Fantasy Football: Now Is the Time to Acquire Dez Bryant

After opening the year with a brutal schedule, the Dallas Cowboys star has positive matchups galore, and fantasy owners should try to get him on their roster.

When the NFL schedules were released, the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers were likely less than thrilled.

Facing shutdown cornerbacks from the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Arizona Cardinals right off the bat is a scary way to start the year, even for a stud pass catcher like Dez Bryant.

But you know what? Bryant did okay. Better than okay, for that matter.

In Week 1, shadowed for the entire game by Janoris Jenkins, Bryant managed 2 catches for 43 yards on a team-high 9 targets. Bryant lined up opposite Aqib Talib (Pro Football Focus' 7th-ranked cornerback among 109 qualifiers) and Chris Harris (number 20, as per PFF) in Week 2, yet racked up 7 receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. His 2 receptions and 1 touchdown in Week 3 occurred during the only snaps Patrick Peterson wasn't shadowing him.

Bryant recorded a top-11 fantasy finish in Week 2 and has escaped the murderer's row of corners ranked 32nd among receivers in PPR leagues, a happy surprise for fantasy owners who (rightfully) expected little in the way of production early on. Those owners can take solace in knowing the worst is over.

But if you're not a Bryant owner, it's time to become one. Considering his upcoming schedule, it might be worth breaking your metaphorical bank to get Dez Bryant onto your roster.

Other than two dates with Josh Norman and another meeting with Jenkins, the Cowboys' passing game -- according to our metric Net Expected Points (NEP), which is adjusted for strength of schedule -- has a relatively smooth path to weekly awesomeness. (You can read more about NEP in our glossary.)

Opponent Defensive NEP Defensive NEP Rank
Los Angeles Rams -4.11 10th
Green Bay Packers 9.98 14th
San Francisco 49ers 31.97 30th
Washington (x2) -18.88 5th
Kansas City Chiefs 14.05 18th
Atlanta Falcons 12.32 15th
Philadelphia Eagles (x2) 2.51 11th
Los Angeles Chargers 16.2 20th
New York Giants 13.09 16th
Oakland Raiders 23.51 27th
Seattle Seahawks 15.58 19th

Another reason Bryant is a great get for fantasy owners is the fact that quarterback Dak Prescott is flinging the ball all over the field. Dallas finished last season with the highest run rate (49%) of any team. This season, the Cowboys rank 13th overall in pass rate (61%) and have averaged the 7th-highest passing ratio in the red zone (64%) -- although these numbers are skewed a bit by both the small sample and Dak's 50-pass game at Denver.

Field Position 2016 2017
Red Zone Run Rate 47% 36%
Inside 15 Run Rate 52% 22%
Inside 10 Run Rate 54% 27%
Inside 5 Run Rate 55% 20%

Bryant ranks second only to Larry Fitzgerald in red zone targets, and he is one of only 14 receivers who has amassed both a 25% target share and average depth of target of more than nine yards (9.1). His 40.74% catch rate on 27 targets (11th most looks in the league) doesn't scream efficiency, but that pesky catch rate isn't a concern given that he's finished with a catch rate below 52% just once in his career, that being in his 2015 injury-riddled campaign.

Even if Bryant's numbers remain stagnant for the rest of the season, he's still a player who will likely lead his team in overall opportunities, whether it be targets or red zone looks. His upcoming schedule, however, allows for a ceiling beyond that.

If you haven't yet tried trading for Dez Bryant, now is the time to do so. Even if you have to overpay.