with his durability, and Prescott worries me this year as he is my top bust for quarterbacks. In some leagues he will be a top receiver for most teams, but he’s a high-end WR2 with a ceiling as a middling WR1.

 

Featured image from reddit.com

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Despite Miller Megadeal, Broncos Remain Setup for Long Term Success

Super Bowl MVP Von Miller cashed in huge Friday and avoided the franchise tag dilemma. The six year $114 million deal with $70 million in guarantees makes Miller the highest paid non quarterback in league history.

von miller

Photo from foxsports.com

As a Broncos fan, I agree with a lot of the conventional wisdom that has emerged. Yes, this is way too much money for a linebacker. However, John Elway and the rest of Broncos brass had no choice.

Miller bet on himself by not signing a long term deal prior to last season and hit the jackpot. 11 sacks in the regular season. Also, Tom Brady and Cam Newton are likely still seeing Miller in their nightmares after what he did to them during the playoffs.

Had Miller sat out the 2016 season and eventually ended up playing elsewhere, it would have been impossible to replace him. He is a once in a generation type of talent. The Broncos were in a tough spot here. This was the best possible outcome for all involved. I have no issue at all here with Miller. Any player must get what they can while they can. Good for him.

Contrary to popular belief, Miller’s megadeal does not hurt Denver’s ability to pay other players at all, at least not right now. The Broncos have some good young talent still playing on rookie deals. Also, while playing financial chicken for the better part of a year with Miller, Elway got long term deals done with two other key defensive pieces, linebacker Brandon Marshall and defensive end Derek Wolfe. As much as most media outlets want you to believe Denver’s roster is not set up for the long term, you have to dig deeper. Let’s take a look.

    • Running back C.J. Anderson- 25 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Wide Receiver Demaryus Thomas- 28 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Linebacker Von Miller- 27 years old, under contract until 2022
    • Linebacker Brandon Marshall- 26 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Defensive end Derek Wolfe- 26 years old, under contract until 2020
    • Cornerback Bradley Roby- 24 years old, under contract until 2018
    • Cornerback Chris Harris- 27 years old, under contract until 2021
    • Safety T.J. Ward- 29 years old, under contract until 2018
    • Cornerback Aquib Talib- 30 years old, under contract until 2020

 

photo from broncos planetbroncos.com

photo from broncos planetbroncos.com

No other team in the league has that kind of proven talent locked up in the long term. Assuming everyone stays healthy, Denver will continue to compete for titles for at least another five years. They need serviceable quarterback play from Mark Sanchez in the short term, and franchise level quarterback play from Paxton Lynch in the long term. The organization has put both in the best possible position to deliver. There is also optimism that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will get a long term deal done to stay with the reigning world champions. The speedster is entering the final year of his deal.

John Elway continues to find ways to stretch a dollar better than any executive in sports. At this rate, he may be remembered as a better executive for the Broncos than he was a quarterback, and that is really saying something.

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Super Bowl 50 Storylines

Well at least I got one half of the Super Bowl 50 match up right. The matchup is set and on February 7th the champions of the NFC, the Carolina Panthers, will face the champions of the AFC, the Denver Broncos.

Let’s start first with the Carolina Panthers.

This is the second time the Carolina Panthers franchise will be playing in the Super Bowl. They last played in Super Bowl XXXVIII, where they played the New England Patriots and lost in stunning and devastating fashion. They lost the game 32-29 by a game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri on the last drive of the game manufactured by Tom Brady.

But this 2015 Carolina Panthers team is not that team. This team has that Championship Swagger. That actually starts with the Head Coach Ron Rivera. Coach Rivera was a player on the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl winning team. You all remember them, right? The Super Bowl Shuffle, doesn’t ring a bell? Rivera will be head coaching his first Super Bowl game on the 7th of February in Santa Clara, California. And he has coaching experience at Super Bowl when he was the Defensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears in their last Super Bowl run. His team is riding high after their drumming of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game.

