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Cowboys WR Dez Bryant: How Does He Compare Vs The All-Time Greats?

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The Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver has been the talk of the nation as of late. How special is Dez Bryant? I compared his numbers to 15 players. Five of the all-time greats, five Dallas Cowboys and five from the current era. How does Bryant stack up?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Dez Bryant walked into Valley Ranch for the very first time everyone knew he was special. An ill-advised dinner with Deion Sanders may have very well cost him from going high in the 2010 NFL Draft but the Cowboys and the fans have been reaping the rewards ever since. Bryant was the second receiver taken that night in a very respectable class that also produced Demaryius Thomas. Thomas and Bryant are two of the best young receivers in the NFL today. The two have combined for 8,418 and 76 touchdowns.

It was evident very early in his rookie year that Dez Bryant would make plays for this team whether on offense or on special teams. In only his second professional game he wasted no time in getting an opportunity to get to the end zone and throw up the X.

That would be the first of many touchdowns that Bryant would score over the next five seasons for the Cowboys. He is one of the most exciting players to watch and for good reason. Spectacular catches - and he plays with a passion that is unmatched. Very fitting that he wears the number 88 given the last great 88 who played for the Cowboys had that same passion and love from the Cowboys faithful.

So where does Dez stack up against some of the great wide receiver in the league?

To answer that question, I looked at the best three-season stretches of arguably the best 15 current and former NFL receivers. The receivers are listed in three separate groups (All-Time greats, Cowboys, current era receivers), and Bryant's three-year strecth from 2012-2014 is added to each group for better comparability. Since Michael Irvin was both an all-time great and a Cowboy, he is listed under the Cowboys category.

All-Time Greats

All data below is the average per season over three seasons.

Player (Years)
Games Games Started Targets Receptions Rec % Yards Y/R TDs
Jerry Rice (1993-1995) 16.0 16.0 n.a. 110.7 n.a. 1,616.7 14.6 14.3
Cris Carter (1994-1996) 16.0 16.0 n.a. 113.3 n.a. 1,263.3 11.2 11.3
Randy Moss (2007-2009) 16.0 16.0 140.7 83.3 59.0% 1,255.0 15.0 15.7
Steve Largent (1983-1985) 15.7 15.3 n.a. 75.0 n.a. 1,175.0 15.6 9.7
Marvin Harrison(2000-2002) 16.0 16.0 179.3 118.0 65.5% 1,553.0 13.3 13.3
Dez Bryant (2012-2014)
16.0 15.3 144.3 91 63.3% 1,311.7 14.4 13.7

Most of the great wide receivers didn't play in the pass-happy era of the current NFL, but Jerry Rice was on another planet in terms of his production. Randy Moss is a close second especially in the three-season stretch as displayed above. Dez is putting it all together at the right time. With his quarterback Tony Romo for hopefully the next four years the future looks bright for the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys Receivers

Player (Years)
Games Games Started Targets Receptions Rec % Yards Y/R TDs
Michael Irvin (1991-1993) 16.0 15.3 n.a. 86.3 n.a. 1,416.3 16.5 7.3
Terrell Owens (2006-2008) 15.7 15.3 143.7 78.3 54.5% 1,195.7 15.3 12.7
Bob Hayes (1965-1967) 13.3 13.3 n.a. 53.0 n.a. 1,077.7 20.5 11.7
Drew Person (1974-1976) 14.0 14.0 n.a. 55.3 n.a. 9,05.0 16.4 5.3
Tony Hill (1979-1981) 16.0 12.3 n.a. 55.3 n.a. 1,023.3 18.7 7.3
Dez Bryant (2012-2014)
16.0 15.3 144.3 91.0 63.3% 1,311.7 14.4 13.7

The name that obviously stands out in this group is Michael Irvin but he didn't have the receiving touchdown numbers. That is right where you would expect him to be with Emmitt Smith scoring as often as he did. Terrell Owens was also very close to Bryant. Let's hope that Bryant doesn't follow in his footsteps in terms of off-field antics. But on the field Owens was a difference maker much like Dez Bryant is today.

Current Era Receivers

Player (Years)
Games Games Started Targets Receptions Rec % Yards Y/R TDs
Larry Fitzgerald (2007-2009) 15.7 15.7 158.0 97.7 61.9% 1,310.7 13.4 11.7
Calvin Johnson (2011-2013) 15.3 15.3 172.7 100.7 58.1% 1,712.3 17.1 11.0
Demaryius Thomas (2012-2014) 16.0 16.0 156.3 99.0 63.6% 1,494.3 15.1 11.7
Antonio Brown (2012-2014) 15.0 13.3 151.3 101.7 66.5% 1,328.0 12.9 8.7
Jordy Nelson (2012-2014) 14.7 14.0 117.0 77.3 66.3% 1,192.7 15.4 9.3
Dez Bryant (2012-2014)
16.0 15.3 144.3 91.0 63.3% 1,311.7 14.4 13.7

With the current group of course Larry Fitzgerald would be at the top of the list with his consistent effort. The only category he trailed in, much like the rest of the group, is the touchdown production. Calvin Johnson is called Megatron for a reason. He puts up the monster numbers but in the game of football you need to score touchdowns. That is why I take Dez over anyone in this group.

Not to say Dez is better than them all but with his personality, passion and on-field effort it is hard to not like what he brings to the table. Hopefully Dez Bryant will get the long-term deal he is seeking and we can enjoy him scoring another 56 touchdowns in the next five seasons.