LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The last time we saw Dez Bryant on the field was the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Despite a heartbreaking 34-31 season-ending loss to the Packers, Bryant was a star for the Cowboys.
He had his best game of the season with nine catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets. This was after missing three games in 2016 with a knee injury and being out nine games in 2015 with a broken foot, which required two surgeries.
So after Wednesday's practice at the Pro Bowl, I asked Bryant if he felt like he was finally back to his old self.
"What do you think?" Bryant replied.
I told him he looked pretty good in his last game.
"That's what it is then," he said.
Bryant back at full strength is great news, and you can see his dominance on the field when healthy based on his performance against Green Bay. He's also rejuvenated with a new quarterback in Dak Prescott, who along with running back Ezekiel Elliott and several other Cowboys are also playing for the NFC in the Pro Bowl.
Bryant is a replacement on the Pro Bowl roster for Atlanta's Julio Jones, who is playing in Super Bowl LI. But Bryant was proud of his performance in 2016, which included 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns on 97 targets. He's happy the ailments that plagued him the past two years are behind him.
"I always tell my family that adversity reveals true character," Bryant said. "I feel like I showed that. I showed who I am, I showed who I'm about. I'm going to be there for my team."
And Bryant feels like the Cowboys are headed in the right direction.
"We built something that can last, and it can only get better," he said. "We can go as far as we want to go."
Prescott feels the same way, especially since he took over for an injured Tony Romo and led Dallas to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Prescott made the Pro Bowl after a tremendous rookie campaign with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions and 282 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
He was exceptional against the Packers in the divisional round with 302 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but the loss will haunt him all offseason. He also said it will motivate him to improve.
"I'll never be over any loss," Prescott told the media after Wednesday's practice. "It's just definitely fuel to the fire. ... I can't do anything about it except enjoy myself and go back to work as soon as possible."
Prescott finished as the No. 9 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues, and he should continue to get better heading into next season. He's an excellent quarterback to wait on with a mid- to late-round pick in all leagues.
As for Bryant, he's now back in the discussion as one of the best Fantasy receivers heading into 2017. When healthy, he's a beast, and he proved that against the Packers. He was also better than his numbers suggest in the regular season in 2016.
He finished as the No. 19 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues, but he played 12 full games (we'll throw out Week 17 at Philadelphia where he barely saw the field in a meaningless game) and still managed seven outings with double digits in Fantasy points, which might have been overlooked. He can still be a standout No. 1 receiver for your Fantasy roster.
My early rankings at receiver for next season are Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Jones, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Jordy Nelson and Bryant. But I can see that changing numerous times between now and August because all of them are elite talents in great situations, including Bryant. All of those receivers should be drafted no later than the middle of the second round, and I'd be thrilled to get Bryant in that spot if he falls.
He's healthy now, and he sounds ready to dominate again in 2017.