Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was one of the hottest offensive players in football during the second half of the 2012 NFL season. Bryant, who is only 24, is entering his fourth season in the league. He's as talented as anyone in this game and will be featured in a pass-first offense.
That's why I actually refrained from rolling my eyes while reading that the former first-round draft pick suggested to ESPNDallas.com that a 2,000-yard, 20-touchdown season was a possibility.
Bryant had 50 catches for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in the final eight games, numbers that would be among the best in NFL history if projected over a full season, and production that Bryant believes he can build upon.
"That's still scratching the surface," Bryant said in a telephone interview with ESPNDallas.com. "It's only going to get better, to be honest. I still have a lot to give. I feel like nobody's seen anything. Nothing.
"I feel like it can be a lot more than that. That's just being honest. I honestly feel like [2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns] can potentially happen."
Bryant's never had more than 1,400 yards or 12 touchdowns in a single season, but the trajectory is pointing upward.
Take a look at the chart to the right. Bryant's numbers have climbed steadily during the first three seasons of his career, always rising by between 33 and 65 percent from the previous year. His time on the field has increased a bit, but this is tied primarily to how much more of a force the Oklahoma State product has become.
Based on that trajectory, using growth from 2011 to 2012 and applying it to 2013 for a projection, Bryant would have 134 catches (second-most all-time), 2,059 yards (most all-time) and 16 touchdowns.
Of course, that's far from realistic because trajectories naturally have ceilings and taper off. If we were to keep applying that formula going forward, Bryant would be projected to catch 286 passes in 2015. There's a very good chance that rate begins dropping in 2013, but the question is by how much.
As Tim MacMahon pointed out above, Bryant's numbers were insane later in the 2012 campaign. So while his trajectory will certainly drop off, momentum actually indicates he's on track to keep gaining in key stat categories moving forward.
During the final eight games, he caught 10 touchdown passes. No one else in the league had more than seven. And his 879 yards were bested by only Calvin and Andre Johnson. If you take those numbers and prorate them over the course of a season, you get 1,758 yards and 20 touchdowns.
So Bryant would have to maintain something close to that trajectory while also staying as hot as he was in November and December last year.
Of course, he would also have to stay healthy, which hasn't been easy. This past season was his first full one as a pro, but a broken finger nearly removed him from the lineup during the final three weeks. His aggressive playing style makes him vulnerable and nobody's putting up 2,000 yards or 20 touchdowns without playing all 16 games.
The Cowboys will continue to throw a lot and Bryant will be the primary benefactor in 2013. Can he put it all together and become the league's most prolific receiver? There are plenty of reasons to believe that can happen.
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