First Down: Dez Bryant is all growns up

In Fantasyland there's a sucker born every minute.

Myths perpetuated by fake football "experts" are many times accepted as fact persuading the gullible to make foolish, season-sinking decisions.

Lamebrains previously swindled by the belief many third-year receivers routinely break out can certainly empathize.

Because spread elements from the college game are now featured prominently in NFL playbooks, talented wideouts are transitioning more quickly than ever before. No magical point on the career arc exists. Just look at the Year 3 targets from a season ago. Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin and Hakeem Nicks were already established commodities. And for every Darius Heyward-Bey, who did take a significant step forward in production, there was a Michael Crabtree, a player who made only modest gains. Opportunity, talent and environment dictate WR value, not misguided theories.

Dez Bryant is the perfect example this year. 

Entering his third season, the insanely gifted target is on the precipice of fantasy greatness. The situation is ripe. Tony Romo is one of the game's more reliable passers. Laurent Robinson, now catching wounded ducks from Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville, is no longer in the picture, which should lead to more targets (6.8 for Dez in '11). And his role as trusted red-zone threat should again carry over. Though Bryant has just one 100-yard game in 27 starts, his numbers could reach dizzying heights in 2012. 'Boys COO Stephen Jones is a believer. From SportsRadioInterviews.com:

"You sit there and you say, 'Boy, it seems if he could put it all together that he should be one of the dominant receivers and top two or three receivers in the NFL.' Not that he's not, but he statistically hasn't been that way up to this point. So when you got a guy with that type of — and I'll use this word carefully — freakish-type talent, then of course you think, 'Boy, seems like he could be, statistically as well as a player, one of the best in the business. … He's had his finest camp since he's been a Cowboy, and he's an electrifying guy when he's rolling … he's got a chance to have a breakout year this year."

"I think he needs to be a No. 1 receiver. Not to take anything away from Miles (Austin), but I would submit to you that when we line up out there that the guy they're the most worried about's Dez. And he's gotta be that guy, and even when they do try to stop him, the great ones still make a lot of plays. Tony's gotta be able to count on him, he's gotta run the right routes at the right depths and be a precise route runner. Those are the things he's gotta improve on."

Jones' viewpoint is accurate. For Dez, mental maturity is the key to unlocking his inner beast. But don't bank on his prima dona attitude stunting his statistical growth. According to local reports, he's already made noticeable strides between the ears. From the AP:

The third-year Dallas Cowboys receiver is spending more time with the playbook, watching more film and concentrating on his conditioning. Bryant is doing everything he can to earn the confidence of his coaches and quarterback Tony Romo.

"I feel like I have learned a lot from all aspects, on the field, off the field," Bryant said. "I see a lot of things more clear now, and I'm more confident in everything that I do. On the field and off the field, I try to make the best choices possible, and I feel like I'm doing a great job of that."

Recall, this time last year, Bryant was recovering from a fractured ankle, an injury that prematurely ended his rookie campaign. That combined with the lockout put him at a gross disadvantage. He might have been maddening to own during stretches, but what he achieved after drawing the short straw was laudable. On a per game basis his points contribution climbed from 7.7 to 9.8 in standard formats, an output which ranked right behind Brandon Marshall in overall value among WRs (No. 20).  He may have underachieved in the eyes of his harshest critics, but he was far from a fantasy failure.

Some will contend Miles Austin is the Dallas star who will shine brightest this year, but The Noise's money is on No. 88. A top-10 effort, the first of many, is well within reach.

At his current 38.7 ADP (WR14), Dez is worth every penny.

Fearless Forecast (16 games): 76 receptions, 1,140 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston and Scott Pianowski on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 PM PT/8 PM ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio

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