PITTSBURGH — Seeing Martavis Bryant as the No. 42 overall wideout in ESPN’s fantasy football points-per-reception summit ranking is a bit jarring.
On talent alone, Bryant is more like No. 4.2.
That’s never been a question with him. The question — really the only question, and why this ranking can be justified — is whether the Pittsburgh Steelers can count on Bryant.
Bryant really wants you to say yes. He’s put on about 5 to 10 pounds of muscle, and by all accounts his rehab work in Nevada served him well. Those close to him say he’s remained sober, thus resulting in conditional reinstatement by the NFL.
Shaking cornerbacks is easy for him. Shaking doubt after missing 20 games in three seasons to drug-related offenses is not.
Grace is running low and trust must be earned over time. Bryant must prove he’s overcome the off-field influences that have hampered his enormous potential.
Bryant’s troubles have masked just how rare of a talent he really is. Bryant’s 15 career touchdowns (including one rushing) have come in 21 regular-season games, which is a small sample size. But consider where Bryant stands among many of the accomplished first-round picks in total touchdowns per game during their first two seasons:
Odell Beckham Jr.: 0.93
Julio Jones: 0.62
A.J. Green: 0.58
Mike Evans: 0.50
Kelvin Benjamin: 0.50
Amari Cooper: 0.34
DeAndre Hopkins: 0.25
And that’s as a No. 2 option. Bryant and Antonio Brown can help each other get open. Assuming Bryant regains his spot in training camp, though, there’s no reason why he can’t expand his capacity once he masters all the nuances of the Steelers’ offense. He’s got more to offer than go routes, screens and a few slants.
Bryant could finish the year on the suspended list or as a top-five fantasy option, and neither option would surprise. As it stands, he’s set up to become the biggest fantasy draft-day steal.