While we still don’t know exactly when the Dallas Cowboys will start training camp, we are hopeful that things will go off without too many glitches. Outside of that, the biggest concern for the fans of the team is, what is going to happen with quarterback Dak Prescott and his contract? That is up to the player, his agent, and the Jones family. Meanwhile the fans and the local media continue the long-running and at times acrimonious debate about whether he is worthy of being paid top-of-the-market money. Since we are by definition very close to the story, it is always interesting to see what outside voices have to say about him, especially in comparison to the other QBs around the league. In light of that, this was eye-catching.
Top 10 NFL QBs RIGHT NOW— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 15, 2020
(According to @seanjwagner)
Where is Aaron Rodgers??#NFLTop10QB pic.twitter.com/NOngUPc0X8
This ranking comes from this article by Sean Wagner-McGough. Here is his explanation for why he has Prescott fifth overall.
The Cowboys’ refusal to give Dak Prescott the contract he wants and deserves continues to make no sense. They have a 26-year-old franchise quarterback they were lucky enough to draft in the fourth round four years ago and for some dumb reason, they haven’t given him a long-term contract. And let’s be clear: Dak deserves it.
In four seasons, Prescott is completing 65.8 percent of his passes, and averaging 3,944.5 passing yards per season, 7.6 yards per attempt, and 24.3 touchdown passes and nine interceptions per season. He’s accumulated a 97.0 passer rating. He’s also averaging 305.3 rushing yards and 5.3 rushing touchdowns per season. Since 2016, he ranks sixth in passing yards, tied for ninth in touchdown passes, and tied (with Russell Wilson) for second in quarterback wins (only Brady has more). He’s coming off a season that saw him finish sixth in DVOA and fourth in total QBR.
So, it’s not farfetched to think Prescott will play like a top-10 quarterback in 2020. He’s mostly been playing at that level over the past four seasons. Now, in addition to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, he gets to throw to someone like CeeDee Lamb. I think there’s a good chance Prescott outplays his ranking on this list. He’s set up to thrive, which is why the Cowboys should sign him before the season begins and he drives up his asking price once again — just like how they should’ve signed before last season, but I digress.
That is a very positive take, and a solid case for not only paying the man, but for a bright future for Dallas.
The company you keep is always important. This is a great place for a still young and growing quarterback to land. Three of the four players ahead of him already have Super Bowl wins, and Drew Brees is a likely Hall of Famer. Additionally Lamar Jackson was just a couple of wins away from his own shot at hoisting the Lombardi last season. Clearly, Prescott is right in the middle of the new wave of star quarterbacks, as Brees, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger are all almost certainly in the final stages of their careers.
This would not be a legitimate BTB post if I did not also mention that Prescott lands ahead of Carson Wentz. That is duly noted.
This is, of course, all about how the players are seen this season. While top five is a very good place for Prescott to be, he is far from the whole story for the Cowboys. They have a defense that still has a ton of questions to be answered. But the offense has a lot of other strengths. As a matter of fact, top five consideration applies to most of it.
- Ezekiel Elliott is no longer talked about as the best running back in the league, but he still is one of the best out there. Dallas is expected to be more focused on the passing game in any case. Elliott is likely to be more of a complementary piece. But he is a very good one to have.
- The offensive line is also not seen as dominant as it was a few seasons ago, but with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins still available, they are often mentioned among the elite units in the NFL. Prescott should still benefit from very good protection when he drops back to throw the ball.
- Wide receiver should be the best unit on the team with the addition of CeeDee Lamb to the accomplished duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Nothing helps a quarterback more than good targets, and the Cowboys may have the best top three WRs in the league.
- That leaves tight end as the only possible weak link, and Blake Jarwin is thought to be poised to have a breakout year with the departure of Jason Witten.
While the talent around him is somewhere between excellent and outstanding, another factor may make the real difference in solidifying Prescott as one of the true elites at his position. That is the coaching change. All Mike McCarthy has done in his career is help Brett Favre go out strong after he had suffered a noticeable decline, and then help Aaron Rodgers become Aaron Freaking Rodgers, with a Super Bowl victory along the way. Now he is bringing that expertise to Dallas. Part of what he can do is tied in to the retention of Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator. Earlier, our Connor Livesay looked at an ESPN analysis of OC play-calling history, and quoted its description of Moore.
Moore called a balanced offense in his first and only season as a playcaller in Dallas last season. We can’t learn much from the small sample (especially with the head-coaching change to extremely-pass-heavy Mike McCarthy), but volume was enormous in Moore’s first go-around. Dallas finished ninth in pass attempts, third in aDOT, eighth in RB carries, 23rd in RB targets (but seventh in routes), eighth in WR targets and ninth in TE targets.
One of the most important thing for coordinators and coaches to do is put their players in a position to succeed, and the McCarthy-Moore partnership has all the hallmarks of doing just that for their quarterback.
Now the participants have to turn this into wins on the field and some playoff victories. That all is still to be determined, but the signs are pointing in the right direction. As the CBS writer noted, Prescott may not just prove he belongs in the top five. He may well move himself up to a truly elite level.