Cowboys trade up, draft Dez Bryant

The Dallas Cowboys filled a major need and added an electric offensive weapon in the first round when they traded up to grab embattled former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant.

Dez Bryant Profile

The 6-2, 225-pound Bryant is a physical marvel who would have gone higher — much higher — if not for off-field issues. He missed the final 10 games of the 2009 season after lying to the NCAA about a meeting with former Cowboy cornerback Deion Sanders, and then raised more eyebrows with what was perceived as a fairly cavalier attitude about his personal Pro Day in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas.

The immediate comparison that comes to mind is Terrell Owens — the hope is that the parallels are physical only, and that Bryant doesn't arrive with Owens' penchant for drama and grabbing the spotlight. But he also is big, strong wideout with the speed to get downfield and a guy who will fight the strongest defensive backs for balls in flight. In addition to having an extremely powerful build, what is more underrated are his extraordinary balance and large, strong hands. He catches the ball away from his body, and adjusts to the ball in mid-flight extremely well, and is a very tough runner after the catch.

For a guy of his size and strength, he sometimes is criticized for not blocking with enough intensity, but that is something that can — and will — be coached. He also has relied sometimes on pure athleticism to get open and beat defenders for contested passes, but that won't always work in the NFL, so he has to run better routes, but if he does, he could be an exceptional pro.

In 28 games over two-plus seasons in Stillwater, Bryant caught 147 passes for 2,425 yards (16.5 yards per catch), and showed a nose for the end zone, catching 29 touchdown passes.

The Cowboys' ability to re-sign Miles Austin won't really affect how Bryant fits in with the team; instead, Bryant's ability to acclimate to the NFL and to the Dallas offense might affect other receivers.

Assuming Austin is kept — and owner Jerry Jones has said his star wideout isn't going anywhere — a quick adjustment to the NFL game just might force Jones to acknowledge that he overpaid for receiver Roy Williams. Granted, there is no salary cap in the 2010 season. But does Jones really want to invest that heavily in three receivers? Williams has four years remaining on a six-year, $54 million contract (of which $26 million is guaranteed). Austin should get a deal that should approach the same level of compensation.

Last year's No. 24 pick, Atlanta defensive lineman Peria Jerry, signed a five-year deal worth $10.5 million. Considering the increase from one year to the next, plus the fact that marquee positions like wide receiver sometimes get paid at a slightly higher rate, Bryant likely will get a moderate raise over Jerry's deal. Does Jones really want to pay a premium rate for three wideouts?

Regardless of the money, and regardless of what happens with Williams, Bryant is a dynamic weapon who will make the Dallas offense more potent. He can get deep to stretch the vertical passing game, and he has the size and strength, not to mention the needed toughness, to go over the middle. Bryant's arrival should make offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, quarterback Tony Romo, the other Cowboy receivers and even the Dallas running backs more effective at their jobs.

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