Re-grading the Dallas Cowboys 2016 draft, seven years later

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Round Four, Pick #135 – Dak Prescott

Thirty-four picks after the Dallas Cowboys took their biggest bust of the 2016 draft, they made their best pick and took a gamble, selecting 23-year-old Dakota “Dak” Rayne Prescott out of Mississippi State.

The 2016 draft opened up with a pair of quarterbacks, with Jared Goff going to the Los Angeles Rams first overall and Carson Wentz with the number two pick by the Philadelphia Eagles via trade with Cleveland Browns. Dak Prescott was the 8th quarterback selected in the 2016 draft behind guys like Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook, both targets for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys, who were taken before Jerry could swipe either for himself.

Many fans were starting to wonder if their current franchise quarterback, Tony Romo, could still stay healthy and perform at a high level as the Cowboys Headed into the draft. Romo was coming off a broken left collarbone against the Carolina Panthers in 2015, marking the second time he had broken his collarbone since 2010. It was clear that Romo’s body was having difficulty holding up as he only started 16 games in four of his nine full seasons as the Dallas Cowboys starter.

Was Romo fragile, unlucky, or a bit of both? Unfortunately for him, it didn’t matter because, on the third play of the Cowboys’ 2016 pre-season game against the Seattle Seahawks, Romo was injured on a tackle by Cliff Avril. It was thought that Romo would be sidelined for 6-10 weeks and retain the starting job once he returned, but that was not the case as we know now.

Throughout the 2016 pre-season, Dak Prescott dazzled and lit up opposing defenses. With Romo recovering from another injury, fans clamored for Jerry to name Dak the official starter even when Tony returned. Fans would slowly realize this was the case, as Dak never relinquished the starting job, and Romo would retire following the season. Meanwhile, Prescott was impressive as a rookie throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, and four interceptions, earning his first Pro Bowl and winning offensive rookie of the Year.

Since entering the league, Prescott has seen more than his fair share of criticism for only winning two playoff games in seven seasons and coming up empty-handed in big moments, particularly against the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs the past two seasons. A lot of this is unfair criticism as the lights are brighter in Dallas, and the media and Cowboys Nation tend to over-criticize their players with the team currently on a 26-year NFC Championship Game drought. Overall, Dak has exceeded expectations as a fourth-round draft pick and is arguably a top-three all-time quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and currently a top-ten quarterback in the NFL.

I’m not suggesting that people throw out the lack of playoff success the Cowboys have had under Dak Prescott, but we also need to be honest and realize that they are going on 27 years since their last NFC Championship appearance. So Dak has only been a part of the drought for seven years, just over one-fourth of the time.

Stacked against the loaded history of the Dallas Cowboys quarterback position, Dak currently sits among the best with 16+ starts.

  • Yards – 3rd
  • Completion % – 1st
  • Interception % – 1st (lowest)
  • Yards per Attempt – 5th
  • Passer Rating – 1st

If that wasn’t enough to justify Dak being one of the best quarterbacks since entering the league, he also holds his own against all-time greats and active quarterbacks.

  • Passer Rating (All-Time/Active) – 8th/7th
  • Passing Yards Per Game (All-Time/Active) – 16th/10th
  • Yards per Attempt (All-Time/Active) – 23rd/8th
  • Pass Completion % (All-Time/Active) – 8th/7th
  • Touchdown % (All-Time/Active) – 42nd/10th
  • Interception % (All-Time/Active) – 9th/8th

As a fourth-round selection, Prescott has far exceeded expectations with little left to prove purely as a quarterback. However, he needs to further succeed in putting the team on his shoulders when it counts the most. Only seven years into his career, Dak has plenty of time to prove he can. Whether or not Jerry Jones or the fans feel the same is yet to be seen.

Individual Grade: A+