The Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones played their hand well on Thursday night; Dez Bryant was the player they wanted, a player they'll now tell you was ranked in their Top 10. In fact, most scouts and experts had Bryant ranked as one of the most talented players in the 2010 NFL draft. The dreaded 'character issues' set his fall in motion, much to the delight of Jones and Co. They got their man after a quick jump up three spots to edge out the Baltimore Ravens.
In the run up to the draft, I didn't really consider Bryant a possibility unless Dallas made a big leap towards the top of the first round. The issues with Bryant I'd heard about seemed almost trivial, and knowing the tolerance NFL teams have for 'issues' when it comes coupled with a big, fat package of athletic superpowers - my guess was someone was going to take him early. Consequently, I never researched Bryant much prior to last night. Today, I'm learning all things Dez Bryant.
I checked in with SB Nation's Mocking The Draft site to see what they said about Dez prior to the draft. Their analysis was consistent with my own knowledge, but more detailed. Bryan has great size, great quickness and burst, pedestrian straight-line speed, and is supremely athletic. They sum up Bryant this way:
In [Michael] Crabtree, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, there have been some special receivers in the draft this past decade. Bryant has the ability to be as good as any of them. He's like a better version of Anquan Boldin.
Soft hands and will make the difficult catch --- Aggressive with terrific ball skills and body control --- Fantastic leaping ability --- Strong and Physical --- Knows how to get open, separate and use his big frame --- Great agility and balance and does not go down easy --- Elusive runner with nice vision and instincts
Soft hands, makes the difficult catch. That would pretty much be the opposite of what we've gotten from the guy who played opposite Miles Austin in 2009. More to the point, Bryant seems to fit the Cowboys mold of a WR.
Other descriptions I've read include 'tough', 'not afraid to go over the middle', 'runs the quick slant extremely well'. When you put that together with the skills Miles Austin brings to the table, it's a nice fit. Of course, Bryant has to show he can transfer his skills to the NFL, not always a guaranteed outcome with any player.
SB Nation writer Joel Thorman had this to say in a running live blog of the first round:
Dez Bryant might be special -- NFL Network's Mike Mayock calls him the best receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson -- but is it worth another trade up? We shall find out.
If Dez Bryant is anything like Calvin Johnson, he's worth much more than the three spots we moved in order to get him. But the other sentiment of 'we shall find out' holds very true - you just never know with the draft, some guys work out, others don't. That's why it's so exciting.
So, based on all that and more, it's obvious that Bryant is one of the special talents in this year's draft. If you went on that alone, Dallas pulled off a huge steal in round one. But, there's that character issue thing. He got suspended from his team for lying to the NCAA (that penalty seemed excessive), his background has been marred by family instability, questions arose about his maturity and apparently some of his interviews with teams went poorly. It feels like a long list of mostly innocuous transgressions that somehow added up to a long fall in the draft. Included in that list was concerns about punctuality - being late to important events.
What does Dallas think about all that?
Bryant was outstanding on the field at Oklahoma State, but he was often late to games and meetings. He was suspended just three games into his junior season for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders.
"Yes, the concerns are we can't start our meetings around here for him. Those ball games start at a certain time," Jones joked.
More seriously, by all accounts the Cowboys vetted his background, his current support group and everything else about the kid, and found the risks minimal in comparison to many players who carry a 'character issues' tag.
A look back to his days in college shows his teammates loved him, even after the suspension that helped to crush their season.
"I really don't pay attention to the negative things," said offensive tackle Russell Okung, who, like Bryant, is expected to be a first-round draft pick. "He's a great teammate. He's always been here for us and I love him to death."
There's another guy anxious to see what Bryant can do on the field. Michael Silver at Yahoo! Sports drops this on us:
A few minutes after Dallas picked Bryant, I got a text from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo which read, "Tell him to be ready to go to work. I’m expecting a lot. Gonna be fun."
When I showed it to Bryant, he smiled and said, "I like that. I’m ready."
It's way too early to be grading draft picks, I mean, we haven't even started the second round yet, let alone waited the standard three years to see how a draft class turns out. But, it's never bad to hear something like this:
Which is why the Cowboys get the highest marks on Day 1 of this year's draft. Jones will provide the support system for Bryant, and Bryant will provide the playmaking that will make other teams regret passing on him.
And finally, I circle back to the title of this post. Apparently, Dez Bryant has huge hands - make that abnormally freaky large hands.
Oklahoma State’s co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said: "He’s just freaky in how big his hands are and how strong they are. They seem like big oven mitts."
Houston Coach Kevin Sumlin, who recruited Bryant for Oklahoma: "His hands are absolutely huge. They are absolutely huge."
Huge hands are excellent for a WR. And, I hear, it makes him very popular with the ladies.