It's hard to say that Bryant was an unsung hero of any sort in 2012, but while he missed out on some of the sexier postseason awards, his performance is receiving some deserved recognition.
From Pro Bowls to All-Pros, there are plenty of nominations handed out every year that honor the previous year's best players, or at least the most popular/highest profile players. Each year since 1992, USA Today provides an alternative take to the more established postseason awards by releasing its All-Joe Team, honoring "first-rate players who receive second-rate recognition." Only players who have never been named to the Pro Bowl during their careers are eligible for a place on the All-Joe Team.
This year USA Today displayed a keen eye for deserving players by nominating Dez Bryant to the All-Joe Team.
Long perceived as a prima donna, Bryant proved he's got some Joe in him. He snared 10 of his 12 TD catches in the second half of the season, four of them after he continued to play with a broken left index finger. His surge and toughness nearly helped Dallas capture the NFC East title.
With the recognition, Pro-Bowl snub Bryant adds to his collection of postseason honors that already includes a nomination to the NFL.com All-Under-25-Team, a distinction he shares with Tyron Smith.
Previous Cowboys nominees to the All-Joe team include Sean Lee and Laurent Robinson in 2011, Bradie James in 2010, Anthony Spencer in 2008 and Jay Ratliff in 2007.
Jay Ratliff followed up his nomination the following season with a four-year string of Pro Bowl nominations, Spencer finally got his Pro Bowl nod this season, and if Sean Lee stays healthy for a full season, he's strong candidate for a Pro Bowl berth for the 2013 season. All of which should bode well for Dez Bryant. And if Bryant can maintain the pace of his last eight games for the entire 2013 season, he'd be on track for a season with 100 receptions, 1,758 receiving yards and 20 TDs - which should be enough to secure him All Pro honors next season.
Apart from Dez Bryant, would would have been your Cowboys nominee for the 2012 All-Joe team?
Hat tip to BoyfromOz for the Fanshot.