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Fantasy Football: Dez Bryant Could Be the Top WR in 2014

Dez Bryant Dallas Cowboys

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Dez Bryant has been a solid fantasy WR for the past few seasons. In fact, Bryant was the seventh highest-scoring WR in standard scoring fantasy football leagues last year. While most might be quick to peg Calvin Johnson as the consensus top WR going into 2014, I think that Bryant might actually surpass him this coming season.

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Bryant in the 2010 NFL Draft, and though he didn’t have staggering numbers in his rookie year, he’s produced consistently in the past three seasons, averaging about 1,200 yards and 11 TDs in that span. Obviously Bryant will be a highly-valued fantasy WR going into the 2014 season, but what makes me think that he could end the season as the top-scoring receiver?

I recently mentioned that I think Tony Romo could be a top-5 fantasy QB in 2014. The big offseason change that dictates this belief is due to the hiring of Scott Linehan. Dallas hired Linehan to be their new offensive play caller after the Detroit Lions fired him along with former head coach Jim Schwartz.

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett already likes to throw, as the Cowboys passed the ball on about 65 percent of their plays last year. The pass-happy Linehan will only increase that number. From 2011 to 2013, Lions QB Matt Stafford made on average about 675 pass attempts per season under Linehan’s direction. Stafford also threw the ball a career-high 727 times in 2011.

In 2013, Bryant made 93 receptions on 160 targets, catching about 58 percent of the passes thrown to him (a few of these were from backup QB Kyle Orton, but the amount is immaterial enough to ignore). Romo made a total of 535 pass attempts last year, targeting Bryant on approximately 30 percent his attempts. Let’s take a look at two different possible scenarios that could occur in 2014.

In the first, let’s assume that Romo makes 675 pass attempts next year, Stafford’s recent three-year average. If we extrapolate the 2013 numbers and assume that Romo once again targets Bryant on about 30 percent of his throws, that would amount to about 203 targets for him. Assuming Bryant successfully catches 58 percent of those 203 targets, the total would come out to about 118 catches.

If Bryant once again averages 14.0 YPC as he has over his career, that’s over 1,650 yards. If we give him his career average of 10 TDs per season, that’s 225 points in standard leagues and 343 points in PPR leagues. In 2013, that would’ve been good enough to make him a top-three WR and the 24th-best overall player in standard scoring as well as the top WR and fourth-best overall player in PPR formats.

Now for fun, let’s project Bryant’s stats if Romo were to go crazy and match Stafford’s 2011 total of 727 pass attempts. If Romo again throws 30 percent of his 727 attempts to Bryant, that’s about 218 targets. Assuming Bryant once again catches 58 percent of those 218 targets, he would catch 126 balls.

Using the same 14.0 YPC and 10 TD averages, his total now amounts to over 1,760 yards, scoring 236 points in standard leagues and 362 points in PPR leagues. In 2013, that would’ve made him the top WR and 22nd-best overall player in standard scoring as well as the top WR and third-best overall player in PPR formats. Now do you see why I love Bryant for 2014?

Of course, there are concerns as these metrics are strictly hypothetical. Any number of variables will affect Bryant’s actual production in 2014. Here are a few issues to consider. While the Cowboys are likely to continue running a pass-heavy offense, there’s no guarantee that Romo would reach such a high number of pass attempts. Also, both Romo and Bryant have had back injuries in the past, and these could resurface. Finally, Bryant has had trouble with the law in the past, most recently in 2012.

But if the stars align and everything comes together for Romo and Bryant, the resulting season for Cowboys fans and fantasy football owners alike would be nothing short of remarkable. Megatron will surely get his glory and points in 2014 as well, but if my draft positions allow for it, I might just be drafting Bryant as the No. 1 overall WR this coming season.

Meng Song is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ms0ng, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your Google+ network.