With the draft now in the NFL's rear-view mirror and training camps in the future, it's time to take an early look at a handful of rookies who are poised to make an impact this fall. getting things started is Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Bryant is a physical freak with a bit of baggage. In October, his relationship to future Hall of Famer and NFL Network commentator Deion Sanders put the NCAA on alert, and Bryant was suspended for the remainder of his junior season. Still, with just one full collegiate season to show, Bryant had plenty of believers. He's confident and capable of destroying defenses on every down. In March, Bryant decided to enter the NFL draft early and was selected with the No. 24 pick after Dallas made a deal with New England to move up three spots. He will wear Michael Irvin's No. 88. A few days after the draft it was revealed that Bryant has an irregular heartbeat, but his condition is not a concern for the Cowboys medical staff.
Dissecting the depth chart: Let's make it simple -- Dallas is loaded. Miles Austin ranked among the league's top receivers last year in yards and touchdowns, while tight end Jason Witten caught 94 passes for 1,030 yards. Those two players alone demand much of quarterback Tony Romo's attention. But Dallas is also financially bound to Roy Williams for another season, and Patrick Crayton caught 37 passes last year. Throw in Sam Hurd and coaching-staff-favorite Kevin Ogletree and there are a few too many egos to satisfy. Fantasy owners should still feel confident that Bryant will find his place on the field sooner rather than later; he represents the future, while Williams, Crayton and Hurd in some ways already represent the past.
Just the stats: Bryant played in just three games last season before the suspension, racking up four touchdowns in those games (161 yards in a win over Rice). The year prior, Bryant was one of the best receivers in the country, with 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns in 13 games. Highlights included a pair of 200-yard games, three or more touchdown catches in four games, and a career-best 13 receptions in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against Oregon. As a freshman in '07, Bryant caught eight balls for 155 yards in a loss to Kansas, then beat up on Indiana in the Insight Bowl (nine catches, 117 yards, two touchdowns).
Rookie comparison from '09:Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Like his Big 12 rival, Bryant should have little trouble making the transition to the next level (and there is a good chance he'll arrive in camp ahead of Crabtree's schedule). Bryant has an NFL-ready body and a chip on his shoulder. However, while Crabtree was able to slide into the lineup with ease at San Francisco, Bryant will have to work hard just to get reps at Dallas.
Interesting fact that won't help you: Since the start of the common draft, Bryant is the third Oklahoma State wide receiver to get selected in Round 1. The others (Hart Lee Dykes in 1989 and Rashaun Woods in 2004) didn't have lasting NFL careers.
What he's worth: Bryant has more ability than any other receiver in this draft class, but it is probable fantasy owners will see inconsistent totals from him in Year 1. Not only must he shake off the rust from not playing for a full year, but the presence of Austin and Witten will limit Bryant's ability to post steady numbers each week.
In keeper leagues Bryant has tremendous upside, but for '10 he is only worth a mid- to late round pick as a No. 5 receiver in standard leagues.