Fantasy debate: Austin or Bryant?

If you're like me this time of year, when you're procrastinating or blowing off work, you're liable to be doing a mock fantasy football draft. It's okay. We don't judge here. The NFC East blog embraces fantasy football as a reliable source of page views harmless fun. So every now and then, I like to throw a fantasy post out there for those of you who are as obsessed as I am. This is such a post.

Jim McCormick at our fantasy site has authored a detailed post examining the choice between Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant as 2012 fantasy options. It is a tough call. As Jim points out, they are being drafted very near each other in most mocks. And a good case can be made for or against either guy. Austin's proven an ability to produce as a No. 1, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy lately. Bryant has shown flashes of elite potential but has yet to develop reliability and is an off-the-field time bomb. However, the ultimate point is that this is a choice between two very good options:

While both players inspire valid degrees of concern, they also both have youth, undeniable talent and a capable quarterback on their side. The absence of Laurent Robinson, who finished as the 15th wide receiver in ESPN standard leagues last season with 145 fantasy points, can only serve to increase the attention that both Bryant and Austin will receive from Tony Romo. Austin has averaged 7.2 targets per game over the past two seasons, while Bryant averaged 6.7 last season and nearly 7.2 when Austin was inactive in 2011. If we assume that a good percentage of the Robinson targets will be shared amongst this duo, both should average more than seven targets per contest. This isn't a feast-or-famine scenario where only one wideout can "eat" this season; as the premier threats in a potent passing game likely to surpass 500 attempts, both players can realistically be projected to top 70 receptions and 1,000 yards with a quality share of scoring opportunities.

I'm picking Bryant here, because I think his best days are ahead of him and I don't want to miss them if they're happening this season. I think he's physically capable of being as productive and dominant as any receiver in the league. And I think the risks are less worrisome with Bryant than they are with Austin. There's reason to believe that Bryant, still just 23, can improve his route running and his maturity. There's less reason to believe that Austin, at 28, is all of a sudden going to stop having hamstring problems. He couldn't even make it through the first week of training camp without one. So it's Bryant for me. I think he's the guy that's going to have the better year in Dallas, and part of me thinks he might never look back and this debate might never be close again.