*The following fantasy football article is based on PPR -- point per reception -- scoring, as will all my article be, for I am The PPR Monster!*
Today we examine two of the league's best wide outs, the Cowboys Dez Bryant, and the Flacons Julio Jones. They both possess the skill set every quarterback in the NFL dreams about throwing to, so which one is the best to have your fantasy quarterback passing to to help you reach bragging rights in your league? Let's find out!
Dez Bryant - Dallas Cowboys
This man is a beast, no other way to say it. Outside of Calvin Johnson, Bryant is the best in the league at going up and getting the ball out of the air and away from defenders. Bryant's production
has increased every year since he came into the league in 2010. Targets, receptions, and touchdowns all have gone up each season since entering the league. His yardage in 2013 (1233 vs 1382 in 2012) was the only stat to not improve from the previous year. Now Bryant has Scott Linehan as his offensive coordinator, who spent his last 5 season in Detroit working with Megatron. Johnson's numbers speak for themselves in the Linehan vs non-Linehan eras of his career. Before Scott arrived in the Motor City, Johnson averaged 1044 yards and 8 touchdowns a season on 123 targets. After Linehan arrived, Johnson averaged 1448 (+404) yards and 10 (+2) touchdowns a season on only 7 more targets (130) per season!
So how much will LInehan help Bryant's production in 2014? Johnson's targets increased by 6% after Linehan arrived. Using that same formula, Bryant should see an increase of about 6 receptions, in 2013 he caught 1 touchdown per 7 receptions and averaged 13 yards per reception. If all that holds true then Bryant should have an additional 6 catches for 78 yards and 1 touchdown, or 19 more fantasy points. While it does not sound like a lot, the additional 19 points would have taken Dez from the number 7 receiver to the 3rd best (only 1 point out of second and 6 out of being top dog).
Julio Jones - Atlanta Falcons
Seeing Julio Jones go down only five games into his 2013 season was a sad sight. Jones was on his was to career numbers in his third NFL season. If he stayed on his 2013 pace, he would have had 192 targets (previous high was 128), 131 receptions (previous high was 79), 1856 yards (previous high was 1198), and 7 touchdowns (3 shy of his 2012 high of 10). That would have equated to 358 fantasy points, more than anyone in the entire league outside of Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles. Jones has every tool a quarterback could want in a receiver, tall, great hands, great leaping ability and 4.3 speed to burn corners out of the water.
His partner in crime Roddy White is another year older, turning 33 during the 2014 season, and Matt Ryan won't have future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez to throw too anymore. Harry Douglas stepped up last year in Jones' absence so look for the Falcons to run a lot more three receiver sets this year. All these factors add up to Jones becoming the man in Atlanta. The Falcons added Jake Matthews in the draft to protect Ryan's blind side -he was sacked 44 times in 2013, third most in the league- so he should have a lot more time to find Jones downfield. Just how good is Jones downfield? In each of his three NFL season, including his five game effort in 2013, he has at least one catch for 80 or more yards. No receiver who finished in the top 20 at the position last year can say they've done that, and only Calvin Johnson has three seasons in his ENTIRE career with an 80+ yard reception.
These two wide outs are the next shining stars at the position, so if you're on the clock with both on the board who goes first? While both should go anywhere from early-second to mid-third round, Dez Bryant has an injury-prone quarterback coming off back surgery, plus an unreliable backfield if Demarco Murray goes down. Julio Jones -even with coming off the foot injury- plays in an offense driven NFC south and should be the first of the two off the board. He has a stronger team and coaching staff around him which should make him the man in Atlanta in 2014 and for years to come.