NFC East Q&A: Should Dez Bryant be considered an upper-echelon receiver?

While he might not be the game-breaker he once was, Dez Bryant still commands the respect of opposing defenses. AP Photo/Fred Vuich

Today's question: Does Dez Bryant carry the same weight in terms of being an upper-echelon receiver?

Jordan Raanan, New York Giants reporter: When he’s healthy and on the field, Bryant is an upper-echelon receiver. He gets into the end zone with regularity. Even last season when he had -- by his standards -- a down year, Bryant scored a touchdown on 8 percent of his targets. That was better than Odell Beckham Jr., who scored on just 6 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. It doesn’t mean that Bryant is better than Beckham -- he’s not. But when he’s healthy and happy, he’s in that upper echelon with Beckham, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and A.J. Green. His touchdown efficiency puts him there.

Tim McManus, Philadelphia Eagles reporter: I think his case has regressed somewhat. The Eagles faced a crazy amount of elite receivers last year, so the topic of “Who is the best?” came up a good amount. Brown led the way in responses followed by the likes of Julio Jones and Beckham. That’s not to say that there isn’t still a high level of respect for Bryant. He is still considered to be in the top tier, just maybe not as high up as he once was. The Eagles have plenty of reasons to be fearful of him, as he seems to save his best for his matchups against Philly. He has more career receiving yards (888) and touchdowns (9) against the Eagles than any other team.

John Keim, Washington Redskins reporter: I know what Josh Norman thinks. As you might have heard, Norman referred to him as just a guy in a Bleacher Report article. I wouldn’t say that at all. After the past two seasons, I also can’t put him in the same category as receivers such as Brown or Jones, either. The Redskins certainly viewed him in a different light, considering they altered their coverages so as to have Norman cover Bryant solo in the fourth quarter of their first meeting. They did the same for most of the season's second matchup. The Redskins only made that switch with upper-echelon receivers (after Week 2 that is). The problem is that in his last 22 games, Bryant has averaged just 3.7 catches per game. From 2012-14, he averaged 5.7 catches per outing. Some of it could be quarterback related -- poor play in ’15; a rookie, albeit a good one, playing under center in ’16 -- or a run-heavy offense. Also, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Bryant averaged a catch on 12.2 percent of his routes (and 11.6 over the last two years combined). Compare that to Brown (18.8 percent), Jones (18.4) and Beckham (16.8). One final stat: Bryant has caught 59.6 percent of the passes thrown his way during his career; that number dropped to 47.9 percent combined the past two years. Bryant is still an excellent target who is only 28 years old, and he's playing with a quarterback who should keep improving -- though he had a good thing with retired QB Tony Romo. But Bryant does not scare in the same manner as a Jones or Brown.