I’m obsessed with hitting on my first round pick in fantasy drafts. I play in high stakes leagues and there’s nothing worse than shelling out a big entry fee only to see your top pick bust.
In 2014, my choice was the unpopular-at-the-time Demaryius Thomas. Last year, on the Fantasy Feast podcast, I stated Julio Jones would be my 1.01 pick. Both of these were mid-to-late first round picks as Dez Bryant is at the moment.
Here is why Dez is being overlooked.
- Bryant is coming off a bad season
Dez suffered a similar injury, a Jones fracture, that Julio Jones did in 2013. During the season after, Julio had 104 receptions. The injury shouldn’t be a huge concern for Bryant in 2016. He should have had plenty of time to heal up.
- Tony Romo was also injured in 2015
Romo is being perceived as fragile. The Cowboys have offered plenty of optimism for Romo’s future and didn’t address the position until the fourth round of this year’s draft. It appears they’re confident in his health.
- Ezekiel Elliot is getting all the attention
Elliot is already being selected in the first round of redraft leagues. Shawn Siegle suggests compelling reasons to sell Ezekiel in Dynasty and alludes to the offense revolving around the passing game rather than the run. Kevin Cole and Nick Giffen make a similar case on the The Numbers Game podcast.
I know what you’re thinking. Antonio Brown has been the PPR WR1 the last two seasons and should be drafted at the 1.01. Julio Jones was the 2015 WR2 and had one of the best WR seasons on record. Odell Beckham Jr is in this conversation too with 25 TDs and 187 receptions in his 27-game career. I’m not going to make the argument that they aren’t deserving of a top three selection in redraft leagues.
But if you don’t have a top three pick, you likely won’t be getting AB, Julio or OBJ anyway. Bryant, on the other hand, can be drafted later in the first round and has a similar ceiling.
These are the reasons why Dez Bryant is just as capable of finishing as the WR1 overall in PPR.
- Dallas Offensive Coordinator, Scott Linehan has an extensive history of feeding his WR1
I discovered this while writing A Brief History of PPR Scoring. Three of the highest scoring PPR seasons since 2000 were with Linehan calling the shots.
Here is how the most targeted WR in a Linehan HC/OC offense fared.
If you take out Nate Burleson’s 2004 for an injured Randy Moss, Torry Holt’s age 32 season in 2008, and Terrance Williams 2015, Linehan’s WR1 has averaged 163 targets per year. Moss, Holt and Johnson are all hame-of-fame caliber receivers, of course. But it’s not like Bryant is a slouch, accumulating more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Johnson in their respective first 50 games.
- Dallas did not draft a Wide Receiver
Bryant’s best competition for targets is a 34 year old tight end Jason Witten. Next up is inconsistent, big-play WR Terrance Williams, and smaller possession receiver Cole Beasley. Julio Jones experienced a similar situation last year where an aging Roddy White was his biggest competition. We know how that worked out.
- Bryant can score TDs as well as anybody
Few players in the league have scored as many times as Bryant has since 2011. Even during DeMarco Murray’s spectacular rushing season in 2014, Bryant scored 16 TDs. Touchdowns can be fluky, but Dallas isn’t afraid to throw to to their best WR in the red zone. Bryant already has three seasons of double digit touchdowns.
The injury concerns for Tony Romo are valid, but even if Romo doesn’t play a full season, the targets should be there for Bryant. The top 5 PPR scoring WRs last year all had 158 or more targets. This number is within the range of the average targets Linehan has doled out historically to his Elite WR1s. Remember, targets are the lifeblood of Fantasy scoring.
The High-Upside Contrarian Play
The stars seem to be aligning perfectly for Bryant to have a monster season. He has the right coordinator calling plays, a true lack of competition for targets, and the ability to score in bunches. Don’t be surprised if he has a career season.
As for drafting Dez Bryant at the 1.01, I’m not afraid of disrupting the general consensus of the fantasy community. You shouldn’t be either.
Early or not though, you should be pleased to roster Dez Bryant this upcoming season for all those reasons listed above.