Cowboys Dez 1-On-1: Top Of His Class?

Dez Bryant seems well on his way to being near the top of the class of NFL receivers. But in this exclusive conversation with CowboysHQ, he reflects on being part of the Class of 2010. 'There's pride there,' Dez tells us, 'because we're all trying to make our mark. All of us.' We analyze Dez's 'high marks' in this 1-on-1 visit:

With the 24th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected wide receiver Dez Bryant from Oklahoma State. Dallas traded its first- and third-round choices to New England to move up from 27 to take the mercurial pass-catcher who spent most of 2009 suspended for NCAA rule violations.

"Being part of any draft is a special memory,'' Dez tells us. "But that day ... and this team ... 'special' is the word.''

Ah, but not only did some fans criticize the move, but the acquisition shocked Dallas' wide receiving corps. On a June 7 broadcast with Nathan Wood on 105.3 The Fan, former Cowboys wideout Jesse Holley related the unit's disbelief, and noted how the selection motivated veteran receiver Patrick Crayton to request a trade.
For the next two years, Dez Bryant made headlines ... sometimes in a wobbly direction. In training camp, he refused to carry teammate Roy Williams' pads as a part of a rookie initiation. There were tales of jewelry bills and pants sagging and conflicts with family members.

The incidents prompted the supposed creation of "The Dez Rules," purported to be a series of guidelines formed by the Cowboys to help foster maturity in the future star. In fact, we reported at the time, the "rules'' were manufactured by Dez' own people. But the point is the same.

Behavioral rules for someone who was a bit unruly.

Inside the lines for the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant flashed moments of greatness. His rookie season ended after Week 13, and he battled injuries in his sophomore campaign while failing to reach 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. He only had one 100-yard game to show through 27 games. It wasn't until the 10th game of his third season that he consistently dominated games, going so far as to catch nine balls for 224 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans in Week 16. In 2013, Bryant earned the first of presumed many Pro Bowl berths to come.

While the questions surrounding Bryant have shifted more from off-the-field issues to gridiron performance, in the shadow of his coming contract extension, the question remains whether the 25-year-old is worth what is assumed to be a $10-mil-plus-a-year deal.
One way to evaluate Bryant's value is comparing him to his own draft class.

The 2010 NFL Draft saw 27 wide receivers taken. Among those 27 wide receivers, only 20 remain in the NFL. Score one in the Dez Column being able to best guys such as Jordan Shipley and Terrance Austin.

Among the 20 wide receivers from the '10 class still in the NFL, Bryant is among the seven who still remain on their original team. The other six wide receivers are Golden Tate, Marcus Easley, Marc Mariani, Antonio Brown, Riley Cooper, and Demaryius Thomas.

How does Dez compare?

In terms of games played, Bryant comes in at fourth with 59 out of 64 possible games played. Only Eric Decker (62), Andre Roberts (62), and Brandon LaFell (60) are ahead of the Cowboys receiver.
However, in terms of games started, Bryant is second with 45. Buffalo's Mike Williams is the only wideout ahead of him at 52.

"Part of what is a source of pride for me,'' Dez tells us, "is showing up to work every day. When you look around and see how the very best do it, that's always a starting point.''

The production Bryant has put forth since September 12th, 2010 is remarkable. He leads the 2010 class with 293 catches. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown trails him with 261. To catch up, Bryant would need to sit out for five games as Brown averaged 6.5 catches over that span.

The yardage further separates Dez from his peers. Denver's Demaryius Thomas was taken two spots ahead of Bryant in the 2010 draft, but Bryant is over 400 yards ahead of Thomas with 4,104 to his 3,698.

Scoring is another facet of Bryant's game that puts him on top. With 40 touchdowns taking first place, Eric Decker comes in second with 33 touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas closes in with 30 touchdowns. It is important to note Decker and Thomas played two full seasons with Peyton Manning, including last year's record-setting season.
There are some productive categories Bryant does own. In terms of yards per game, undrafted free-agent Victor Cruz from the Giants tops the list with 74.0, while Bryant trails him and Demaryius at 69.6 (Thomas is two-tenths of a yard ahead of Bryant).

Bryant also leads his draft class in fumbles with 13. The closest player is Thomas with 8, and then Brown with 6.

Pro Bowl berths is another category Bryant is bested. Currently, Thomas and Brown are tied with two Pro Bowl berths apiece while Bryant earned his lone honor last season. Nine of the 27 wide receivers taken (including the now-unemployed Shipley) have played on playoff teams while Bryant has been a part of heartbreaking losses in Week 17 elimination games.

"I don't know all the numbers of Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown,'' Dez says. "What I know is that those guys are doing what I'm doing in terms of taking pride in being part of that draft and in being part of their teams. And I'm sure they'll agree that the numbers that matters are wins, which we're working on here.''

Football is a team game, and the separation Bryant has created from most of his draft class proves he does his part. With a contract extension on the way, the discussion can soon shift from "Dez vs. His Class'' to "Dez vs. The Class of The NFL.''

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