Will Dez Bryant return to form in 2016?
After signing a five-year, $70 million contract in 2015 the expectations for star wideout Dez Bryant had never been higher. However, a broken bone in his foot suffered during the Week 1 opener against the Giants sent his season into a downward spiral. In typical Dez fashion, he worked hard to get back on the field and ended up playing a total of nine games. Despite being able to suit up for over half the season, Bryant did admit that he probably did push himself back into action a bit too early and that he wasn’t quite 100% down the stretch of 2015. But if his own injury didn’t plague his fantasy stock enough, he saw most of his reps come with backup quarterbacks as Tony Romo wound up with two broken collarbones in the same season.
Heading into the 2016 season and healthy once again, you will find many opinions and breakdowns of the Dallas playmaker. But the one I will give is from a statistical analysis point of view. I try to look at a player holistically so that I don’t get sucked into the one-year wonder hype that many fantasy owners fall victim to. But when you look at the last four seasons of Dez Bryant’s career, you will see he truly is one of the most consistent fantasy producing receivers out there. He thrived in 2014 as he amassed a career-high sixteen touchdowns with running back DeMarco Murray continually moving the chains. As the Cowboys found a balance in their offense, Bryant saw a spike in red zone opportunities. Now, with first-rounder Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Dez will get the chance to once again be a part of a much more balanced offense. So let’s dive into his recent numbers to see where his production stems from and what you can expect for fantasy football purposes.
Career stats since 2012
- Fantasy points by season (based on standard scoring)
- 2012 : 208 points (3rd overall WR)
- 2013 : 203 points (6th overall WR)
- 2014 : 228 points (4th overall WR)
- 2015 : 58 points (79th overall WR)
Dez Bryant has been extremely consistent in producing touchdowns over the past four years. Matter of fact, he had three consecutive seasons where he found pay dirt a dozen times or more. Out of the last 57 total games, he has hauled in 44 total touchdowns. That breaks down to an average of 0.77 touchdowns per game or 12 touchdowns per year. That kind of red zone production is hard to find.
When looking at his workload you will see that Dez has averaged 8.95 targets per game since 2012. So if you factor the sixteen game span, you’re looking at a healthy average serving of 143 targets.
If you take the past four years of production and factor it into yards per game, he has managed 76 yards per contest. This means on an average sixteen game basis you could expect 1,216 yards from No. 88.
Dez Bryant gets better as the season goes on. Here are his career stats by month. As you can see, he tends to peak right when you need him to for fantasy purposes. With each passing month of the season, his touchdowns and yards per game continue to grow which sets owners up for prime fantasy playoff production. If this doesn’t perk your fantasy appetite I don’t know what will.
Stats courtesy ProFootballReference
Bottom line draft advice for 2016
He is currently the WR5 in ADP as well as WR5 in our Expert Consensus Rankings. This means if you are taking Dez Bryant you are investing your first-round pick in the dynamic playmaker. However, what are you going to do if an injury lingers again in 2016 or if perhaps his quarterback play starts to break down? Here’s my best advice. If you are going to take an early-round receiver with a potential risk factor, go ahead and take another wideout early in the draft that you would be comfortable with as a potential low-end WR1 in case of emergency. That way if Dez does stay healthy you are loaded at WR in a pass-first league and if he struggles you aren’t left scouring the waiver wire trying to pick up the scraps. In my opinion, the reward far outweighs the risk here. If he and Romo can stay healthy, I see no reason he cannot replicate his production from 2014 and consistently throw up the “X” week in and week out for you and your fantasy team.
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Paul Maland is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Paul, check out his archive.