Since there’s not too much else to talk about during the NFL offseason, many NFL writers have turned to the treasured past-time of making lists. Where the Dallas Cowboys are concerned, one thing about these lists has stood out pretty consistently. That thing is, Dak Prescott is almost always ranked somewhat low.
Not super low mind you, and not always – here’s Fox Sports ranking him 7th. – but usually he’s not in the top ten. Sporting News has him at 12, so does Pro Football Focus, MSN has him at 14 behind both Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins.
I don’t honestly know where to rank Dak, and I suppose most people don’t either. QBs get a lot of credit when the team wins, which the Cowboys did, but also are expected to throw lots of TD passes. Dak’s 23 TDs ranked him 16th in the league, tied with Blake Bortles and behind Cousins and Marcus Mariota. Dak was phenomenally careful with throwing fewer INTs than anybody but Tom Brady, and in four more games, but that too has a stigma. Low TDs and low INTs makes you look like a game-manager, and little more.
Feeding into that, it’s obvious that Dak had more help than most QBs in doing his job. It starts with the best offensive line in the league and continues with the fact that Zeke Elliott spent around a game and a half looking like a rookie. Dak’s impressively high completion percentage, fourth behind Sam Bradford, Drew Brees, and league MVP Matt Ryan, combined with fairly low yards passed for (19th), also makes him look like a guy who got to pick his spots.
The thing is, though, you don’t evaluate rookies that way. That’s why it’s so hard to know how good he was. With rookies, you expect a slow start and he had a slow start. He didn’t break 300 yards in a game ‘til week nine, and it took him ‘til week six to start reliably throwing TDs. He threw four in the first five games, and thirteen in the next five. Then, you expect the league to catch on and make adjustments, and that seems like it happened, too.
After throwing for 301, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs against the Baltimore Ravens on November 20th, Dak threw only three touchdowns and two INTs over the next three games while throwing under two hundred yards each time. And, the Cowboys still won all but one of those.
So, you could pick any one of those versions of Dak to rank in your list and have a decent chance of being right. Is he a game-manager? Did the league catch up to him? Was he really good, or just on a really good team? You can hardly blame anyone for not knowing what to make of him at this point.
But, if you’re a Cowboys fan, here’s what you hope is true, whatever the rankings say. After struggling through that bleak three game stretch described above, Dak busted out for a 32 for 36 passing night against the Tampa Bay Bucs, then threw for 3 TDs and 0 INTs against the Lions in the second to last game of the season.
Then, after falling behind 21-3 before the middle of the second quarter in his first ever playoff game, against the greatest QB alive, Dak led the Cowboys all the way back to a tie game with 35 seconds left. That they lost that one has nothing to do with him.
At the end of the season, Dak Prescott looked like a really special quarterback. If that’s who he is, he’s going to be a lot higher on a lot of lists this time next season.
Where does Andy rank among folks on Twitter? Follow him @andytobo to find out.