Dez Bryant, 2010 NFL Draft
With 17 catches, 323 yards and 4 TD in only 3 games in 2009, Bryant would have been well on his way to matching last year’s monstrous totals of 87 catches, 1,480 yards and 19 TD. But a NCAA suspension for lying to investigators about his interaction with Deion Sanders led to the rest of his season being wiped out.
If his great 2008 season put him on the map, his suspension (and the NCAA’s Police State mentatility) put him at the forefront of Draft discussion. He was already regarded as a high draft pick and the suspension hasn’t hurt that perception at all. He’s big, he’s quick, he makes spectacular catches and scores TDs in bunches; what more do you want in a receiver?
Bryant was a unanimous 1st team All Big 12 pick as a receiver and returner, an All American, and a Biletnikoff Award Finalist after the 2008 season. He was second in the nation in yardage to Colts’ draft pick Austin Collie of BYU, and his 19 TDs were second to Rice’s Jarrett Dillard, who was taken by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In addition to his gaudy receiving stats, Bryant picked up 305 yards and 2 TD on 17 punt returns. In 2007 as a freshman, Bryant was second on the team to Adarius Bowman with 43 catches for 622 yards and 6 TD. He has 29 receiving TD in his career along with 3 punt return TD.
Elite receivers don’t grow on trees but Bryant has that potential. At 6’2” 225lbs, he has the size to shield off a smaller CB but still possesses enough burst and quickness to make life miserable for any safety. What makes him elite is his athleticism. He is a very fluid athlete with excellent body control, the ability to out leap most defenders for the ball and enough open field ability to break tackles and produce long runs. Bryant has shown the ability to be dominant as a blocker but must be more consistent in this area. His hands are strong and he will make a reliable target on third down.
He certainly has all the makings of a dominant receiver like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Marques Colston. But will his effort, play-to-play consistency and concentration match his physical skills?
Bryant does not enter the NFL as a fully developed receiver. His route running can be inconsistent and he is guilty of rounding off routes. Overall, he can run the full gauntlet and do them very well, but he will get a bit lazy at times. Despite his ability to go up and get the ball in traffic and make tough catches over the middle, he will bobble the ball when he hears footsteps, double catching and allowing the ball into his chest. He does not always play with the physicality he is capable of and won’t always dominate his opponent blocking like he does often.
Bryant’s habits are often overlooked because he rarely is shut down by a defence. He seldom fails to make a big play or put up catches and yards in a game, you can’t accuse Bryant of disappearing for stretches. He just needs to be more diligent in his craft I think and work his absolute hardest on every single play, or he may never reach his true potential in the pros. Receiver has quite the first round bust ratio but Bryant has an incredible ceiling and the skill set to be a great receiver.
While has had never been sidelined by a major injury in college, Bryant did not workout at the combine, citing a tweaked hamstring. An injury he mentioned as bothering him before his suspension s well. The injury kept him from proving his speed at combine, something of a question by scouts as he is not regarded as particularly fast. He says he will workout of the Oklahoma State Pro Day on March 10. At his size, he is not expected to run a fast forty so while this likely does not affect him much.
Bryant projects as a top notch possession receiver that will be a threat to pick up the first down or go long for a TD on any play. His suspension is not a major transgression, despite the NCAA’s treatment of the situation, and his stock will likely stay high and result in a high pick. He could go anywhere from #4 to #22. New England was in on Anquan Boldin early as a compliment to and eventual replacement for Randy Moss, if Bryant were to fall that far, they could snatch him up.
Receiver may end up not being a priority for some teams as there are some top notch receivers semi-available in free agency. With Brandon Marshall potentially available for a first round pick and Vincent Jackson and Miles Austin potentially available for a first and third as restricted free agents, it is possible teams will look at these players who have proven their worth in the NFL as a less risky proposition for that first round pick and high contract.
Now, the Arizona Cardinals got a 3rd round pick in 2010 and swapped a 5th for a 4th in the Boldin deal with Baltimore, in a sense setting a market value. Some teams, or maybe just one team, may see some value in trading a first round pick for one of these guys, and maybe that third is just the price of getting a proven receiver. Heck, maybe someone at the top of the second round can pry one of them away with a big enough contract and an early 2nd, if they can work out a trade. It’s possible. Is the potential of Bryant enough to outweigh the proven production of a Marshall, Jackson or Austin?