When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant with the 24th pick this past April, sitting in my living room all I could think was "Wow, they got one hell of a player at that spot in the draft."
Bryant's been the subject of plenty of media attention this offseason, from his early contract signing when he appeared hold-out prone, to his refusal to carry pads as a rookie punishment.
Also, who could forget the question posed by Dolphins' general manager Jeff Ireland during a pre-draft team interview: "Is your mother a prostitute?"
However, most of the press he's been getting has been due to his outstanding ability on the field, and his cool demeanor off of it. Could he have snapped at reporters when asked about the prostitute question? Surely. I know I may have.
And his work ethic and dedication to being the best wide receiver on the Dallas Cowboys has been just as consistent as his off-field handling of the press.
That's a tall order, considering he's playing with Miles Austin, Jason Witten (the best receiving tight end in the NFL), and former no. 1 receiver, Roy Williams, along with solid receiver Patrick Crayton.
He's shown the ability to quickly pick up the playbook, and his development into the true No. 1 receiver he projects to be shouldn't be too long.
Meanwhile in the NFC, there's another young stud wide-out in San Francisco, and that man is Michael Crabtree.
He's done great things for the 49ers, although they started their relationship a little rocky. Crabtree wanted top five money, even though he was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. You don't just come into the NFL demanding you get paid differently than your slot in the draft dictates.
Eventually, the 'Niners and Crabtree found a middle point and got him on the field, but it took until November 25th for him to get his first start in a game.
Crabtree's numbers in 11 games last season were pretty decent considering his lengthy holdout: 48 receptions, 625 yards and two touchdowns.
Crabtree versus Bryant should be interesting to witness over the next 10 years. Here's an early breakdown:
Crabtree has the speed advantage over Bryant, and uses that against slower DBs to get down-field and open for a catch. Bryant's lack of elite speed is made up for though.
What he lacks in speed, Bryant possesses elite level acceleration to get to his top speed, and his power off the line of scrimmage will be intimidating corners for the next 10 years. I'd like to see an in-his-prime Al Harris play bump-n-run coverage on the line against Bryant. He wouldn't need to use speed to make his move, he'd be physical enough to push Harris back and cut up the field to get open for a big play.
In total, Bryant's speed may not be that of a Crabtree or a Desean Jackson, but his "just enough" speed, coupled with his 5 yard contact skills makes him deadly off the line.
Now this is rather difficult to determine, but I'll lay out how I value "physicality": the receiver is able to break the bump-and-run style of coverage off of the line of scrimmage, as well as their ability to get past linebackers and safeties over the middle while making the catch and completing their route.
In this category, I'll split it 50/50. Crabtree's the better route runner, but Bryant is more of a physical receiver using his 6'2", 225-pound frame to his advantage mowing down corners and fighting off safety coverages as he goes up for the catch.
However, where Crabtree excels and is better than Bryant, is route running. Be it a wheel route, or a go route, or an in, you can safely bet that Crabtree will be where you need him when you plant on your five-step drop.
At times at Oklahoma State, Bryant wasn't the most consistent route runner on the field.
Like I pointed out though, it's pretty much tomatoe/tomato here. If you prefer a route runner, Crabtree's your man. If your team is looking for a dominating, truly physical presence in the middle of the field, Bryant's your selection here.
I won't break it down here, as I pretty much laid that out in the previous section. In recap, Crabtree's a better route runner.
To quote Al Davis, "You can't teach speed!!"
However, with that speed, it's nice to have a decent football IQ to go with it.
Crabtree and Bryant are pretty equal in this regard. Both have done well in picking up their playbooks (although Crabtree now has an extra year under his belt). However, Crabtree's routes are more crisp, and he's less likely to get lost on "Revis Island," for example.
I'd be inclined to give Crabtree the edge, but as Bryant develops over the years, he should narrow the gap and become an elite receiver just the same.
Now, I'm not one to pick a side when setting the table for a debate on B/R, but my long-term money is on Bryant.
Your speed will eventually fail as you grow older in the eyes of the NFL, but your strength can be maintained well into your mid-30s. Bryant is less polished right now, but he's like a classic muscle car.
You can't help but tune him up and have a machine-like receiver in your garage, or, offense.
Now, B/R readers, I leave it to you: Who's your pick?