In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post.
The rankings on this list are based on a number of things. Some of it is about what the players have done. Some of it is about what I believe they can or will do this year and into the near future. But at bottom, it's all just one man's opinion, and that man is me, and if you read regularly you know I have nothing but the highest regard for the talents of young Mr. Bryant.
To watch Bryant is to watch a 23-year-old wide receiver with physical gifts that could, if he is willing and able to work on and refine his game, that could make him the very best at what he does. He is a size and speed mismatch for any defensive back that tries to cover him. He has shown an ability to be a big-time red-zone target, a deep threat or a possession receiver -- whatever Tony Romo needs on a given play or in a given situation. All that Bryant needs is to refine his route-running, stay healthy and -- here's the big one -- stay out of trouble off the field, where his family background is a total wreck and he's already made news this offseason for a domestic-violence incident involving his 37-year-old mother.
Ranking Bryant here -- one spot ahead of DeSean Jackson, who has admittedly accomplished more in his career to date -- is a testament to my feeling about the player he is right at this moment and the player I believe he is about to become this season. Assuming the Dallas offense gets decent enough line play and stays healthy enough to function, it is my belief that Bryant will rank considerably higher on this list one year from now and that we'll look back and think 16 was low. He is entering his third year in the league. As a 21-year-old rookie, he caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns. As a 22-year-old in 2011, he caught 63 for 928 and nine. There is plenty, as I've already discussed here, that could derail him. But if he can keep on track, I say he's a comet, and about to become one of the superstars of the NFL.
Rankings so far:
17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
18. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants
19. Evan Mathis, G, Eagles
20. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants