10 offseason questions: Is Bryant elite?

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
3:00
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys have major decisions to handle regarding their franchise this offseason. Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins, along with some guests, answer some of biggest issues for the Cowboys this week.

Is Dez Bryant an elite receiver now?

Bryant
Bryant
Todd Archer: I don’t want to go all Tony Gonzalez here, but how are we defining “elite receiver?” If we’re talking 90 catches, 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns, then yes. If we’re talking the best of the best, I don’t think so. By best of the best, I’m talking Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald types. Bryant is close, but he still has to close the gap. He has improved in just about every facet of his game since coming here, but he needs fine-tuning at a lot of things too. He can get off his game too easy if he faces physical corners. He can get off his game too easy if the ball doesn’t go his way early in games. He has momentary lapses of concentration. Hey, all receivers do, even guys in the elite category. Bryant is entering the final year of his contract, and the Cowboys want to keep him. He can do things at the position few players in the NFL can. He can make those breathtaking plays. I still can’t believe the catch against the Lions where he pinned the ball against his helmet. If we’re talking top five receiver, he’s close and can get there. And for that reason, the Cowboys will do everything they can to keep him around for a long time.

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Is Dez Bryant an elite receiver?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,621)

Tim MacMahon: That probably depends on your definition of elite, one of those buzz words that tends to generate a lot of controversy because it’s so vague. You could argue that Johnson is in a class of his own, making him the only truly elite receiver in the NFL right now.

But there’s no reasonable way to make a case that Bryant doesn’t belong in a conversation about the league’s best handful of receivers. Just look at the stats over the last two seasons. No other receiver has more touchdown catches than Bryant’s 25 (tied with tight end Jimmy Graham). He ranks sixth in yards (2,615) and seventh in receptions (185) during that span. And remember that he got off to a slow start before in 2012 before his spectacular second half of the season.

But the most exciting thing about Bryant is that it seems like he’s still only scratched the surface of his potential.

Truth be told, this season was a bit of a disappointment for him. He finished with 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns, but there were too many long stretches when the ball didn’t come his way and not enough big plays. Hence, the Scott Linehan hire as the offensive playcaller.

Bryant already ranks among the league’s best, and he still should get much better.

Calvin Watkins: Bryant always believed he would become an elite receiver, and in 2013 that happened. He finished 13th in yards (1,233), eighth in catches (93), tied for third in touchdowns (13) and fifth in first downs (67). He became the No. 1 force on the team's offense and his numbers should have been better if not for some questionable play calls. Bryant continues to improve with his route running and his command of the offense shouldn't be questioned.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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