By RYAN BRAUCH
The Dallas Cowboys’ 2016 draft class may very well be one of the best draft classes in team history. Despite the fact that a majority of their 2016 picks were spent on defensive players, the team may reap more benefits from their offensive picks.
Dallas selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick, which was expected of them as their run game struggled after the departure of Demarco Murray. As the season nears its end, Elliott has surely proven himself a star and has even put up NFL record-breaking numbers. Although Elliott was a fantastic pickup for the Cowboys, the team is more prideful that they were able to get quarterback Dak Prescott as a steal in the fourth round.
Along with Elliot, Prescott has put up historical numbers and has measured up quite nicely to Tom Brady’s rookie statistics giving Dallas high hopes for their signal caller’s future. But how did the Mississippi State alum go from being a fourth round backup quarterback, to an offensive superstar leading his team to a league best 10-1 start? There are plenty of factors that fell into place for the rookie and he has taken full advantage of it.
Prescott played his four-year college at Mississippi State University and was a two-time member of the All-SEC First Team (‘14,’15). The quarterback started out as a redshirt backup signal caller but quickly took the place of his predecessor in his second season in 2013 and led MSU until the end of his college career. Prescott threw for 3,793 yards and 29 touchdowns during his senior year at Mississippi State and only threw five interceptions.
Alongside these impressive passing statistics, Prescott also ran for 588 yards and 10 touchdowns. There is no doubt Prescott was ready to make a big leap into the NFL, but scouts struggled to assess how well the quarterback’s skills would translate over into the league.
After getting arrested for a DUI before the 2016 draft, Prescott fell from a projected third round pick all the way down to the fourth round. Teams were now skeptical to draft the 22-year-old quarterback after discovering his off-field issues. Falling in the draft may have been the best thing that has ever happened to Dak Prescott. The Cowboys drafted the young quarterback so he could back up and eventually replace the old and injury-prone star Tony Romo.
It only took a week or so into the preseason for what many experts anticipated, Romo’s significant injury. After scrambling on a play and running towards the first down marker, Romo suffered a back injury, which would sideline him till at least Week 8. Little did Romo or the Cowboys know, he was going to have a harder time getting his starting role back than he originally thought.
Starting in the preseason, Prescott was a star with his powerful and accurate passing ability alongside his jaw-dropping speed and athleticism. Prescott definitely benefitted from getting drafted by Dallas, as he ended up getting plenty of experience and playing time backing up the often injured Romo. Although, despite being extremely talented, Elliott and Prescott cannot take all of the credit for their success.
The Dallas Cowboys currently have one of the best offensive lines in the league and have created a lot of opportunities for their offensive unit this season. Their young and talented linemen have shown incredible blocking thus far, which has provided Prescott and Elliott time to make those outstanding highlight plays.
Even after Romo’s return, the Cowboys’ coaching staff still chose to keep Prescott as their starter. At first there were questions surrounding the team on whether Prescott or Romo would lead the team for the remainder of the season.
Earlier in the season Dez Bryant, the team’s best receiver, weighed in on the situation saying, “It’s still Tony’s team.” Even the Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones deemed Romo the starter but as Dak continued to play, the team quickly changed their mind. Recently, Tony Romo even stated that Prescott was more suitable for the job than he was and continued to say that he had no problem with accepting the role as the team’s backup quarterback.
Through the first 11 games of his rookie season, Dak Prescott has thrown 2,835 yards and 18 touchdowns with a 67.9 completion percentage. As expected, Prescott has also made a significant impact with the run game, as he has already rushed for 180 yards and five touchdowns. Not only does Prescott impress with his elite athleticism, he also rarely turns the ball over. The rookie has only thrown two picks and fumbled the ball twice in his first 11 games in the league.
But the rookie continues to amaze analysts with his historical numbers, as of right now, Prescott is ranked fourth overall in league history in average yards per attempt for rookie quarterbacks. Prescott stands at an impressive 9.2 yards per attempt, putting him ahead of stars like Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Marcus Mariota in their rookie seasons. With that in mind, the Cowboys’ young quarterback is definitely in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year award, with his only real competition being his teammate Ezekiel Elliott.
Dak Prescott has without a doubt proven himself to be a definite starting quarterback, but has also embarrassed all the other quarterbacks in his draft class and the other 31 NFL teams that passed up on him and let him fall to the fourth round. Given the numbers he has already recorded, experts can only expect Prescott to improve and continue to provide elite offensive plays for his team as he moves forward in his young NFL career.
As for right now he is focused on taking his team to the playoffs and possibly a trip to the Super Bowl. Prescott is undoubtedly going to become an NFL great.