Watching where Dez Bryant will land will be a story of interest in this year's NFL Draft. Come draft day, when all of the pundits go back to sleep and misinformation dissolves, where Bryant lands will have an impact on the Bengals first round draft selection. Conjecture: if he's there, the Bengals pull the trigger. Yada, yada. It's not like we haven't talked about Bryant going to the Bengals before.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock talked about Bryant's character risks.
“What kind of player are you getting? There’s a whole risk-reward scenario in the first round of the NFL draft,” Mayock said to host Rich Eisen. “The higher you go, the more money you pay a guy, and the higher you expect. However, with his inability to perform on his pro day, with certain off-the-field issues, I attach a ‘buyer beware’ scenario with Dez Bryant. So, is he a top 5 talent? Absolutely, Rich. But I don’t think he’s gonna go in the top 10.”
The issue I have is that I'm not exactly sure what Bryant's off-the-field issues are. Best I can come up with is that talking with Deion Sanders, which caused an NCAA violation and a year-long suspension his final year at Oklahoma State, further saturates "character" classifications to the point that we're becoming desensitized by the word. What, the next offensive line prospect missed two classes because he failed to set the alarm clock? No way I'm bolstering my offensive line for the next ten years with a guy that clearly exhibits such a debilitating character flaw. Twice, he overslept. Twice!
Cris Carter broke it down in a way that most of us agree in our viewpoints. "I look for a background of violence and drugs. I look for breaking the law, and Dez doesn't have those things." Keyshawn Johnson weighed in too, taking a similar stance as Carter in the same Don Banks article.
"It pisses me off to listen to some of these [draft analysts] talk about Dez,'' Johnson told me Thursday. "I heard someone on the network I work at say his stock is going to be questioned because his mother was a former drug user or seller. Are you kidding me? Are you serious? Because his mom did that, therefore his stock will drop? I think anybody who judges him and who he is based on his family, it's ridiculous. He's getting hit with a lot of stuff that doesn't have anything to do with who he is as an individual. It's OK for Colt McCoy to hang out with the Manning family and work out with them, but as soon as Deion hangs out with Dez Bryant, it's an issue. What kind of double standard is that?''
Banks compares Bryant's pre-draft hype to Randy Moss' in 1998. "Twelve years ago this month, character issues weighed down Moss in the draft, which is how the future Hall of Fame receiver lasted until the 21st pick, when the Minnesota Vikings stepped up and stopped his free fall," writes Banks. "Nineteen other teams opted for 20 other players besides Moss that day, and while there appeared to be some good reasons for doing so at the time, history has not been kind to their decision."
If history repeats itself, take comfort that the Bengals select 21st this year.
However, as we wrote only a few days ago, NFL people are starting to brush off the character flags that's labeled Bryant. Because, you know, they're not that big of a deal, perhaps? Either way, of all the news that would affect the Bengals about Bryant was Kiper's revelation that people that matter aren't focused on Bryant's alleged character flaws. With that news, it seems more likely that teams like the Miami Dolphins or Denver Broncos, both reportedly interested in Bryant, would cockblock Cincinnati's chances at having one of the league's best wide receiver trio.
Mel Kiper suggests that the Cleveland Browns should take Bryant with their seventh overall pick. Baltimore could be another destination, who hosted Bryant Friday night. The Cowboys aren't expected to draft a wide receiver in the first round, unless Bryant falls to them. The Patriots and Steelers have also hosted Bryant.
And it's the Patriots that could block the Bengals more than the Dolphins or Broncos. According to the Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde, the Patriots are trying to trade up to position themselves to draft Bryant.
There's talk of New England moving up in the draft to grab Bryant with one of their three second-round picks as ammo. This might be typical Bill Belichick smoke. But if he's looking for a trade partner - and Denver doesn't want Bryant itself - Broncos coach Josh McDaniel is a Belichick protegee. And the Broncos have the 11th pick, right before the Dolphins.
No matter how you view it (or how tired you are of us talking about it), where Bryant lands will be of interest with the Bengals. Not only could the Bengals draft him outright, but other teams within our division are interested. Smokescreens? Perhaps. Doesn't make it any less interesting.