After two and a half seasons away from football as a free agent, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is nearing his return to the NFL. According to reports, Bryant is trading in his blue and white for black and purple and is planning on signing with the Baltimore Ravens. Once on the team, can adding Dez Bryant to your fantasy football roster give you an edge as we get closer to playoffs, or should we temper our expectations for the aging veteran?
Update: According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Dez Bryant has been elevated from the practice squad, the standard elevation per the wire. That’s a sign that he’ll play tomorrow against the Indianapolis Colts.
Dez Bryant plans to sign with the Baltimore Ravens
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Ravens plan to sign veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant to their practice squad if his workout with the team “goes well” and he passes a physical.
Baltimore was one of three dream destinations for Bryant and he confirmed as such in a recent interview: “My dream goals: I want to suit up in the blue and silver, the black and gold or black and purple,” he said.
This is not the first time Bryant worked out for the team for Baltimore. The three-time Pro Bowl receiver initially received a multi-year offer from the Ravens during the 2018 offseason but instead, he opted to sign a one-year deal later in the season with the Saints, citing his wish to re-establish himself as one of the best in the league before committing to a long-term deal with an NFL team.
Unfortunately for Dez Bryant, he suffered a torn Achilles in his first practice with the team and has been a free agent and out of the NFL ever since.
Bryant will get his wish and sign with the Ravens, first to their practice squad, but there is no way they keep a talent like his there. Also, Bryant didn’t come out of free agency to be a practice squad player. He came to contribute and will be on a Ravens team that needs help at the receiver position. As long as he is up to game speed, he will be able to contribute right away.
Dez Bryant brings a skillset the Baltimore Ravens are missing
The Ravens have been looking for a veteran receiver presence since the offseason but decided to stick with their young players to start the 2020 NFL season. Thus far, the Baltimore passing game has been hit-or-miss through six games. Marquise Brown leads the Ravens with 26 receptions for 376 yards and has one touchdown. The next WR on the Ravens is Willie Snead with 11 catches for 149 yards. Brown especially has been a rather massive disappointment for fantasy purposes, as he was a favorite of some to be a breakout candidate.
Outside of Mark Andrews, the Ravens have lacked any version of a threatening passing game. That is not to say they haven’t tried, as they picked up two more receivers in the draft with Texas’ Devin Duvernay (pick #91) and James Proche out of SMU (pick #201).
The question is, what does Dez Bryant still have in the tank that he can bring to the Ravens? Bryant, 31, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2017. That season, he gained 838 yards and scored six touchdowns with the Cowboys. The downside is that Bryant wasn’t exactly the quickest the last time we saw him on the field and struggled at times to get separation from DBs. However, if Bryant can still be explosive at the catch, he doesn’t need separation as he is one of the best high-point or contested-catch receivers we have seen in recent memory.
Can he do all of this still? I don’t know. Add in a few years away from the game and an Achilles injury, and it’s hard to say what he will look like.
If he can still make contested catches, Bryant may carve out a role in the Ravens’ offense. With Brown capable of burning defenses deep, the Ravens could use someone to make short, tough catches to move the chains underneath. That was one of Bryant’s strengths with the Cowboys. He could also give the team another reliable red zone target, another area in which Bryant excelled in Dallas.
Dez Bryant’s fantasy outlook after joining the Ravens
For one, we need to remember that Bryant is going to the practice squad once he signs, even if that is not a long-term spot for him. Once the signing is official and passes his physical, I’d expect at least two weeks until we see him on the active 53-man roster, meaning you would get nothing from him right now.
However, based on name alone, if you are a fantasy manager, the name Dez Bryant gets your attention. I am not saying that he is going to be some week in and week out WR2 once he hits the lineup, but he could be a WR4 with touchdown upside. We know how good this team is and how much they score. Outside of Andrews, they don’t have a threat in the red zone to throw to, and that’s where Bryant can make his name.
We aren’t expecting the same Dez Bryant who had three straight years over 1,200 yards. We are also not expecting the same Dez Bryant whose 7,459 receiving yards are the fifth-best in Cowboys history and a franchise-best 73 touchdowns.
But what if we got a Bryant who caught four passes for 50 yards and saw at least two or three looks in the red zone each week? For a player who you can get for absolutely nothing in fantasy as a free agent, I would take the shot and add Dez Bryant to my lineup.
With the fantasy world enamored with veteran receivers and the “what if” game, why not add the one that will play in 2020…and I don’t mean Antonio Brown.
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