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Free Agent Dez Bryant is Still Fantasy Relevant – Possible Landing Spots

Free Agent Dez Bryant is Still Fantasy Relevant – Possible Landing Spots
Steven Toroni April 13, 2018 6:53PM EDT
Dez Bryant Still is Relevant in Fantasy Football

After eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant has been released. He finishes his tenure with the Cowboys fifth in receiving yards (7,450), third in receptions (531), second in receiving yards per game (66), and first in receiving touchdowns (73) in the history of the franchise. While those stats are impressive, Bryant has not been elite in Fantasy since 2014 when he caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns that translated into 316 Fantasy points in Points Per Reception leagues. He finished as the WR4 that year. In the three seasons since then, he has finished as WR82 (Tony Romo only played four games and Bryant played 9 that year), WR22, and WR25 respectively.

The notion that Bryant is washed up at 29-years old is unfair. Bryant was awarded a five-year, $70M contract under the pretense that Tony Romo would be his quarterback for the entire length of the contract. Of course, Romo missed most of 2015 with a back injury and ultimately had to leave the NFL after the 2016 season following Dak Prescott’s successful rookie campaign for the Cowboys.

Along with a nagging foot injury that has required multiple surgeries off the field, adjusting to Prescott on the field did not go as smoothly as the Cowboys had hoped. While Prescott had an exceptional rookie season, he struggled in his second year, especially when attempting to get the ball to his most talented target.

The Cowboys opted to back out of the contract they signed in 2015 and save $8.5M of the $16M they owed Bryant for 2018. However, Bryant is still going to be paid very well next season by whomever signs him. There are plenty of teams with the need for a wide receiver. In Fantasy, projecting a full 16-game season, the ninth-year player is at worst a low-end WR2 and at best a low-end WR1 in 2018 depending on where he lands. He still is a touchdown machine with superior run-after-the-catch ability.

On the way out of Cowboys Stadium on Friday, it is reported that Bryant said he would be facing Dallas twice next season. Let’s project potential outcomes for the wide receiver the media loves to talk about.

The New York Giants

Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. have been openly friendly with each other on and off the field since OBJ was drafted in 2014. Brandon Marshall is still under contract for this upcoming season but exited 2017 with an injury. If Marshall is not healthy, or if the Giants can come to an agreement with the former All-Pro to release him, then Bryant would be the perfect fit for the Giants – and they would be the perfect fit for him. Of course, Marshall would have to be released first for this to make sense, so let’s jump into a hypothetical situation.

Bryant would benefit substantially from not having to be the lead dog, as Beckham Jr. would be the threat who demands double coverage. This would also be the best thing that could happen to Eli Manning whose career will be coming to an end soon. It remains to be seen what path the Giants take with Manning, but if they want to give the franchise one last chance at a Super Bowl, giving the veteran quarterback Bryant to go along with OBJ, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram would certainly increase the odds of a postseason run. The Giants could even put themselves in the discussion as the favorite in the NFC if they sign Bryant and draft Saquon Barkley, the highly anticipated prospect out of Penn State, with the second overall pick.

Bryant should be on Fantasy owners’ radar as a solid WR2 if he lands on the Giants. According to Fantasypros.com, he is projected as the consensus WR19 going into 2018. Give that a slight bump if the wide receiver ends up with the New York Giants as he will have 8-10 touchdown upside with them.

The San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers were expected to reward quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with a true number one option at wide receiver like Allen Robinson. This could be a blessing for the Niners, who missed out on the initial wave of wide receiver free agents, and what a treat it would be for Dez Bryant to be an integral part of a Kyle Shanahan offense.

Bryant would join Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin in the committee of wideouts in San Francisco. Bryant would be the most talented of the group and become the number one option for Garoppolo in his first full season as a starter. Shanahan is known for finding a plethora of ways to utilize his best players, as he did as the offensive coordinator in Washington and Atlanta. So, on the 49ers, it is most likely that Bryant will find himself both on the outside and in the slot, which would maximize his output. This would be the best scenario in Fantasy as Bryant would have Top 12 upside given a 16-game slate. Playing from the slot would increase his receptions and he would be the 49ers’ number one red zone option.

I cannot see a scenario in which Bryant would last beyond the third round in redraft leagues if he ended up in San Francisco, as he will have WR1 potential in that offense.

The New York Jets

Another New York team that missed out on a big name on offense in free agency, the New York Jets have money to spend. According to overthecap.com, the Jets have over $23M in cap space, and their current number one option at wide receiver is Robby Anderson who is dealing with legal issues. The Jets have the potential to offer Bryant the most money, but he would be in a bad situation on a losing team.

In Fantasy, Bryant would have a chance to be a high-end WR2, as Josh McCown has been known to air it out downfield. In come-from-behind scenarios with a pass-happy quarterback, Bryant would have a lot of opportunities for those tasty garbage Fantasy points. However, if it’s Teddy Bridgewater (who may not even be on the team by preseason) as the quarterback, Bryant’s value would drop because of his conservative style.

