By Tony DelSignore Jr.
Ben Roethlisberger has been campaigning for a tall receiver for years. Over the past few seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers brought back Plaxico Burress and signed Derek Moye but neither fit the bill as a true downfield, red-zone threat. The Steelers appear to have finally addressed that need in the offense by drafting 6’4” Martavis Bryant.
Bryant has been somewhat of a polarizing player both at Steelers training camp and coming out of Clemson into the NFL Draft. Some scouts thought Bryant could be a first round talent, while some speculate that he is not polished enough to contribute in the pros. With only 61 career receptions, Bryant is an extremely raw talent. What Bryant did with those 61 career receptions is what has everybody so excited about his potential in the NFL. Over his three year career at Clemson, Bryant averaged a whopping 22.2 yards per catch, including an impressive 19.7 per catch average during his breakout junior season. Each year, Bryant increased his touchdown total, finishing with seven last season. His long term potential as a red zone target is very exciting for the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger.
Bryant is not only tall, but he is also extremely fast. During the NFL combine, Bryant ran a 4.42 second 40 yard dash, which was faster than his Clemson teammate Sammy Watkins, who was selected fourth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Some of the knocks on Bryant coming out of college are that he has inconsistent hands and tends to drop too many easy passes. He also needs to work on some of the finer details in his game and improve his route running. Our own Alex Kozora pointed out in his training camp breakdown, that Bryant improved dramatically during the final week of camp. This is certainly an encouraging sign for a player with such high upside.
For Bryant to make real contributions this year, he may need an injury or two to take place. Right now he finds himself sitting fourth or fifth on the depth chart. There is no doubt that the Steelers need Bryant’s red zone skills moving forward, but whether or not he will make that impact in year one is mostly up to him. Consistency in practice and when he gets his chances in game situations will give Coach Tomlin the incentive to give him more opportunities in the passing game.
Many around the fantasy industry are very excited about Martavis Bryant’s long term potential as a legitimate deep threat and touchdown scorer. He may not be ready this year but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stash him in your rookie drafts, keeper leagues or dynasty leagues. As for standard, redraft leagues, I see Bryant having very little value even as a late round flier in a deep PPR league.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator (which tracks average draft position of every player in real and mock fantasy drafts throughout the offseason), Bryant is not even being selected in the first 16 rounds. (*based on standard & PPR 12 team, 16 round drafts). Leave Bryant on the waiver wire for now and track him closely as the season progresses. I could see him making some noise later in the season.
My season projections for Martavis Bryant are: 23 receptions, 334 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Follow me on Twitter at @TonyD_12 and @SteelersDepot for more Steelers fantasy analysis and projections throughout the 2014 season.
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