After checking out the historical comps for two early-draft-pick quarterbacks, the focus of my attention now shifts to a player taken in the fourth round of the draft last May, namely Dak Prescott of the Cowboys. The man who Drew Bledsoe‘d Tony Romo, who ironically Drew Bledsoe’d Drew Bledsoe, was quite the rookie sensation. But how does his first season compare with recent QBs?
I set the RotoViz Screener:
to find rookies from 2010 – 2016, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.
Over to you, Dak.
These comps are as impressive as the ones to Jared Goff were depressing. Jameis Winston’s 8,132 passing yards through two seasons are the second most of all QBs since the merger and make his inability to express himself in a way that doesn’t embarrass himself and the Buccaneers all the more exasperating.
His predecessor for the Bucs, Mike Glennon, is a free agent after failing to nail down the starting job in Tampa before the team drafted Winston. He has a 30-15 TD-to-INT ratio for his career, but taking away spot duty in 2016, he has completed less than 59 percent of his career pass attempts at a pedestrian 6.5 yards per attempt. Looking like a startled giraffe at times also hasn’t helped him.
Robert Griffin burst onto the scene in 2012 with one of the greatest rookie seasons in history. In addition to his 3,190 passing yards and 20 TDs, he also chipped in with 815 yards and seven scores on the ground. Only Cam Newton scored more fantasy points as a rookie QB than Griffin managed in 2012.1 Hard to believe that five years later there are those who would rather see Cody Kessler start for the Browns than Griffin.
Originally drafted to ostensibly sit behind Matt Flynn, and I can’t help but laugh as I type that sentence, Russell Wilson seized the Seahawks starting job in training camp in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. His 26 TD passes as a rookie were good enough for the fifth-most in a single season for the Seahawks. He matched that tally in 2013, and set the new franchise record with 34 TDs in 2015. He has the fourth-most fantasy points of any QB since entering the league, and his finish of QB11 in 2016 was the lowest of his career.
After two seasons in the NFL, Marcus Mariota has more fantasy points per game of any Titans/Oilers quarterback in history. His mark of 17.40 points per game is a full three points more per outing than the great Steve McNair managed. He has emerged as the one of the safest and most efficient red zone passers in the whole NFL, throwing 35 scores inside the opposition 20 yard lines without a single interception so far.
Could year two for these players possibly come close to matching the highs of their rookie years?
Far from opening the door to a period of dominance for the new breed of QB, the second year for Robert Griffin saw him fall a long way back towards the pack. His AYA dropped from 8.5 to 6.5, and his TDs reduced from 20 to 16, while his interceptions went the other way.
Winston improved his TD rate from 4.1 percent to 4.9, and as a result tossed 28 TDs in his second season, an increase of six from his rookie year.
It was improvement across the board for Mariota, as his passing yards, (2,818 to 3,426) TD passes (19-26) and TD rate (5.1 to 5.8) all went north in his second go around the league.
While his TD numbers remained the same, Wilson saw increases in his AYA and passing yards; 8.1 became 8.5, and his rookie yardage figure of 3,112 was exceeded by 237.
Even Glennon, despite playing in fewer games, posted improvements in some areas, small though they were. His AYA leapt from 6.2 to 6.6, while his TD rate positively bloomed from 4.6 to 4.9.
After an average rookie season of 286.56 fantasy points, the five Prescott comps saw their average fall to 254.97, though three posted 300-point seasons. Of the five comps, those three have emerged as genuine franchise QBs and should be viable fantasy options moving forward.
There is no way to really undersell just how good Prescott was in his rookie season with the Cowboys. After a slightly ropy start against the Giants, he quickly found his feet. He threw multiple TDs in a game seven times, while throwing more than single pick in a game just once. The two interceptions he tossed against the Giants in Week 14 accounted for half of his seasonal total. He completed at least 70 percent of his passes in nine games.
Much like Newton and Griffin before him, his legs also helped him achieve fantasy success, as he finished with six rushing scores. With Prescott at the helm, the Cowboys averaged 2.45 points per drive (fifth in the NFL), with 38 percent of their drives getting them inside the red zone (seventh in the NFL). Only three teams scored more TDs when inside the red zone than the Cowboys, who managed a TD 75 percent of the time.
Prescott was able to establish a fruitful partnership with Cole Beasley, more so than the diminutive slot receiver ever managed with Tony Romo.
Despite the shaky start, Prescott was even able to get on the same wavelength as Dez Bryant, though their connection was just a shade less productive than the Bryant/Romo axis.
The success the Cowboys enjoyed in the running game probably put something of a ceiling on how good Prescott could really have been last season. While only the Buffalo Bills attempted more rushes than the 499 the Cowboys churned out last season, the Cowboys finished 30th in passing attempts with 483. While this may have been to protect Prescott, and allow the offense to flow through fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, it did leave some owners thirsty for more.
Prescott could also have offered more as a runner himself. He had 2,521 rushing yards in college, at an average of over 50 yards per game, with 41 rushing TDs in his four-year career. Despite his six rushing scores in his first year in the league, he managed just under 18 yards rushing per outing. It remains to be seen if he has a Newton-esque ability to maintain high rush TD totals for a QB, but even if that total falls a bit, an increase in rushing yardage could offset the lost fantasy points.
Annoyingly, as an Eagles fan, I have to say that on paper the future looks bright for Prescott and the bloody Cowboys. With an outstanding running back to complement his passing game, and one of the best offensive lines in the game to protect him (although he may have to put up with some reshuffling), a full offseason as the starter should mean Prescott remains one of the better young QBs in the game.
This certainly makes him an attractive fantasy option, but given his current price he may scare some serious fantasy players away. According to mock drafts over at Fantasy Football Calculator, Dak Prescott is currently being taken as the eighth QB in the middle of the sixth round. While this run on QBs is unlikely to fully translate into actual drafts nearer to the season, it is an early sign that some fantasy players expect a huge leap forward from Dak in 2017.
I’m not comfortable taking a QB that early, especially one who may be the second-most important piece of his offense. If he falls to me, great. But in the sixth round, I’ll still be looking at wide receiver, or maybe even beginning to move for RBs. But don’t get it twisted, I fully expect this kid to be a star in 2017.
- In the interest of full disclosure, the QB with the third-most fantasy points in his rookie year is one Rayne Dakota Prescott, but I think he goes by Dak. (back)