In Part One of this series, I day-dreamt about what Tony Romo could do with Scott Linehan as his offensive coordinator. I came to the conclusion that not only did he have a higher ceiling and floor than meets the eye, but his ADP is such that he should probably be the number one target for “late-round QB” enthusiasts. Here in Part Two, I’m going to explore similar phenomena with the number one receiving beneficiary of Linehan’s arrival- the elite Dez Bryant.
Linehan’s Number One Receivers (2006-2013) vs. Dez Bryant (2011-2013)
Efficiency-wise, how does Dez Bryant compare with Linehan’s previous number ones as a head coach or offensive coordinator? Let’s find out (I threw out Bryant’s injury-shortened rookie season):
|Dez Bryant, 2011-2013||Tgts/G||Y/Tgt||Catch %||TD%||PPR Fantasy Finish||Target Finish|
|Linehan's #1 Receiver||Year||Games||Tgts/G||Y/Tgt||Catch %||TD%||PPR Fantasy Finish||Target Finish|
Very similar to comparing Romo and Stafford, Bryant’s efficiency numbers are higher across the board compared to Holt and Johnson’s. Again, the one thing missing? Volume. It’s really incredible how Linehan’s number ones have performed- Linehan’s ones have 5 top-6 (upper half of WR1s) fantasy finishes, and all but Holt’s age-32 decline season in 2008 finished in the top 11 in targets. If you remove Torrey Holt’s decline season, the averages would move up to a 7th place fantasy finish and a 6th place target finish for Linehan’s number ones. This would also bring the average targets per game up to 10.4. Speaking of Holt, don’t worry about his lack of touchdowns- he was never the red-zone threat Dez and Calvin have proven to be.
Bryant’s Efficiency with Linehan’s Number One’s Target Volume
If Dez kept up his three-year efficiency averages while getting the average amount of targets per game that Linehan’s number ones saw, what would his stats look like?
|Tgts/G||Catches||Yards||TDs||PPR Fantasy Points|
An elite line like that would have made him WR1 overall in 2013 and WR3 in 2012 and 2011. It’s always tough to keep up efficiency when volume is increased, but Dez has done a good job of this in his career as his target volume has increased. One example of this is his always-stellar TD percentage, never dipping lower than 13% from 2011 to 2013.
Why Bryant’s Extrapolation Is Reasonable
1. Dez Bryant is entering the prime years for wide receivers. He is entering his age-26 season: historically a peak season for WRs.
2. Bryant will actually see his fair share of one-on-one coverage due to the Cowboys supporting cast and above-average run game. But even though they have other weapons, Linehan has always heavily targeted his number one receiver- look at Torry Holt’s stats even when those Rams had Isaac Bruce and Steven Jackson.
3. The pass defenses in his division really struggled last year, and only the Giants have made any sort of improvement. Here are the 2013 Pro Football Focus rankings for the projected starting cornerbacks Dez will face within the NFC East:
|Player||Team||PFF Ranking (Out of 110)|
The only person that is potentially worrisome is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who Dez has a 40+ lb weight advantage on and whose physicality could give the finesse corner fits. Dez has humiliated nearly every other corner on this list at least once.
Dez Bryant has always had the elite talent, and has started putting up elite numbers to match over the past two seasons. For a player like him, the sky is the limit if given elite volume, to boot. With his activity in the red-zone, his floor should be 10 touchdowns, while he could approach or even exceed 100 catches if Linehan keeps up his current trend of targeting his number one wideout over 160 times. An argument could be made that he’s the number two overall receiver for 2014, and has as high of a floor as anyone not named Demaryius Thomas. It’s scary to think that Bryant has probably yet to peak, and you’re gonna want him on your fantasy squad in 2014.