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Rewind: The Dynasty-Fantasy Value of Dak Prescott in 2017

Date:
August 30, 2017 6:50 AM
July 27, 2017 6:19 AM
— Our offseason ‘Rewind’ reports are where we look at an individual player’s previous season(s) of work–analyzing and researching it for clues on whether it was a ‘blip’ performance, or signs of future greatness…or signs of a mega-bust approaching. We try to do two per week in the offseason. —

Where is the fantasy world on Dak, currently?

The #14–15 QB off most redraft boards right now…so, not an overheated market for him.

Why not more love for the rookie sensation for the NFL’s most popular/hated team?

I believe there is always a bias among analysts, and thus fans, that whatever was thought of a player pre-draft and in the actual NFL Draft is everything. Analysts have no core beliefs besides the groupthink ones set pre-draft and confirmed within the draft. To some degree, it’s ‘fake news’ reporting on a guy like Dak in 2017. You cannot be allowed to ponder why a rookie QB could come in from the 4th round of the draft with little fanfare, be bet against for several weeks into his debut as starter, and then crush it in his rookie season in the NFL…and it was all missed ahead by every analyst. You’d stop believing in analysts’ fake psychic abilities to tell you what players are good or not when guys like Dak confound every one of them in lockstep. We can’t have that. It’s the only industry where the best players in the game/industry were guys that the highly paid analysts never saw coming (Tom Brady, David Johnson, Antonio Brown).

The mainstream media hype or silence/shade on a player is effective. It’s why Jameis Winston (beloved) is going as a top 12 QB in redrafts, ahead of Marcus Mariota (not liked compared to Winston) and Dak PrescottCarson Wentz doesn’t trade too far away from Dak in ADP…but is light years apart from Dak, in reality. Mariota and Dak should be way ahead of Winston-Wentz, but they’re not.

My complaining aside – what is the reality with Dak? A Dallas Cowboys fan would tell you he’s the next Tom Brady. General football fan is still in a ‘wait and see‘ mode. The media wants a sophomore slump. I suspect Dak will be listed on many ‘let down’ lists for fantasy 2017.

Where does the truth lie?

I have always thought Dak was built to succeed quickly in the modern NFL. He makes fast, accurate decisions within seconds of the snap…the new-era quick-strike, quick-decision quarterback. Most college QBs do not have vision/skills to operate a quick-hitter passing game in the NFL ever, much less in their rookie seasons. New-era college QBs are built to attack quickly…and they have to hope an NFL team/playbook gives them the chance to run that style. Dak got that chance. Derek Carr got that chance. Marcus Mariota mostly got that chance (the coach keeps trying to make him an old-school QB). They are not ‘your grandfather’s’ NFL QBs. They can spread the field, identify mismatches, and deliver passes/surgical strikes in a 1–2 step drop or off their back foot, etc. It doesn’t look like Tom Brady because it’s not. It’s new and different…and, maybe, just as effective. Differently effective.

I went back to the 2016 season and re-watched a few games of Dak’s to get a feel for how he progressed. I watched his two losses/struggles versus the Giants Weeks 1 and 14), games against Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and the playoff game with Green Bay. I walked away feeling the same way I felt watching him at Mississippi State…

— From 0–10 yards from the line of scrimmage, there are not many better passers than Prescott. He’s an assassin on short distance throws. Strong arm and deadly accurate. 72.5% comp. pct. and 8 TD/3 INTs on passes 0–10 yards last season (by comparison Carson Wentz was 67.3% and 6 TDs/5 INTs).

— From 20+ yards and deeper throws, Dak isn’t as great or comfortable looking but holds his own. In 2016, on passes thrown 20+ yards away from the line of scrimmage:

36.3% (16-of-44), 5 TDs/1 INT = Tom Brady

38.0% (16-of-42), 6 TDs/1 INT = Dak Prescott

For more context…

29.1% (21-of-72), 6 TDs/2 INTs = Aaron Rodgers

26.4% (14-of-53), 4 TDs/6 INTs = Carson Wentz

 

His 20+ throws aren’t as meticulous or pretty as Brady’s or Rodgers’s, but I noticed that Dak is so very smart on matchup throws. When he takes his deeper shots, he usually does so identifying favorable matchups…just letting Dez ‘go get it’ when he can.

