As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!
No. 6: Dez Bryant — WR, Dallas Cowboys
If you’ve ever debated Dez Bryant’s value, we’re all about to find out exactly what it is this season.
The Cowboys squeaked by the Giants in Week 1 with minimal production from Dez, but it came at a steep price. As you know, Bryant is going to miss the next 4-6 weeks after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot.
Since ascending to superstardom in 2012, Dez has often been beat up, yet never missed a game in that span (until now). During those three seasons, he’s had no fewer than 1,233 receiving yards (going over 1,300 in the other two), while catching at least 12 touchdowns (maxing out at 16 last season).
It gets lost in the shuffle with all the drama surrounding the Cowboys, but the team has also never finished below .500 in that time — making the leap to 12-4 in 2014. Last season, of course, could have been even bigger for the Cowboys — we all remember Dez’s “catch” that should have propelled Dallas past Green Bay and into the NFC Championship game.
More of the same success was expected from Dallas in 2015. Now, although I’d never wish injury upon a player (Bryant is on one of my season-long fantasy teams), with Dez set to miss a chunk of time, we’re going to be able to determine almost precisely what Bryant’s value to his team is in terms of wins and losses (which is all that matters outside of the fantasy world).
Tony Romo and crew will steal some games like they did against the Giants (and you can argue New York handed that one over on a silver platter), but it’s a pretty safe assumption that Dallas will have a much tougher time winning games missing the consistency of an elite downfield threat.
Bryant will have another chance to prove his value further when he comes back. If he can take an under .500 Cowboys team and turn them around, he may look even more valuable than he’s credited for on this list. But for now, let’s see how Dallas fares without him. Fantasy stats will still continue to pile up regardless, but it’s probably not going to be pretty when it comes to the W column in The Big D.
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See below for more features from “NFL Trade Assets.”
Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston/Amari Cooper
10. Cam Newton