Suspension might not hurt Bryant’s stock

Suspension or not, Bryant is still the nation’s top wide out

The NCAA ruled on Tuesday that Oklahoma State wideout Dez Bryant will remain suspended for the rest of the season after lying to NCAA officials about his relationship with Deion Sanders. The junior All-American will now be unable to see the field again until September 2010. With rumors already circulating that Bryant seems prepared to enter the 2010 NFL Draft, you have to wonder how the suspension will affect his stock.

Bryant is currently listed seventh on the National Football Post’s Super 30 and is, without question, one of the nation’s premier talents. He’s a big, physical wideout at 6-2 and 220 pounds and showcases impressive balance and burst out of his breaks. He plucks the ball away from his frame as well as any receiver in the country and possesses a strong pair of hands. He does a great job using his frame to shield defenders away from the football, and although he lacks ideal straight-line speed, he’s a physical route runner who picks up speed as he goes and has the vertical explosion to win most jump-ball situations. Bryant looks like a guy who can come in and create separation from day one at the next level and should eventually assume a role as a legit No. 1 wide receiver for an NFL team.

But will the yearlong suspension keep Bryant from being one of the top selections in the draft? He was busted for violating NCAA bylaw 10.1 for lying to the NCAA when asked if he had visited the home of Sanders, the former NFL defensive back, last summer. Obviously, I don’t condone lying at any age and Bryant needs to be held accountable for his actions. But it’s not as if he was busted for drugs or DUI or assault or any other major offense that would have a more significant impact on determining his character.

In my opinion, Bryant was just a scared kid who most likely believed he did something wrong but decided to try and take the easy way out by lying about it. Now, you can bet scouts will dig deep into his past and try to figure out exactly the type of person he is, but if he comes clean, owns up to his mistake and chalks it up to a learning experience, I don’t see it affecting his stock too much, as long as he proves he can still get it done on the field.

We all know the talent is there, so his ability to stay in shape, take his suspension seriously and prove that he’s ready to make the move to the NFL from a maturity standpoint will be much bigger factors in where he gets drafted. If he proves to be remorseful, admits he made a mistake and works out well for NFL teams, I still think the top 10 is a very likely possibility. We all saw the character concerns and maturity issues that arose over former Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith at the NFL Combine, and he ended up being drafted sixth overall by the Bengals. So the notion that Bryant can put this behind him, take his best step forward and be a top-10 pick is possible.

However, if he tries to dodge questions, point the blame elsewhere and doesn’t work out as well for scouts, he could certainly fall, like any prospect. We’ve also seen in the past that wide receivers can be a dime a dozen. And if NFL officials don’t have a great feel on Bryant’s character, work ethic and/or maturity, don’t be surprised to see him slip toward the end of round one.

Yet I still think you can chalk this up to youthfulness, and that deep down it isn’t really anything to worry about. It’s obvious that Bryant has a passion for the game and wants to get back on the football field as quickly as possible. Consequently, I think we’ll see him accept his suspension, work hard the rest of the season and eventually solidify his spot as the nation’s top wideout.

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