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Dak Prescott finishes in second group of The Athletic’s quarterback tiers, outside of top 10 overall

Another estimation on where Dak Prescott ranks against his peers.

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NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Very few things divide Dallas Cowboys fans like the subject of Dak Prescott. This has been true from the moment that he entered the NFL. His rookie season of 2016 incited arguments as to whether or not the team should have kept him in place as their starter when veteran Tony Romo returned from injury.

Six years later people still debate the merits of Prescott and whether or not he is a legitimate franchise quarterback. When he is discussed among NFL quarterbacks as a whole, there are definitely a wide range of opinions as to his ranking.

There have been many quarterback ranking lists over the last few weeks but one of the best to come out annually is The Athletic’s quarterback tiers.

Dak Prescott finishes in second group of The Athletic’s Quarterback Tiers, outside of top 10 overall

Again it is difficult to get any group of Cowboys fans to agree just where Dak Prescott ranks against his peers. Some believe he is a top five quarterback, others admit that he is outside of that but still in single digits, and some believe he is firmly outside of the top 10.

One of the more unique evaluations of quarterbacks in the NFL comes from The Athletic’s Mike Sando and his Quarterback Tiers exercise. Obviously the fine details of quarterback rankings can be debated which is why breaking them up into tiers is a little bit more logical.

This year the top tier featured Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Joe Burrow. There is no question that these are among some of the better signal-callers in the game right now. It is more than fair to place them into their own tier of excellence.

The second tier began with Matthew Stafford but was followed up Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson. If you were counting then you noticed that we have officially reached 10 names on the list.

It was at this point that Dak Prescott appeared, still firmly entrenched in the second tier:

There was a point last season when Prescott seemed to be gaining as a potential Tier 1 candidate. Perhaps it was a calf injury that set him back. Whatever the case, the momentum stalled, and Prescott wound up back where he’s been for years, as a solid Tier 2 quarterback struggling to crack the top 10.

“He played like how he always does,” a head coach said. “He’s a solid player. Really solid. He’s not going to change and all of a sudden become something more special. He’s had a premium setup — premium offensive line, premium skill position players, and you know what he has done? He’s been really solid and they’ve won a ton of football games. He has legitimate intangibles in terms of his leadership and toughness, and he’s a good player.”

It’s possible Prescott will ascend this year after healing fully from the serious leg injury he suffered in 2020 and the calf injury that slowed him more recently.

“I think he is a 2, which is not bad,” a personnel director said. “Some of these teams that have Tier 1 quarterbacks, the line is OK to questionable and they are still producing, whereas Dak has generally had a talented offensive line and he still gets that mixed performance.”

One coach thought the Cowboys’ offense becomes more predictable later in the season as the team repeats plays. A quarterbacks coach who placed Prescott in Tier 1 noted that Prescott kept the Cowboys competitive even though their offensive line had fallen off and the team had disproportionate resources stuck in an unproductive running back. This voter called Prescott’s footwork “impeccable” and admired how the quarterback adjusted coming off a serious injury that limited his mobility.

“I don’t think there is a major flaw in his game, but I’m not sure if he has like truly hit that upper echelon,” a defensive coach said. “I think he is a very healthy 2, a 2-plus. He has never really made that leap. I have a lot of respect for Kellen (Moore), think he does a good job. It just seems like every time they have their chance to really put it together and elevate it, they fall short, so I don’t know.”

All of this seems very fair regarding the totality of Dak Prescott’s career.

We have seen incredible flashes of statistical production, but we have also seen valleys to rival those peaks (like the second half of last season). There is no question that Prescott is capable of reaching insane ceilings, but it hasn’t happened on a consistent basis across an entire season.

It is certainly fair to talk about him having premium talent around him, but that ignores how that supposed talent has dwindled and faded over the years. There is no question that the Cowboys offensive line is not the group that Prescott first lined up behind, and while everyone is well-aware of the resources that Dallas invested in their running game, nobody has had to contend with their insistence in that department like he has.

In many ways the 2022 season is depending on Prescott elevating himself and therefore everybody around him.