Just a Friendly Reminder That Martavis Bryant Is Really Good
The Sporting News reported last week that suspended Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant is one step closer to being reinstated for the 2017 season:
A source told Sporting News Bryant met Thursday with the NFL’s Management Council as part of his efforts for reinstatement from a year-long drug suspension. Among the conditions for being cleared to play again, Bryant was told to assemble a plan detailing safeguards that would help him prevent a relapse upon returning to Pittsburgh, the source said.
Bryant also will have to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell or one of his representatives once the league’s medical director and medical advisor submit their recommendation about reinstatement per the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
In 600 or so MFL10 drafts (12-team PPR, best ball) conducted thus far, Bryant is the 41st receiver off the board in the middle of the 7th round. His depressed ADP is somewhat understandable from a risk/reward standpoint. After the last few years of Josh Gordon’s trials and tribulations, owners are leery that Bryant will be able to make a successful return to the NFL.
Bryant is Really Good
Here’s a look at Bryant’s career game logs:
|Season||Date||Opp||Tgt||Rec||Yds||TD||FP (PPR)||Pos Rank|
As a rookie, Bryant averaged 5.2 catches for 56 yards and 0.82 touchdowns per game, or 13.3 PPR fantasy points per game. These numbers include the Steelers’ playoff game against the Ravens, in which Bryant caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He wasn’t active until Week 7 due to a not-so-great training camp and a mild injury in the last preseason game, but if he had played a full 16-game season at that pace, he would have finished as the #20 fantasy receiver in 2014.
In his second season, Bryant was suspended for the first four games for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy (marijuana). He returned to average 4.9 receptions for 73 yards and 0.54 touchdowns per game, including two playoff games. His targets jumped from 5.2 per game as a rookie to 8.7 per game in his second season as his role in the offense continued to grow. A target rate of 8.7 per game is roughly what Emmanuel Sanders had as the 13th most-targeted receiver last season. Bryant's per game average of 15.4 fantasy points would have made him the #15 fantasy receiver in 2015.
To get some historical context for the start to Bryant’s career, I pulled data for all receivers entering the league in 1999 or later and sorted by average fantasy points per game scored in their first two seasons in the league. Bryant finished 9th in standard formats and 18th in PPR scoring.
What Will Bryant's Role be Upon Returning?
Bryant’s role in the Pittsburgh offense appears to be safe. Sammie Coates has had a few moments, but he wasn’t nearly as consistent or as productive as Bryant was throughout his first two seasons. Markus Wheaton signed with the Bears while Eli Rodgers is best suited for the slot. Unless the Steelers use a high draft pick on an outside receiver, Bryant should return as the team’s WR2 opposite Antonio Brown.
The Bottom Line
If Bryant were entering his third season coming off of back-to-back WR20/WR15 finishes, where would he be going in fantasy drafts? I think he’d be a 3rd- or 4th-rounder without any of the suspension concerns. Terrelle Pryor is similar in that he’s a youngish big-play receiver and he’s going in the late 4th round after signing with the Redskins.
Simply stated, courageous drafters have a chance to get a 3rd/4th-round talent three rounds later. If Bryant is fully reinstated, I think his ADP will settle in the 5th round, among the likes of Donte Moncrief, Kelvin Benjamin, Tyreek Hill and Jamison Crowder. Given Bryant's upside, I believe he compares favorably to the aforementioned group.
There's no guarantee that Bryant isn't suspended again, but for what it’s worth, he said last year that he doesn’t smoke marijuana anymore.
For now, I recommend loading up on Bryant in the 6th or 7th round. It’s a little riskier to draft him in best ball formats where you can’t cut bait if he isn’t reinstated, but everything appears to be on track for Bryant to return to fantasy prominence in 2017.
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