2017 Grade: .565
2017 3rd Down: .696
Week 1 vs. New York Giants: Even on his off-nights, Dak Prescott is impressive. He missed a few throws, but nothing egregious. For the most part, he was his usual-self – calm, collected and completely in control. Even when his arm is slumping, he does something special whether it’s destroying a team pre-snap, or extending a play. He is the most impressive young quarterback in this league.
Week 2 at Denver: Dak was asked to carry the Cowboys offense and it didn’t go well. Playing a large role in that, the Broncos lethal defense. Prescott looked flustered from the get go losing his normally strong mechanics, and throwing passes that he didn’t make as a rookie. He only had one egregious throw to the boundary (in the GIF below) but a bunch of minor errors let to a low-scoring outing for the second game of the season for the sophomore sensation.
Week 3 at Arizona: Dak only needed a limited number of opportunities to show that he was the best player on the field Monday night. 21 total drop backs reduced to 16 (two third down give-up plays and three throw-aways), Dak still posted five 2-point plays. He mechanics are picturesque, his dual-threat ability is truly a marvel, and he is a winner in every sense of the word.
Week 4 vs. LA Rams: Dak does things every week that put the spectator’s jaw on the floor. This week, it was shrugging off Aaron Donald as though he were a child, and completing the pass for a long gain. Dak had a few mistakes (one dropped INT and one that was picked as a result of being careless with the ball in the pocket) but even his off-days are better than most quarterback’s good days. Prescott scored 12 points on 12 third down drop backs.
Week 5 vs. Green Bay: Prescott’s thunder was stolen by the greatest to ever do it, but the sophomore sensation turned in another dazzling performance. Extending plays (GIFs below) are something of commonplace with Dak. He’s in control of the short passing game and among the deadliest big play weapons in the NFL. The Packers and Colts famously went from one Hall of Fame player to the next (jury still out on Luck,) looks like the Cowboys have too.
2016: Calm, Collected Composure
Perhaps the biggest pet peeve of any scout, analyst or evaluator is the dismissal of one’s performance due to surrounding circumstances. Let’s get out of the way that Dak Prescott played in a loaded offense with a superstar tailback, an all-time great offensive line and an arsenal of pass-catching weapons.
Prescott drove that Ferrari with very few hiccups along the way. The rookie played like a 10-year veteran with complete autonomy at the line of scrimmage, excellent pre-snap preparation and sensational accuracy and anticipation. The underneath stuff was nearly automatic just like the rest of the greats in the league.
Aside from two contests (home for Philadelphia and at the Giants) where the game got away from him, Prescott was confident, in command and incredibly sharp. Jason Witten and Cole Beasley may has well have targets painted on their jerseys as their quick hitches, outs and slants always see the ball planted between the numbers.
The Cowboys didn’t have to scaled back the scheme when the rookie was inserted into the line-up. His innate scramble ability and impressive skill to keep his eyes downfield, in addition to the Cowboys beastly offensive line, allowed Dallas to run a variety of down-field route combinations – and Prescott was perfect on these. Don’t confuse this versatility for complexity, though – most of Prescott’s third and long plays are one read back shoulder throws where he simply tries to take advantage of one-on-one coverage.
Prescott’s versatility allows the Cowboys to run a variety of formations. His big arm affords more space as Dallas spreads the field to both boundaries but also can play in tight off the play-action boot because of his athleticism.
Running to set up the pass is a trait most players either have or they don’t. Not only does Prescott have that in spades, he’s is a punishing runner with a fullback-like mentality.
A strength and a weakness all in one, Prescott will sometimes eschew an underneath, easy option in lieu of a downfield attack. This pays off as much as it comes back to bite him – but one would have to imagine it is something that will improve as he matures.
His accuracy waivers ever-so slightly when on the move, but the number of executed plays he strings together is jaw-dropping for a rookie.
The Cowboys are in terrific shape at the most important position for a number of years.