Fantasy Football: Now Is the Time to Acquire Dez Bryant
When the NFL schedules were released, the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers were likely less than thrilled.
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|
|Kansas City Chiefs||14.05||18th|
|Philadelphia Eagles (x2)||2.51||11th|
|Los Angeles Chargers||16.2||20th|
|New York Giants||13.09||16th|
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.
|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.