Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant turned in arguably his best fantasy football performance against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11 of NFL action, catching 12 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Bryant was targeted 15 times in the overtime contest and clearly was Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo‘s favorite receiver, but don’t get used to it.
Bryant has been the textbook definition of “inconsistent” this season, both in fantasy and reality football. He’s turned in some outstanding performances, such as his latest outing, but he’s also had several duds as well. That works for some fantasy owners; they’d rather roll the dice each week with a guy like Bryant knowing he has the potential for a monster game. However, that’s not the way to win in the fantasy playoffs.
The Browns game was the fourth time this year that Bryant has been targeted at least 10 times, tied with Cowboys tight end Jason Witten for the team lead. However, Witten is as steady as the day is long while Bryant is a feast-or-famine fantasy option. For example, here are his targets from the Cowboys’ last five games: 3, 11, 4, 5 and 15. Sure, he has some big games but he also has some serious disappointments as well.
Here’s the drill: four of Bryant’s five double-digit fantasy games came against teams with pass defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league. He had a pair of one-point duds against the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons, teams with pass defenses ranked in the top half of the league at the time they played the Cowboys. So, in short, Bryant is only a solid option against a weak pass defense.
Sure, you can say that about a lot of receivers, but folks are calling Bryant “the next big thing” and a “top three fantasy receiver in 2013.” You can say you heard it here first: He’ll crumble in the fantasy playoffs.
Bryant does a disappearing act in a lot of games, especially in the second half. The Cowboys have three consecutive games against very hot defenses (Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints) right in the heart of the fantasy playoffs. If DeMarco Murray is healthy, Dallas will be forced to run the ball more even though head coach Jason Garrett is arguably the worst offensive play-caller in the NFL. When the Cowboys run the ball, guys like Witten become Romo’s first option on little dink and dunk passes to keep the chains moving. That means no monster games for Bryant.
The Bengals and Steelers boast two of the league’s top fantasy pass defenses, allowing well under 10 points to the opposing teams’ top wideouts. On average for the entire season, the Saints’ defense has given up more fantasy points to receivers than any other team, but ask Oakland Raiders star Denarius Moore how easy it was to get open against them in Week 11. He had one catch for nine yards. Like I said, the Saints are hot.
Romo throws the ball up for grabs pretty often, but typically not toward Bryant. If you look at the majority of Bryant’s catches this season, he was wide open and/or had his man-coverage defender beat down the field. So if Romo is in trouble, he’s going to force the ball to Witten or Miles Austin before Bryant.
When looking at Bryant’s catches, you’ll also see that almost 90 percent of them came against man coverage. Bryant is a big, physical receiver who likes to beat up on smaller cornerbacks, but he hasn’t figured out how to find the hole in zone coverage, which is why Romo hardly ever looks his way when defenses drop back. Don’t think for a minute that opposing teams left on Dallas’ schedule don’t see that. They’ll play a zone against Bryant all day and render him useless to Romo.
The trade deadline has passed, so if you missed out on unloading Bryant like the Cowboys did, you’d be smart to find someone else who has a more favorable playoff schedule to replace him. Young, recent breakout players like Justin Blackmon and T.Y. Hilton would be good options at this point. Danario Alexander doesn’t have nearly as favorable of a schedule, but he’s definitely worth a risk after two monster games in Weeks 10 and 11.