Dez Bryant Is Finally Entering The Elite Category

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dez Bryant entered the 2012 season with a lot of hype. While Bryant didn't start the season on the right path, he's delivering and finally living up his lofty expectations.

Back in the 2010 NFL Draft, 31 NFL teams decided that Dez Bryant wasn't worth the risk. During his career in the NFL, Jerry Jones has developed a reputation as a man who is willing to take risks. When Jones got the opportunity to land one of the best prospects in the entire draft, Jones jumped on it.

With Bryant beginning to show consistency and growth in his third season, the decision to trade up and draft Bryant is beginning to look like a great one. The Dallas Cowboys have found themselves another dynamic weapon who can change a game all by himself. Elite players make the type of plays Bryant is making, and you can start calling Dez an elite wide receiver.

Entering this season, Bryant received the "third-year wide receiver" label. The third-year wide receiver rule states that a NFL wide receiver entering his third season should breakout and produce in a big way. Once again, that the third-year wide receiver myth appears to have some truth to it.

Over the past few months, we have watched Dez Bryant grow right in front of our eyes.

Bryant's growth has been one of the most entertaining moments of the 2012 season. Earlier in the year, some were calling for Bryant to be benched, or even traded. There's no question that Bryant's route running was in need of some fine-tuning. Over the course of the season, Dez worked hard on that area. His improvements as a route runner are beginning to show up and make him even more dangerous.

He's always been big, strong and fast, he just needed to show some consistency. Last season, he was criticized for the way he disappeared late in games. Now that Bryant has gotten into better physical condition, he is showing up late in games. Give credit to his quarterback, too. Tony Romo never lost trust in Bryant and he continued to feed him the ball. The chemistry between the two has been just amazing to watch.

Entering the game against the New Orleans Saints, Bryant had been one of the hottest players in the NFL. Patrick Robinson is a pretty decent cornerback, but he just couldn't keep up with Bryant in man-to-man coverage. Bryant caught nine passes, scored two 58-yard touchdowns and set a career-high with 224 yards receiving. He has now scored in seven straight games, tying the longest streak in franchise history.

Bryant has become one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL. He's become a reliable threat that can break off the big play any time he touches the ball. Wide receiver Dwayne Harris summed it up best.

"He’s a freak-of-nature of an athlete. Every time he touches it, you think he’s going to break it,"

After a a record-setting performance, Bryant wasn't too talkative or open with the media because of the way the Cowboys lost the game in overtime. Tim McMahon got a few quotes from him after the game, but Bryant didn't speak or publicly address the media. In a strange twist, maybe Dez and Jerry have found a way to channel positive energy into football success. Jones revealed that he and Bryant do a ritual before the game.

"We have this little ritual we’re going through that’s been going on for about six games," Jones said, holding out his hands in front of his stomach with his palms facing upward. "We come over before the game and he touches [my hands] and it’s like a séance. I say, ‘I see three, I see receptions, I see scores today.’ Just some kidding going on there."

Whatever Dez and Jerry are doing before the game, please keep doing it because it's working. Bryant's performance against the Saints was another bittersweet moment of the 2012 season. With just one game left, the Cowboys still have a chance to ride into the playoffs. Just like last season in New York, everything will come down to Week 17.

The Cowboys need another big performance from #88. Bryant has been on an amazing streak, hopefully he continues that and tears up the Washington Redskins. Even if the Cowboys can't come up with a win, you have to come away with some positives from this season. Perhaps the biggest one is that Bryant is finally entering the discussion as an elite wide receiver. With 88 receptions for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns, Dez has solidified his name to be in that conversation.

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