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The Truth About Dak Prescott

By Steve Schwarz | 7/13/23

Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott, is one of the most talked about, examined, scrutinized, loved and hated players in the NFL. And 2023 will be a key year in the discussion of how good, or disappointing, his career will be, because so far, his career has led us all over the place. Heís been great, mediocre and somewhere in between.

Prescottís seven fantasy years can be divided into three distinct segments Ė game manager from 2016-2018, elite fantasy quarterback from 2019-2020 and in between from 2021-2022.

Dak Prescott

The statistics easily show the three distinct phases of his career.

 Dak: Career
  Att/G Yards/G Pa TDs/G Ru Yds/Att Ru TDs/G
2016-18 30.7 226.6 1.4 5.0 0.38
2019-20 38.9 321.8 1.9 5.3 0.29
2021-22 35.4 261.0 2.1 3.5 0.07

Game Manager – 2016-2018

The 135th overall in 2016 pick out of Mississippi State wasnít expected to start as a rookie. Fourth-rounders usually donít. But a back injury to Tony Romo in the third preseason game left Head Coach Jason Garrett few options. It worked out very well as the team went 13-3, primarily on the strength of Ezekiel Elliottís legs (322-1631-15), but also with Prescott limiting his errors. He averaged 229.2 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. The second and third years saw Dak fall back a bit. Higher interception percentages, higher sack percentages, lower QB rating and lower TD percentages. But six rushing touchdowns in each season certainly helped his fantasy numbers.

He didnít have full-time, plug-and-play status as a starting fantasy quarterback, but he was a viable option in a two-man shared quarterbacking role. He knows how to beat bad teams. Heís a career 39-11 against non-winning teams, while being 22-25 against teams who finished the season with winning records. (However, the theory that he doesnít play well against good teams is old news. Over the past two seasons Prescott is 9-5 against teams which finished the season with winning records, averaging 287 passing yards with 31 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.)

 Dak: 2016-2018
Year FPts/G Pos Rk
2016 21.2 14
2017 20.4 14
2018 21.8 18

Elite Fantasy Quarterback – 2019-2020

In 2018, Elliott led the team in targets, but things changed in 2019. A new offensive coordinator (Kellen Moore) gave Prescott a lot more work and he thrived. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup cracked 1,100 receiving yards, Randall Cobb was a solid No. 3 receiver and future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten all saw more targets than Elliott. Then in 2020, with a defense that couldnít stop anyone (allowed 29.6 ppg), Dak was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback for five games averaging a league-high 31.2 FPts/G before a compound fractured ankle prematurely ended his season. (On a personal note; he was the starter in 2020 for my most important league, so I know how good he was and how quickly my team fell apart without him.)

 Dak: 2019-2020
Year FPts/G Pos Rk
2019 25.7 4
2020 31.2 1

Low-end Starting Fantasy Option – 2021-2022

It was certainly understandable that Prescott didnít run very well after coming off such the devastating ankle injury in 2020. He likely didnít want to run and Iím sure the team preferred him to keep his running to a minimum. His rushing average dropped from 5.07 ypc in his first five seasons to just 3.52 ypc the past two years. Just as important, he produced a rushing touchdown once every 10.8 attempts in his first five seasons versus one every 46.5 attempts in 2021-22. His passing numbers were still very good in 2021 (410-of-596 for 4,449 yards, 37 TDs and 10 INTs), but fell dramatically in 2022 (261-of-394 for 2,860, 23 TDs and 15 INTs). Part of the reason for the passing drop off was the trading of Amari Cooper to Cleveland. With Gallupís numbers still not returning to his 2019-2020 level, Prescott looked almost exclusively to CeeDee Lamb. Lamb produced well (107-1359-9), but lack of support from the combination of Gallup and Noah Brown left Prescott with mediocre fantasy totals last season.

 Dak: 2021-2022
Year FPts/G Pos Rk
2021 24.4 7
2022 21.6 11

So, what can we expect from 2023?

Prescott will have a new offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer hasnít been an OC since a three-year stint in Seattle from 2018-2020. Those Seahawks teams were run-oriented, not pass-first teams. They ranked 32nd, 23rd and 17th in passing attempts, respectively. But they were efficient, finishing top-five in TD passes all three years, though without a lot of yardage.

Meanwhile, management added perennial 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks (six of nine seasons) and spent a second-round pick on tight end Luke Schoonmaker (Michigan) to make up for the free-agent loss of Dalton Schultz (to Houston).

Tony Pollard returns from fracturing his fibula in the Divisional Round against the 49ers, but Elliott is currently a free agent and it doesnít appear the team is bringing him back. They drafted Deuce Vaughn in the sixth round, but they probably could use a veteran backup for Pollard (193-1,007-9), who has never been a true workhorse back.

A new OC, new receiver and starting tight end are variables, but the offensive line should be solid if Tyron Smith can stay healthy. They arenít an elite pass-blocking group, but they are a top-10 line.

The schedule is not an easy one. Outside of the NFC East, the Cowboys will line up against a top-10 scoring defense seven times, including three of the top-four from 2022 Ė San Francisco, Buffalo and the New York Jets. And that doesnít include a Miami Dolphinsí secondary which now consists of both Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey at the corners.

Weíve gone over the coaching, the receiving room, the big guys in front of Prescott and the schedule.

So how will he perform in 2023?

Given Schottenheimerís tendencies, we canít expect the Cowboys to throw the ball all over the place, particularly with a defense which should keep the opposition in check (allowed 20.1 ppg last season which was fifth-best). Figure about 550 passing attempts. Meanwhile, until we see otherwise, we have to assume he wonít be running as effectively as he did pre-injury. These two factors are the greatest limits to his upside.

Iím predicting a slight improvement over last season, but not much Ė 21.7 FPts/G or 369 fantasy points over 17 games. That will place him around No. 9 behind; Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.

In conclusion - Itís a big NO to the Cowboysí fans, who still believe heís an elite fantasy quarterback along the likes of Mahomes and Allen. Itís also a big NO, to rival Eagles fans who think he is worthless and would never draft him on their teams.

In 2023, Prescott is a low-end starting fantasy quarterback.

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