It has been so long since we’ve seen a healthy Dez Bryant that we’ve almost forgotten what it looks like.
But to hear the Dallas Cowboys receiver talk this week, it sounds like we’re about to get a reminder.
ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer said, “There’s a feeling from Bryant that he is about to break out" as he returns Sunday from a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg that sidelined him for three games.
“He’s healthy,” Archer said. “Maybe more importantly, he’s happy.”
Bryant has been practicing on a limited basis for the last three weeks, including a bye. He said this week, “I haven’t lost a step as far as conditioning.” And he insisted that his most recent injury is "nothing compared to the foot” injury that plagued his 2015 season, limiting him to 401 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
“You know, see me, I’m not a good exaggerator. I say what I mean. I mean what I say,” Bryant said. “It was minor. I feel good. Just can’t wait to get back out there.”
So the advice here is to land Bryant while it’s still available at a discount.
But Bryant is hardly alone among underachieving superstar receivers around the NFL this year. Here is some insight on a few others from ESPN’s NFL Nation:
Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery might be another one to buy low, since he is about to be reunited with longtime QB Jay Cutler, who is returning from a thumb injury. ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson wrote in this week’s NFL Nation Buy/Sell column that the Chicago offense will still be average even with Cutler, but he will likely open things up a bit more down the field. And fantasy analyst Jim McCormick wrote in a column for ESPN that Jeffery has averaged 1.17 fantasy points per target from Cutler since the start of last season, compared to 0.77 from all other Chicago QBs. “Don’t be surprised if Jeffery has his most productive game in weeks against the Vikings on Monday,” Dickerson wrote.
Odell Beckham Jr. We know he can still do it -- we just saw him rack up eight catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6. But then he came back to earth with five catches for 49 yards last week. The biggest issue with Beckham is that the entire New York Giants offense is struggling a bit. ESPN Giants reporter Jordan Raanan broke down what they might do to fix that, and one of his suggestions was getting Beckham the ball earlier in games. Per Raanan, Beckham’s overall targets are down only from 10.6 per game last year to 10.0 this year. But he has a total of just seven catches for 51 yards in the first quarter -- by far his least productive period. And he has zero first-half touchdowns.
But Raanan said Beckham’s hip/abdominal issue isn’t expected to be a long-term problem. And he thinks it’s “only a matter of time” before Beckham and the Giants offense start clicking to some degree and he starts racking up more 100-yard games.
Jordy Nelson. The Green Bay Packers receiver has fizzled after a hot start, and he flopped with just one catch for 9 yards last week against Chicago. “Has his drop in production the last couple of games been because Aaron Rodgers has spread the ball around more to Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery? Or is Nelson just not back to what he was pre-ACL tear?” ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky asked. “It may be a cop-out answer, but it’s probably a little bit of both.” Regardless, something isn’t quite jelling there. So fantasy owners should proceed with caution.
Allen Robinson. In case you just scanned the box score instead of being glued to your set for Titans-Jaguars on Thursday night, you might think Robinson had a solid night (six catches for 70 yards). But he had only two catches for 10 yards in the first half before the Jacksonville Jaguars were forced to started playing catch-up. ESPN Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco said that seems to be the only way for Robinson to get going this season (though the good news for fantasy purposes is the Jaguars seem to be in that situation a lot). DiRocco wrote last week that Robinson called this one of the most frustrating years of his football life. The problems range from extra attention from defenses to Robinson's dropped passes to the struggles of QB Blake Bortles and the offense in general.
ESPN analyst Matt Bowen wrote that he understands the frustration of Robinson's fantasy owners after watching Thursday's game. Robinson was targeted 15 times to get those six catches. Bowen wrote that Bortles has "really struggled with his accuracy and technique in the pocket. That has impacted the overall execution in the Jaguars passing game and has limited the opportunities for Robinson."
Michael Floyd/John Brown. Floyd caught a season-high five passes for 65 yards in the Arizona Cardinals' 6-6 tie on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. But as ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss wrote, Floyd also dropped his fourth pass of the season (one shy of his career high) in a big moment in overtime. Weinfuss said there is still something not right with Floyd and pointed to coach Bruce Arians’ suggestion from earlier this month that Floyd is “pressing” this season in a contract year. On top of that, he missed practice time this week with a hamstring injury.
Weinfuss had a great line in this week’s NFL Nation Insider fantasy Q&A: “Predicting how Floyd will play is like trying to predict how a weekend in Las Vegas will turn out.”
As for Brown, he had to miss the Seattle game last week after it was discovered that he is a carrier of the sickle-cell trait. He had been experiencing an unexplained leg pain -- and perhaps it contributed to his slow start. Brown has been practicing on a limited basis this week, with the team cautiously optimistic about his return.
Grab undrafted rookie running back Rob Kelley if it's not too late. Kelley will take over as the Washington Redskins’ lead back with Matt Jones ruled out for Sunday. ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim wrote that the team wants to keep No. 2 running back Chris Thompson in his specialty third-down role. Kelley could also have long-term value since Jones was in danger of losing playing time because of fumbling issues, regardless of the injury. However, Keim said Jones is still the coaching staff’s top choice if he can improve his health and ball security.
Don’t let the Jack Doyle hype in Indianapolis make you forget about the potential of Colts receiver Donte Moncrief, who said he would be “surprised” if he didn’t play Sunday after returning from a shoulder injury.