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Dez Bryant's potential with Dallas Cowboys limitless

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant made an enormous leap statistically during the 2012 season. It was rewarded with an equally huge bump in respect from his NFL colleagues.

Bryant was revealed Thursday night as the No. 35 player on NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2013." That comes only one season after Bryant didn't make the list at all. My first instinct was that we could be crowning Bryant too soon. And then I looked at the other wide receivers below him such as Roddy White, Wes Welker, Vincent Jackson and Victor Cruz; I have no problem placing Bryant ahead of them.

Dez (he's a one-name guy now, right?) broke out last year because he physically dominated opponents. As Around The League's Chris Wesseling mentioned, guys such as New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson are probably still having nightmares about Bryant. The bigger question: How great can Dez be?

Dez Bryant's ceiling

It's scary that Bryant is so high on this list, and yet it feels like he's just scratching the surface of his potential. Still just 24, Bryant put up 1,382 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns despite having a long way to go on the finer points of the position. Bryant dropped 11 passes according to Pro Football Focus, tied for seventh worst in the NFL.

Bryant often appears to run the wrong route. It's common to see quarterback Tony Romo frustrated because Bryant isn't on the same page. But Bryant still dominated.

After a string of off-the-field problems, it appears Bryant has matured emotionally. No one has ever questioned his work ethic or desire to be great -- his competitiveness is off the charts.

"I'm trying to learn each and every day," Bryant said on the "NFL Top 100 Reaction Show."

"I know I got a long way to go. I'm still trying to strive to be the best, and one of these day I'll get there."

The mental side of the game should come in time, like it does for a lot of wide receivers. If that happens, Bryant has a real chance to compete with A.J. Green and Julio Jones as the best young receivers in football. Or the best receiver in the NFL, period. There is no ceiling.

The Cowboys were patient with Bryant, and he's rewarded them with steady progress. The next step should be a lot of fun to watch.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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