“He’s a Beast”
Louisville prospect Lamar Jackson elected not to participate in the 40-yard dash in a brilliant move to confirm his stance on committing to the quarterback position in the NFL. Jackson told the Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network in a recent interview that he would have run a 4.3 40-yard dash.

Brooks has been a Lamar Jackson truther and has been vocal about his belief in the success of the stud QB. The former NFL defensive back is one of the more bullish analysts on Jackson as he has him projected to go to the Ravens at pick number 16. However, Brooks took to Instagram to make another bold claim regarding the polarizing prospect. Usually, a Bucky Brooks Instagram post would not light up the internet (no offense, Bucky), but, this particular post got the attention of one Mr. Tom Brady.

“I believe after watching Deshaun Watson tear up his defense, he (Bill Belichick) said, ‘I want a player like Lamar Jackson’”, says Brooks.

Tom Brady’s reply?

After sending away Brandin Cooks, the Patriots received the 23rd overall selection via the Rams, giving them two first round picks (23 and 31). If Jackson drops to 23 and the Patriots select him, Lamar Jackson could be the successor to the man who has brought five Super Bowl wins (and counting) to New England.

Since analyzing Fantasy Football consists of a lot of projecting for the future, I thought it would be fun to discuss a few different outcomes for Lamar Jackson in redraft and dynasty leagues.

The NFL Draft is on April 26, and the following teams could be potential destinations for Jackson.

New England Patriots

If Jackson goes to New England, the only time he will see the field is on a trick play or wildcat situation, or if Brady gets hurt. While there is no doubt Belichick and Josh McDaniels would find some clever ways to get the most out of Jackson, it would be rare to find the rookie behind center, in the backfield, or in the slot. However, those are all viable spots on the field for the versatile Jackson. While Jackson has stuck with his narrative that he is a quarterback in the NFL, he wouldn’t do much for Fantasy owners as a Patriot in 2018.

In dynasty leagues, Jackson would be a sure first round pick as a member of the Patriots, especially for someone who has a competitive team right now. Brady’s contract is good through 2020 when he will be 43-years old, but there is no guarantee that the future Hall of Famer will hang up his cleats then, as he as stated that he will play until he is 45. Still, even if there is a chance that Jackson would be the starter in New England in 2020 warrants a first-round pick in dynasty drafts.

Baltimore Ravens

OK, he’ll be closer to relevance in 2018 in terms of Fantasy, but not quite. Joe Flacco is the starter and Baltimore just signed Robert Griffin III to a one-year deal. Even so, the Ravens have used packages for their speedy quarterbacks in the past (Tyrod Taylor, Thaddeus Lewis, etc.) and Jackson would see the field more often in 2018 in this scenario. Same deal here- fade the rookie in redraft league but pick him in the first round of dynasty drafts.

Buffalo Bills

Now we’re talking. Tyrod Taylor is gone and A.J. McCarron received a modest two-year, $10M deal this offseason for the Buffalo Bills. McCarron is the projected starter at this point and time, but he has never been a starter in the NFL. Releasing Taylor in retrospect would be brilliant if the Bills (who made the playoffs last year) were to get a younger and more talented player at the position who bolsters a similar style. If the Bills draft Jackson, there will without a doubt be a competition for the starting QB in Buffalo. This would make Jackson the perfect selection in two-QB leagues and even at the end of a 12-team redraft league. He is still a dynasty first-rounder in this scenario.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have the ninth overall selection in the draft and many have speculated that the team will take a quarterback with this selection. Following the Jay Cutler experience that was 2017, the Dolphins are quite obviously changing things up going into 2018. In 2017, the Dolphins’ offense was horrendous as they were 25th in the NFL in total yards per game at 307.7 and 29th in rushing yards per game with 86.8. Jarvis Landry is gone and Miami has recently signed Frank Gore to pair with the explosive Kenyon Drake. Lamar Jackson rushed for over 4,000 yards and scored 50 rushing touchdowns in three years at Louisville, so the combination of Jackson/Gore/Drake would be not only mouth-watering from a Fantasy standpoint, it would certainly improve the Dolphins’ 2018 running attack. The only thing standing in the way of this happening is the $40M dollars that Miami owes Ryan Tannehill through 2020.

Parting ways with Tannehill before the 2018 season is unlikely even if the Dolphins draft Jackson. Tannehill is coming off a torn ACL and will be 30-years old going into next season. If Jackson is a Dolphin, he is a stash in 12-team redraft leagues in the late rounds and could be a very sneaky pick-up in two-quarterback leagues. This would be the most appealing scenario for dynasty leagues as Jackson would be breathing down the neck of the aging Tannehill, about whom the Dolphins would have to make a serious business decision.

You get the picture. Regardless of where Lamar Jackson ends up in 2018, he is a first-round selection in dynasty. Keep an eye on his situation in redraft leagues because he could easily be next year’s Deshaun Watson in terms of Fantasy impact with crazy value.

Dez Bryant Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

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