The Panthers offense is led by Cameron Newton, the probable NFL MVP this year. Mr. Newton wants to be the first Heisman trophy-winning QB to win the Super Bowl since Jim Plunkett led the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XV. Cam also could be the only QB to ever win a junior college national championship, a NCAA national championship, and a Super Bowl championship. Newton is also playing to be the 3rd African American QB to win the Super Bowl in the whole history of the NFL. The first being Doug Williams in Super Bowl XXII for the Washington Redskins. Russell Wilson is the second African American QB to win the Lombardi Trophy. Wilson won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks.

Most importantly he, his team, and the Carolinas just want to see the Panthers win their first Super Bowl in the team’s history. If the Panthers win this Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons will be the only team in the NFC South to not win a Super Bowl game.

The Carolina defense is led by LB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly has led the NFL in tackles since his rookie season in the league.

The Panthers D is strong on all three levels. The defensive line features pass rushers like, Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy. The defense is hopeful they can get Jared Allen back from his foot injury that sidelined him for the NFC Championship Game. The D-Line also features space eaters like Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei at the defensive tackle spots.

The linebackers are led by Kuechly and season veteran Thomas Davis, which is battling a broken arm. Their starting rookie linebacker, Shaq Thompson, will play their strong linebacker.

The secondary is led by shutdown corner, Josh Norman, and by ballhawking safety Kurt Coleman. These young DB’s will lean on seasoned veteran DB, Charles Tillman, on how to handle the biggest stage they have every been on.

On to the AFC side.

The Denver Broncos franchise has been to the Super Bowl quite a bit of times but has only won two Lombardi Trophies. Those trophies were won by their current GM, John Elway. He and the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII in Elway’s last season. If Denver wins, it will be their third Lombardi Trophy.

With that 3rd title they will have the 4th most Super Bowls by a franchise. They already have the most appearances (8) and the most losses (5). The last time we saw the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl they got crushed by the Seattle Seahawks by 35 points in Super Bowl XLVII.

This Denver team has some of the same faces but they have a new coach. Gary Kubiak will also be head coaching in his first Super Bowl Game, but he was the Offensive Coordinator for the two Denver Super Bowl teams. His team barely survived the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. They had to defend a 2-point conversion to win the game 20-18.

This Denver offense is led by the “Sheriff”, Peyton Manning. His season hasn’t been his best by far, but he will be able to play in Super Bowl 50 for a chance to get his 2nd Super Bowl Ring in four tries. His two rings would match GM John Elway and his little brother, Eli Manning. With this win, Peyton will be the 12th multi-Super Bowl Ring winning QB. But unusually Peyton’s team’s strongest side of the ball is the defense.

Denver’s defense is super talented on every level as well. Their defensive line has stars like Derek Wolfe as the defensive tackle and Sylvester Williams as the nose ackle in their 3-4 defense.

And “4” in that 3-4 is maybe the best linebacking crew in the NFL. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan are the inside linebackers and DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are the outside linebackers. And the rookie Shane Ray will also see the field a favorable amount on the field.

Denver also has one of the best backfields in the game. They have shutdown corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. who made a great play on 4th and 1 in the AFC Championship game. Bradley Roby will also see some time at nickel corner. Their hard hitting safeties in the middle of the field are T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Their backups, Josh Bush and Shiloh Keo, also bring the wood.

Prediction: I am a completely torn between these two teams. I am as old as the Carolina Panthers. I was born in 1995, so were the Panthers. I am a native Carolinian and I am an African American, so I would love to see Cam win one. And on the other hand there is Peyton Manning. I would love for him to win his second ring. I couldn’t decide so…I flipped a coin. It landed on heads, so I am picking the Carolina Panthers. As much as it pains me to go against Peyton Manning, I am. The Carolina defense will get to Manning around 3-5 times and the pressure will make Peyton turn the ball over. Cam will be dancing on the field with the Lombardi Trophy and put an exclamation point on his and his team’s 18-1 season. I can’t go against the Panthers again this postseason.

#KEEPPOUNDING