*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features wide receiver Dez Bryant. *
Name: Dez Bryant
Experience: 5 seasons
College: Oklahoma State
Key stat:With so much focus on DeMarco Murray's record-breaking season, it nearly slipped through the cracks that Bryant was on a record-breaking pace of his own. With two fantastic touchdowns against Washington in Week 17, he broke Terrell Owens' franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a season, with 16.
Contract Status:Franchise tagged for 2015 season
2014 Impact:When a club has success on the field, it is usually a team effort but that success is usually due to some outstanding individual performances. When we focus on Dez Bryant and the season he had -- what I have found is that fans want to talk about that one play in Green Bay while losing sight of his other plays that were just as spectacular. What has allowed Bryant to make those plays is his talent, but there is really more to his game than just that. Where I have seen the most improvement from Bryant is that he has become more of a complete receiver. The Bryant of two or three seasons ago would have not been this type of player. His route running has improved to the point where, when defenses have tried to take him away, he has an answer to not allow that to happen. Under Derek Dooley, Bryant now has an understanding that he can't win on the outside due to talent alone. He has done a much better job in his preparation in meetings and practices, which has helped in his performance on the field. Bryant has also improved as a team leader. His teammates look to him when things get difficult to be that difference maker. They know that they can count on him to not only make plays, but to be that guy that can also give emotional support. He has become more of a complete player in regard to effort and finish as a blocker. Several positive runs for DeMarco Murray off the edge this season were due to blocks that Bryant was able to make. There is much more consistency to his game without the up and downs -- which, in my eyes, shows a more mature player.
Where He Fits: One of the top 10 players in this league, regardless of position. Rare player. Was given the franchise tag this offseason with the hope of securing more of a deal long term, which I believe will get done. Will see more creative ways of getting him the football in the coming year. Now has shown the ability to work out of the slot and move around in order to get away from coverage. Is a nightmare for defensive coordinators to have to handle now because of his overall development as a complete NFL receiver. Can't expect him to just be taken away with double coverage.
David Helman:I remember when the 2014 season started that I thought Dez was among the top receivers in the NFL, but I wanted to see a little bit more from him before I assigned him top status. It'd be a massive understatement to say he delivered. Sure, there are still guys out there like Calvin Johnson. But at this point, who can argue against Dez being one of the best two or three receivers in all of football? If the 16 touchdowns don't sway you, there's the litany of other mind-melting catches – the overtime grab against Houston comes to mind. At the rate he's going, it's hard not to imagine Dez as a future Ring of Honor member. That helps explain the franchise tag he was given last month. The Cowboys and Bryant's camp haven't agreed on a price tag, but there's just no way I can imagine this guy going anywhere in the near future. I think a long-term deal is going to get done, sooner or later, and Dez Bryant is going to be a Cowboy for a long time. Tony Romo and Jason Witten can't play forever, and when they're gone Dez looks likely to be the face of this franchise – if he isn't already.