When you are trying to sort out the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, it all starts with the Dak Prescott contract. The only rational way forward is to sign him to a long-term contract. Tagging him again would eliminate the ability to defer cap hit, and the team can ill afford that. Thanks to the team bungling the negotiations the past three years, the price tag is going to be very high indeed. It just is the only way to go without a high risk of being in quarterback purgatory, or worse, for years to come.
Many still don’t think the team should pay Prescott. They want the team to replace him. No one can seriously propose signing a free agent, because there just isn’t much out there. That leaves the draft, with the argument that they can find the QB of the future with their 10th overall pick, or a trade up to get their guy if necessary.
If you look at the history of QBs drafted in the past few years, you realize how much of a crap shoot it is, even with the number one pick. Since the idea of taking a quarterback in the first round seems so attractive, let’s go back and look at the last decade of first round QB picks to see just how difficult it is to get your franchise guy, even with the first overall pick. The overall position is noted for each.
1 - Cam Newton
8 - Jake Locker
10 - Blaine Gabbert
12 - Christian Ponder
That should immediately give you pause for what you can do with the tenth overall pick. Newton was the only first-rounder to have any success in the league. Of the rest, Blaine Gabbert is the only one to manage to hang around as a career backup.
1 - Andrew Luck
2 - Robert Griffin III
8 - Ryan Tannehill
22 - Brandon Weeden
This is one year that the guy in Dallas’ range turned out to be the longest-lived, although clearly Luck was the best. But both he and Griffin were misused, the former by never having the protection and supporting cast he needed, and the latter by being used as an option QB until he was battered and broken. Tannehill finally escaped the same fate when he landed with the Tennessee Titans, where he has resurrected his career.
16 - EJ Manuel
This was a bad year for quarterbacks. A really bad one.
3 - Blake Bortles
22 - Johnny Manziel
32 - Teddy Bridgewater
Not much better than the previous one. This is largely why there is a bit of a gap between the older QBs in the league and the new group of young guns. The talent coming out of college just hit a slump. This was also the year the Cowboys dodged a bullet named Jerry Jones Loves Johnny Football in the draft.
1 - Jameis Winston
2 - Marcus Mariota
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans thought that the tide had turned, investing the top two picks in the position. They were wrong.
1 - Jared Goff
2 - Carson Wentz
26 - Paxton Lynch
Two of the most expensive draft picks in terms of trade capital in memory started out hot, but flamed out rather spectacularly last season. Goff has been unloaded, and the Philadelphia Eagles are trying to ship Wentz off, although they are demanding a ridiculous price that may mean they wind up stuck with his contract. Also, with the failed attempt to trade up for Lynch, the Cowboys dodged yet another bullet.
1 - Mitchell Trubisky
10 - Patrick Mahomes
12 - Deshaun Watson
If you want to cherry pick a year when having the 10th overall pick worked out beautifully, here you go. With Mahomes and Watson both on the board, you could not go wrong with either. Having the Chicago Bears take Trubisky over both certainly helped, however.
But this is a great example of how recency bias can mislead. Yes, there were two future franchise QBs sitting there, but look at how much of a contrast that is to the previous years. This was an exception, not the rule.
1 - Baker Mayfield
3 - Sam Darnold
7 - Josh Allen
10 - Josh Rosen
32 - Lamar Jackson
We are now getting into another recency problem, this one being that the jury still is out on some of these players. Mayfield has shown flashes and got to the playoffs this year, Darnold has been mired with a miserable team, and it remains to be seen if Jackson can survive being a quarterback who runs so much. Only Allen seems to be on a clear upward trajectory, but the future may prove that this was actually a strong class.
1 - Kyler Murray
6 - Daniel Jones
15 - Dwayne Haskins
Murray may have something. So may Jones, although we kinda hope not given who he plays for. Haskins has already been deemed a failure by his original football team, and has to try and resurrect his career after only two years in the league.
1 - Joe Burrow
5 - Tua Tagovailoa
6 - Justin Herbert
26 - Jordan Love
Will this group continue on an upward trajectory, or will this be more like 2016? Burrow certainly looked like he was going to do well before his injury, Tagovailoa had a respectable 6-3 mark as a starter, and Herbert won OROY. Again, beware of recency bias. The past three years have yielded some early success stories, but this does not mean that there is a clear trend.
The recent influx of quarterback talent from college is seductive, but we have to remember that the jury is still out on those still on their rookie contracts as well as look at the bigger picture of how there have been many more failures taken in the first round in the previous seasons than clear winners.
Even with the first overall pick, a rookie quarterback still represents a coin flip, at best. When you are in the tenth spot, it is even more so, especially with the number of QB hungry teams who would be competing with the Cowboys. Dak Prescott is a known quantity, and all reports are that he is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from the devastating ankle injury. If you just don’t think he is that good, it is a different discussion, and one that has been made multiple times here. His performance this season prior to being injured is a strong argument that he is the best option for the Cowboys, by far.