NFL Fantasy: Is Dez Bryant a Week 5 must-start?

Dez Bryant is off to a sub-standard start in 2017. Is it time to put him on the bench, or does he remain a must-start in Week 5?

Dez Bryant is one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. We know this because teams that have shut down cornerbacks keep assigning them to follow Bryant during the whole game. So far, Bryant has gone against Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib, Patrick Peterson, and Trumaine Johnson. The results have been dismal for the Cowboys star. 

His best game came against Talib and the Denver Broncos. A touchdown on top of 59 yards gave him the 13th highest NFL fantasy score in the wide receiver group. In Week 4, he had his highest yardage game with 98 yards on five catches, good for 21st on the leaderboard. Against the Cardinals, he had a typical Monday Night Football highlight play when he made two defenders miss and then barreled through two more to score a touchdown. But he only had one other catch and finished at #41, which was better than the #52 ranking he got against the Giants in the opening game. 

Why would he be a must-start? 

Like we said, despite the numbers, Dez Bryant still commands respect as one of the most talented receivers in the game today. Teams who have shutdown corners will put them one-on-one with him whenever they can. But not every team has a shutdown corner, such as, for example, the Green Bay Packers. They happen to be the Cowboys’ next opponent. 

Green Bay ranks among the ten most-generous defenses versus wide receivers. That is half the equation; the other half is targets. That is definitely not a worry for Dez Bryant. Perhaps because he is aware of the criticism of a lack of cohesion with his star receiver, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown the ball toward Bryant 40 times. Against four of the top cornerbacks in the league, Bryant caught only 16 of those passes. Some were well-defended, while others were off the mark; but ten targets against a lesser defensive secondary makes Bryant a high-percentage NFL fantasy player this week. 

What could go wrong? 

Green Bay might not have the best defense in the league, but they are a professional football team and they have smart coaches. Prescott has thrown the ball to Bryant a ridiculous amount at the expense of other receivers. Cole Beasley has been practically invisible this year. Brice Butler is good for a couple of long balls. Terrance Williams will get five targets or so. If the defense knows Bryant will see 10-12 passes regardless of coverage, they will devise a way to keep him contained. 

Then, there’s always the chance that Bryant is experiencing a fall-off in his skills. Maybe he should have caught another dozen of Prescott’s throws. After two seasons of injuries, maybe there is a permanent fault in his ability. 

So, you’re saying…

Dez Bryant is 28 years old, not 38. His numbers are “bad” only by the ridiculous standards we give to stars. Even after his awful start, he still ranks as the WR-21 this season. He is an elite NFL wide receiver about to get fed ten or more targets against a suspect defense. 

He is absolutely a must-start, probably one of the safest starts of the week. Play him with confidence against Green Bay. 

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