Missed the List: Dez Bryant

Steve Palazzolo discusses Dez Bryant's absence from the PFF 101 for 2013.

| 3 years ago

Missed the List: Dez Bryant

2013-101-missed-bryantEach of the PFF analysts has had a chance to state their case for players that just missed the Top 101 and there are even more that were the subject of debate for the final few spots. Among the most difficult exclusions was Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Add to it that wide receiver may have been the deepest, most closely-contested position, and Bryant simply came up short in the end.

We often see various performance “tiers” at any given position, but 2013 was a year of many “very good” performances at wide receiver. It was difficult to separate the top 15 or so at the position, never mind squeezing them into the oft-scrutinized Top 101 list.

The final result saw big names such as A.J. Green and Bryant either lower than most fans would expect (No. 97 for Green) or left off the list completely. While both Green and Bryant are top-5 type talents, they lacked the consistency of some of their peers while their strong raw numbers benefitted from a high volume of targets.

As for Bryant, I went to bat for him throughout the selection process, but he ultimately failed to make the list (I like to think he’s at least No. 102).

Dominant Start

Had the Top 101 been voted on for the first half of the season, Bryant would have been a lock after he graded at +12.0 overall in his first eight games. He picked up eight of his 13 touchdowns while dropping only three passes and notching three games with at least 100 receiving yards. He graded “in the green” in five of his eight games, including four impressive performances with at least a +2.0 grade or better.

Whether outjumping cornerback Brandon Flowers to pick up a 53-yard catch-and-run against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 or outrunning and weaving through the Denver Broncos’ defense on his way to a 79-yard gain in Week 5, Bryant’s big play ability was on display throughout the first half. He was the Cowboys’ go-to receiver and he produced like one.

Slow Finish

While Dez didn’t grade in the red once in the first half, he kicked off the second half with a disastrous performance in Week 9 that saw him drop two passes and commit two penalties. The drops became the norm for the rest of the season as eight of his 11 came in the second half. He also picked up two of his three fumbles. It was mostly a four-game stretch that saw him grade at -6.2 between Weeks 9 and 13 that did him in.

Despite bouncing back with a dominant +3.9 outing in Week 15 against the Green Bay Packers, it marked the only game in the green for Bryant in the entire second half, a drop-off that was too much to overcome. He still made his fair share of plays, but the drops and fumbles littered his play and he was a non-factor in multiple games.

Final Word

There’s no doubting Bryant’s talent and it certainly wouldn’t shock to see him back near the top of the PFF 101 in a year’s time. I need to reiterate the surrounding talent at the wide receiver positions as it was his competition that helped to push him off the list. Players like Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, and Marques Colston were able to play a more consistent brand of football while largely avoiding the midseason lull that ultimately cost Bryant a spot.

Just going through Bryant’s positives and negatives have me going back and forth about Bryant’s inclusion on the list. He has the ability to take over and dominate a game, and he certainly did that his fair share of the time in 2013, but his pedestrian finish is tough to overlook. When combined with the deep class of wide receivers, it made it difficult to find a place for Bryant, though I still think he should have landed somewhere in the 90’s.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Richard Light

    In other words, “No, PFF does not hate your team/favorite player. It just likes other players more.”

    Sounds fair – can’t play at your worst down the stretch with your team in playoff contention and expect a lot of praise.

  • KittyTheBear

    Dez is so talented and yet acts like a 4 year old out there sometimes. He loses focus, checks out, and throws sideline tantrums when he doesn’t get the ball. My (and Dez’s) money is on Dez to step it up in his contract year

    • KittyTheBear

      Speaking of Dez not getting the ball, he was utilized very poorly by the Cowboys coaching staff last year. He’s such a playmaker, they really need to scheme for him better. Use pre-snap motion, line him up in the slot more, etc. like the Lions do with Mega and the Pack did with Jordy. There’s no reason for him to be stuck outside in such a predictable manner.

  • D

    Wow, talk about over analyzing. Just go by the stats that matter, like 13 TDs. Only J. Graham and D. Thomas caught more. Dez racked up over 1200 yds and 93 receptions, yet Colston made the list with his 940 yds and 5 measly TDs. The eyeball test should tell you that’s not right. So what if he had a couple game bad games? His ceiling is a whole lot higher than Colstons on any given day.

  • Mattb

    top lel if you think gimpy slow system baby Colston belongs in a list that omits Dez.

  • David

    Colston is on the list but not Bryant? Your list is a joke…

  • SmartThinking

    Anyone who followed The Cowboys knows Bryant was double and even triple-teamed during nearly every game last year. The first NY Giants game, they did everything, including take holding penalties, to keep him from getting behind them. That was his season … frustrating at best. He still gained more than 1,200 yards. Bryant’s NOT making the list says more about those who chose the players than Bryant’s efforts. Pay more attention, guys!!!

  • DrAWNiloc

    It may be worth noting that in 2013 Dallas WRs faced the softest backfields in the league while WRs in New Orleans faced the most difficult.

  • peterk

    Wow, reading the article I thought that’s the argument is sort of acceptable. But then, reading your comments guys about Coltston making the list but Dez aren’t, it’s indeed a joke…

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  • BlackSuave

    This list is so ridiculous that, I’m not going to say anything else about it other than to say that it’s ridiculous.

  • Nucci

    I thought you guys were knowledgable, not having Dez on this this is absolutely obsurd. May aswell not put Rodgers, manning, Brady, or watt on the list.