— What Dak has that Brady and Rodgers, among others, do not – he runs the ball like a power running back. He does not run anytime he can, but if it’s there Dak will take it – and he’s usually smart about it. He tied among QBs for the lead in the NFL with 6 rushing TDs last season. He’s 6′2″/226…he can take a hit. He’s built like a small tight end.

 

Watching Dak’s 2016, I was re-reminded that he’s not Tom Brady, yet. He might never be. He’s just a very slick, short passer with decent feet and a sturdy frame. He’s a version of Marcus Mariota as a passer, with similar vision for the passing game, but Mariota is much, much faster running the ball…but Mariota’s also built more like a bean pole, and thus injury issues have been a problem (or just unlucky).

Dak can exist as a successful NFL QB on his short, quick passing skills and decent run ability. But he’ll go to the next level if he can do what Derek Carr did from his year one to year two…become an even better downfield passer. The kind of passer who you can turn loose to carry an offense, to rack 300+ yard games. Right now, I don’t think Dak is there yet…he doesn’t have to be. He can play the short, controlled game masterfully. His team isn’t down often to where they are throwing every down in desperation. However, when Dallas got down 21–3 in their playoff game last season with the Packers – Dak led them back on methodical drives – landing 3 TDs and 302 yards on 38 attempts. The potential for ‘more’ as a passer seems to be there.

While the potential is there, it’s a question of how often Dallas will need it – for fantasy football purposes. If Ezekiel Elliott is gone for two or more games – Dak, for fantasy, could get more interesting. However, the problem with relying on Dak out of the gates is – NYG, @DEN, @ARI, LAR to start the season…that’s a murderer’s row of pass defenses to face, potentially. I wouldn’t want to start my season relying on Dak, per se. I’d want him as a QB2 who will shine from about Weeks 5–7 on. You may also wait on Dak, let him underperform Weeks 1–4 and then swoop in on the cheap.

After watching Dak’s 2016 and knowing my scouting from college – I think Dak has more to give as a passer, but I don’t think the current Dallas game plan/need is going to require him to post huge numbers. I think the offense will be built for him someday, but not so in early 2017.

Extra note…

I also must note the following… Maybe, the biggest takeaway from my Dak studies.

Dez Bryant looked terrible much of last season. There are times when Dez looks like a world beater, but mostly Dez looks disinterested and sloppy. The connection between Dez and Dak is lacking…very lacking (52% connection rate on targets from Dak in 2016). I think there are issues all over with Dez. However, in crisis, when down 21–3 to the Packers in the playoffs…Dak and Dez took over. It’s sitting there waiting to happen, but that ball is in Dez’s court…and I think Dez’s mind is elsewhere a lot of the time. He’s not a committed worker. He’s turned into an ultra-talent that can be shut off by more aggressive, meticulous, talented coverage – the Giants/Janoris Jenkins held Dez to two catches on 14 targets in 2016 in their two games.

As Dez goes…so goes the Cowboys offense to the next level (or not)…and so goes Dak to the next level of passer for fantasy (or not). Terrance Williams and (current day) Jason Witten are not taking Dak to the next level. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are perfect WRs for Dak’s short, quick stylings. But Dez is going to hold the key to the next level (or not).

Dak is going to be good again in 2017, and possibly great in 2017…or perhaps it won’t be until 2018. The potential is there. I don’t know that the circumstances will totally allow for greatness in 2017, but I wouldn’t rule it out. At a minimum, you’re getting 1.5 TD passes per game with 250 yards passing, 10–20 yards rushing a game…17–18 fantasy points per game before turnovers (which Dak has been low on) and rushing TDs (of which Dak has been a league leader). To get Dak over 20+ FF PPG – he needs Dez Bryant to step up and/or Ezekiel Elliott to fade off and put more on the passing game.

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is a fantasy football player analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics. 

Email rc4metrics@gmail.com

Learn more about RC and the Fantasy Football Metrics system >>