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Michael Irvin: "Dez Bryant will be the best receiver in the NFL.''

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The Dallas Morning News ran a brief report earlier today in which it quoted Michael Irvin as follows:

"I thought Dez made great strides this year on the football field,'' said Irvin, who stressed Bryant must continue to work on his craft and conditioning. "He has a lot of room to continue to grow, but he made great strides.

"When Dez really locks it all in, understands it, Dez will be the best receiver in the NFL.''

One of the peculiarities of being a Dallas Cowboys fan is that you constantly hear about how a player on your team, a coach, the stadium, the cheerleaders - really anybody and anything associated with the franchise - is overrated. This of course is the default setting for any non-Cowboys fan, and as such is so prevalent everywhere you go and everywhere you look that even some Cowboys fans have succumbed to this notion.

Take Dez Bryant: Ask anybody but the most die-hard Cowboys fan about Bryant and the most common response you're likely to get is that he's overrated or possibly a disappointment, perhaps even a bust. Chances are, when you first read the headline to this post you probably thought anything from "Irvin is going out on a limb here" to "That's just crazy talk".

But is Irvin's statement really such a stretch?

Here are some highlights of Bryant's 2011 season:

  • Lowest drop rate of any wide receiver in the league (one drop against 63 receptions)
  • Ranked sixth in TD receptions.
  • Ranked ninth in 1st down catches on 3rd down
  • Ranked 10th among wide receivers according to the Pro Football Focus Grades
  • Ranked 13th among wide receivers by Advanced NFL Stats in Win Probability added per game
  • Ranked 13th in DVOA by Football Outsiders

These numbers make a strong case that Bryant is already a top ten receiver in the league - or very close to it. There's no reason to think that with continued hard work he couldn't become one of the best at his position. Whether that'll be enough to become the best remains to be seen. A lot of things would have to fall in place for that, but a top three receiver, why not?

What do you think, is Irvin's statement a stretch or a good possibilty? The Playmaker believes in Dez, do you?

Hat tip to LilZtretch for the fanshot