The 2017 NFL draft, and with it a new draft class, is still 64 days away, but that isn't stopping Sports Illustrated from doing a re-draft of first round of the 2016 NFL draft.
After a season in which Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott cleaned up the vote for offensive rookie of the year (they combined for 50 out of a possible 50 votes), a re-draft of 2016 is obviously something Cowboys fans can get excited about.
And SI.com doesn't disappoint, as they have Dak Prescott going No. 1 overall to the Rams.
This spot went to Carson Wentz at the season’s midpoint, but the stretch run revealed Prescott’s polish and Wentz’s inconsistencies. Plug in the Offensive Rookie of the Year next to Todd Gurley (who won the award in 2015) and Sean McVay gets to open his Los Angeles coaching tenure at the helm of a dynamic backfield without writing off another season in the name of Goff’s NFL acclimation process.
The Cowboys make out like bandits in this re-draft, because Ezekiel Elliott goes at No. 4 overall to the Cowboys, which means the Cowboys got two top five picks from the 2016 draft. Here's what Si.com writes about Elliott:
This is a no-brainer for Jerry Jones & Co. As a rookie, Elliott instantly became the centerpiece of the regular season’s best team, and Dallas has given him the supporting personnel to chase every franchise and league record he can name.
But it doesn't need to end there for the Cowboys, as these two Tweets summarize rather nicely:
@kencussion Healthy Smith would probably be 2 or 3— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 22, 2017
With the 1st Pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys have already selected LB Jaylon Smith. The Browns are now on the clock.— Dallas Cowboys (@WeDemBoyz2017) February 16, 2017
Having Prescott re-drafted as the No. 1 overall pick is obviously quite pleasing for Cowboys fans, but it once again raises questions about how Prescott lasted all the way to the bottom of the fourth round in the 2016 Draft
And the Cowboys are asking themselves that very same question too, Albert Breer of SI.com reported in January:
So here’s what best illustrates how absurd the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class has been: The failure that COO Stephen Jones and scouting chief Will McClay have examined closest over the last few months just happens to be their greatest success.
"[McClay] and I put our heads together all the time—How are we gonna be better next year?" Jones said over the phone on Tuesday night. "The parts we did miss, why? And believe it or not, we’re saying, ‘How did it happen that we took [Charles] Tapper ahead of Dak [Prescott]? Gotta be better than that. How do we learn from those situations, so we can be better in the future?"
Those questions aren't limited to the Cowboys of course. The scouting community as a whole is still trying to figure out exactly how Prescott slipped through the cracks in the evaluation process. Yesterday, Pro Football Focus published a highly readable article titled "What did we miss on Dak Prescott?", and Steve Palazzolo comes to some surprising conclusions about Dak Prescott.
When evaluating his 2015 Mississippi State film compared to his 2016 Dallas tape, it’s clear that Prescott made great strides with his footwork, pocket presence, decision-making and accuracy, so credit needs to go to both Prescott and the Cowboys’ coaching staff. However, when looking back at our unique PFF data, there may have been a couple pieces of data in our advanced accuracy charting that should have received more attention from our team.
Our analysts charted 20 quarterbacks from last year’s draft class, and while Prescott’s overall numbers were solid, a deeper look showed a few areas in which he excelled. Prescott had the best accuracy (defined as a perfectly-thrown pass "in-stride," or one that hits the receiver between the numbers; passes that are "catchable," but off-target, do not count as accurate for this study) in the draft class on passes where his receivers had a step of separation. He also led the way on passes with a step of separation at both the 6-10-yard range and the 11-20-yard range.
His accuracy on throws into "tight" coverage was among the worst in the class (16th), and he also threw a higher percentage of tighter-window throws into tight coverage. Whether that was Prescott taking more chances, not having the receivers to separate, or not having the system that set up easier throws, the overall numbers were pushed down by his high percentage of throws into tight coverage.
It’s all starting to make sense now, of course, with the benefit of hindsight. The Cowboys’ scheme did a fantastic job of creating open receivers, and Prescott did an equally-fine job finding them. Our numbers backed up that Prescott would excel in the right situation with open windows to throw to, and Dallas gave him that opportunity.
Of course it remains to be seen whether other prospects with high completion rates to players with a step of separation will achieve the same success as Prescott did. Because a lot of Prescott's success in Dallas had to do with the coaching and play-calling.
In 2016, Dak Prescott found himself in the perfect situation in Dallas, and Dallas found itself in the perfect situation with Prescott. It's not clear that Prescott would have been as successful with another team, nor that the Cowboys would have been as successful with another quarterback.
Sometimes, the planets just align.