Fantasy Football 2017: Keeping Tabs on Martavis Bryant

With Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant aiming for a return in 2017, where should he be valued in fantasy football?

Around this time last year, the NFL suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant for the entire 2016 season after repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. It was a devastating blow for the Steelers because in 2015 Bryant proved to be a dangerous No. 2 wide receiver opposite of Antonio Brown.

In 2015, Bryant finished with 50 receptions, 765 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 92 targets. His receiving yards, touchdowns and targets were good enough for second on the team. Keep in mind, Bryant was able to accumulate these stats in just 11 games. He missed one game due to injury and another four because he was suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Bryant’s stats two seasons ago helped him finish as the No. 33 fantasy football wide receiver (according to ESPN standard scoring). Across his 11 games, he averaged 10.2 fantasy points per game. To give you an idea how good that is, Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas finished that season as the No. 13 fantasy wide receiver and he averaged 9.8 points across 16 games.

After it was announced Bryant was going to miss the 2016 season, it was heavily debated who should fantasy owners want to own more shares of: Markus Wheaton or Sammie Coates?

Wheaton had a better track record as he had 749 receiving yards and fives touchdowns in 2015. Coates on the other hand only had one reception as a rookie in 2015. Yet, his performance in the playoff game against the Denver Broncos (two receptions, 61 yards) gave people optimism. During the game Coates showed good wheels and athleticism for a bigger wide receiver. He showed the ability to be a game-changer. He reminded fans of, well, Martavis Bryant.

Too bad for the Steelers and luckily for Bryant, neither wide receiver had a good 2016 campaign. Both wide receivers battled injuries throughout the season and the two combined for only 25 receptions. With neither receiver stepping up and with Wheaton heading into free agency this offseason, the Steelers are still looking for a capable No. 2 wide receiver opposite of Antonio Brown. If/when Bryant is reinstated by the NFL, he would appear to be the favorite for that role.

So, what round should owners target Bryant in 2017 fantasy football drafts?

According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Bryant’s ADP is already in the seventh-round in 10-team leagues. It’s hard to gauge the accuracy of fantasy drafts at this point because free agency and the NFL Draft haven’t happened yet. With that said, there’s no way Bryant should be going that high in drafts. The guy isn’t even eligible to play in 2017 yet and is being drafted before wide receivers like Terrelle Pryor and Emmanuel Sanders.

I understand the upside that comes with a receiver of Bryant’s caliber and I know the Steelers are one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL. Yet, I just can’t justify drafting Bryant in the seventh-round.

There’s too much risk and not a lot of value in using a pick that high on a player with Bryant’s history. Hopefully, as players sign with other teams and as high-profile college players get drafted, Bryant’s ADP will go down. Until then, I’m staying away from Bryant at his current ADP.

I expect there are owners who will disagree this assessment, and that’s not only okay, but it’s encouraged. Before we get into a true debate about it, first things first: Bryant needs to get reinstated by the NFL. Until then, just keep an eye on his status and to see if the Steelers bring in any competitive competition for their No. 2 receiver role.

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