Dak Prescott was incredible in 2016. And as a result, an incredibly high bar is set for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Good luck clearing it.
Prescott was a revelation last season, and the hype isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. The NFL Network does its “Top 100 Players” countdown every offseason, and it’s a flawed list in many ways. So it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Still, seeing Prescott at No. 14 was a bit of a shock.
Fourteenth?! I like Prescott, but wow. He was not ranked 14th among quarterbacks, but 14th among all NFL players. The two players behind Prescott on the list were Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He was 10 spots ahead of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. He was 30 spots ahead of 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton (and the list isn’t based on just 2016 production, since J.J. Watt made the list playing in three games and Rob Gronkowski ranked No. 23 playing in eight games). The Prescott excitement is getting a little out of control.
Prescott had a fine season, and it was a wonderful story for a fourth-round pick, but it’s hard to think he’d have ranked No. 14 playing on the Philadelphia Eagles or Los Angeles Rams last year. The Cowboys were set up perfectly for a rookie quarterback to have success. He played behind perhaps the best offensive line in decades, and maybe ever. Ezekiel Elliott was far more valuable than Prescott (but Prescott won Offensive Rookie of the Year because he’s a quarterback). Dez Bryant was already in place as a No. 1 receiver. The Cowboys’ offense was not built around Prescott. It’s a run-first attack. Prescott did remarkably well in his role. When he had to do more, after the Cowboys fell behind to the Green Bay Packers in a wild-card playoff game, he was great with 302 yards and three touchdowns. Prescott was great as a rookie and has a nice future ahead.
But please find me the NFL talent evaluator who would list Prescott as the 14th best player in all of football.
The list itself isn’t worth getting worked up about, because it generally has many odd choices like this. It just shows that Prescott is being put in an impossible spot. Everything went right for Prescott last season. We shouldn’t assume he’s going to be even better in 2017 after a nearly perfect rookie season. It doesn’t often work that way. But yet, he’s showing up on a list everyone notes, picked by NFL players, as the 14th best player in the league.
Prescott could be very good again in his second season and it might be considered a disappointment, based on how his reputation is rapidly growing. He has done some special things already, but his biggest challenge might be staying ahead of the growing hype.