I understand Dallas Cowboys fans' exuberance over Dez Bryant's selection in the NFL Draft's first round. I feel it myself. Now, let's all take a breath and prevent it from crossing the line into irrational exuberance.
Bryant has the physical skill set to be a super star. He also has a documented learning disability which will impede his development. How much, or for how long? That will depend on his coaching and dedication. Dallas has an exemplary mentor in Ray Sherman. Judging from the grudge Bryant carried after being pilloried for everything from his tardiness to his public speaking style to his alleged divo-like behavior, the dedication appears there.
Beyond all that, keep this firmly in mind Dez Bryant will be a rookie NFL wide receiver. Those guys don't perform well. Their adjustments are extreme. Big-time college receiver may have faced blue chip corners once or twice a season. In the pros, they'll face one or two every week. They'll see press coverage they never faced at school. The game will be faster, the coverages more confusing and varied. The mental preparation will be several degrees harder and the season 25 to 33% longer.
Breakout rookie seasons are rare. I'll repeat a stat I ground out weeks ago - only three rookies in the last decade have topped 1000 yards. You can count the number of rookies who surpassed 900 yards on your fingers. Our expectations have been skewed somewhat because three rookies on divisional rivals put up three of the best rookie campaigns the last two seasons:
- DeSean Jackson, '08 -- 62 catches 912 yards
- Hakeem Nicks, '09 -- 47 catches, 790 yards
- Jeremy Maclin, '09 -- 55 catches, 762 yards
Michael Irvin was the most polished, most NFL-ready rookie receiver I ever saw. He scored a touchdown in his first game against Pittsburgh and ran routes like a salty veteran. Here was his line when that season concluded:
- Michael Irvin, '88 -- 32 catches, 654 yards.
The NFL will humble you. The very, very best receivers usually explode in their second seasons. Fantasy owners know this, but the more casual can miss this fact of NFL life. It should temper the fevers of those ready to put Roy Williams on the street. I'm sure Jerry Jones isn't thrilled about paying his inflated salary, but he's probably weighed the cost of paying Williams against the payout a Super Bowl appearance can bring. Today, the Dallas Cowboys need Roy Williams, even if only to be the good-but-not-great number two.
Dez Bryant excites, but Dez Bryant should not be counted upon in 2010. Cowboys fans should hope he provides early excitement as a kick returner, as Felix Jones did in '08, and that he settles into the receiver rotation at some time, any time, during the season. A line similar to Hicks' or Maclin's, 35-45 catches, for 600 to 700 yards, would be outstanding.
Keep that big smile you have on your face, ladies and gentlemen of Cowboys Nation. Go out and buy an 88 "Bryant" jersey if you're so inclined.
Save the crazy, however, for 2011.
A Programming Note: Check in later this afternoon for a One.Cool.Customer piece on rivals' responses to the Dez Bryant pick and a piece by me on 2nd round prospects. We'll also go live at 6 pm ET to blog the 2nd round countdown to the Cowboys' pick.