Opinions on Dak Prescott vary — none of them exceedingly flattering.
The group collectively ranked the Dallas Cowboys’ franchise player as the game’s ninth-best QB for 2020, with an anonymous AFC exec openly wondering whether a “marginal” Prescott is worthy of elite categorization. And commensurate pay.
“He’ll get paid as one of the best, but he’s certainly not top five and marginal top 10,” the nameless exec told Fowler. “That great rookie season set the stage for him to hit another level that he never really was going to hit. The bar got set high, and I don’t know if he can reach it. Hasn’t thrown it as well since .”
Prescott did start his professional tenure on an encouraging trajectory, throwing for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns (only four interceptions) as a rookie, leading the club to a 13-3 record and NFC East title. But to say he hasn’t improved since 2016 is … well, not supported by facts.
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Numbers Show Dak as Upper-Echelon QB
In 2019, he tallied a career year with 4,902 passing yards (one yard of tying the single-season franchise passing record held by Tony Romo) and 30 TDs. The former fourth-round pick also set new personal highs in yards-per-pass (8.2) and completions of 20-plus yards (68).
According to a metric by Pro Football Focus, Prescott ranked as the fifth-best passer against playoff teams last season, finishing with a cumulative grade of 77.4. He, too, has the fourth-highest rushing grade (73.7) in goal-to-go situations since 2015, per PFF.
While Dak’s detractors point to his win-loss record and Dallas’ recent playoff history (or lack thereof), PFF countered with a wild statistic: Prescott is one of just two QBs since 2018 to throw at least 20 touchdown passes outside the red zone. The other? Reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Prescott has proven to be a playmaker both inside and outside the pocket. His WR2, Michael Gallup, led the sport in 2019 with five of his six touchdown receptions coming when his QB was under pressure. Prescott himself tied for first among his counterparts with 10 scores under duress. In this same category, his 1,259 air yards and 79.5 percent passer rating ranked third and eighth, respectively.
These statistics are especially impressive when taking into consideration that no NFL QB suffered more passing yards lost on dropped receptions — 392 — than Prescott, according to PFF.
NFL Assistant Higher on Prescott
It’s fair to leave him out of Big Five QB rankings — Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees are arguably better — but it’s highly questionable to exclude Dak from top-10 placement.
You might take, say, Lamar Jackson or Matt Ryan over the 26-year-old, but an anonymous AFC assistant coach begs to differ.
“The evolution of him is great,” the coach told Fowler. “People said coming out he wasn’t the most gifted rhythmic passer on timing, but he’s really grown in that building. He’s a pure pocket guy now with the ability to win with athleticism, and a lot of quarterbacks out there are not.”
Such is the reason that, in a worst-case scenario, Prescott will be the league’s seventh-highest-paid field general in 2020, at a cost of $31.4 million, the price of his franchise tag. In a best-case scenario, if the Cowboys agree to a long-term deal by July 15, he could become the richest-ever (until Mahomes’ $500 million extension kicks in).
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL