Every NFL team neglected to take Dak Prescott in the first three rounds. It was of the utmost concern that he was arrested for drunk driving just six weeks before the Draft, and it would be impossible for this information not to color both evaluation of his draft position and where he ultimately wound up.
However, general consensus about him also included lots of concerns about Prescott’s quarterbacking. As soon as Tony Romo went down, Prescott seized the Cowboys starting job. While he has not been 2004 Peyton Manning or anything like that, he’s well on his way to being included in the conversation with Russell Wilson and Tom Brady when people talk about finding quarterbacks in later rounds. (Yes, I’m aware it’s way too soon to anoint Dak anywhere near what those two, especially Brady, have accomplished in aggregate.)
The point of revisiting this collection of pre-Draft, post-Draft, and preseason punditry isn’t to play GOTCHA with the famous individuals or outlets that were way off. As Colin Cowherd told Bryan Curtis last week, sports talk isn’t the “being right” business, what matters most is “being interesting.” Draftniks first and foremost have to package their opinions for television, radio, and web consumption.
Time and again, we learn that the NFL Draft is an inexact science for the people who cover it AND the coaches and general managers doing the picking. When Draft season comes around, it’s fine to form your own opinions. Nobody knows anything.
Most of these Dak Prescott evaluations were negative about his prospects, but retroactively Jaws and to a lesser extent Todd McShay come off looking pretty good.
Mel Kiper, ESPN
After the Draft, Kiper gave the Cowboys a ‘C’ grade. He felt that Ezekiel Elliott was “one of the best prospects in recent years,” he thought that lots of backs would be great behind the vaunted Dallas O-line, that the pick was very poor value because “a number of players well into Day 3” would also have big impact.
On Prescott, Kiper wrote (emphasis mine): “Dallas was interested in getting into range for Paxton Lynch, and also missed out on a chance to draft Connor Cook when the Raiders traded up. Dak Prescott is a solid guy to have on the bench, but I question the starting upside, and I had Brandon Allen ranked higher.”
Kiper did not have Dak Prescott going in the first three rounds of his mock, which was an accurate reflection of what happened.
Joel Klatt, Fox Sports
At the 9:10-mark of this radio interview, Klatt was asked about Dak. “I just got so frightened by that DUI incident,” Klatt said. “There’s something about that decision-making — and I’ve heard that this guy outside of that mistake is a fantastic kid. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches down there at Mississippi State. I think he’s done a lot of great things.”
“But the skillset is so different,” Klatt continued. “Dak was in a system that was very specific. It was very unique to his skills. He was able to use his size and athleticism. I don’t think that he’s the passer of the football that some of these other guys are.”
“So, if you’re asking me if you have a choice between Dak Prescott and Kevin Hogan, let’s say in the later rounds, I think it’s a no-brainer — I mean, no brainer — that you take Kevin Hogan over Dak Prescott. Prescott is a project, whereas Hogan comes in, sits in the back of the quarterback room, and can be your backup from Day 1. All you have to say to him is hello and nice to meet you.”
John Breitenbach, Pro Football Focus
Prescott was listed in PFF’s “buyer beware” feature before the draft, with Connor Cook and Cardale Jones. This was not a favorable prognostication:
The third-round talk surrounding Dak Prescott shows no signs of abating. Prescott’s skill-set, however, makes him a more realistic Day 3 target. He needs to improve his location, in particular, struggling to beat tight coverage at every level of the defense. Prescott can hit open receivers, but fails to show the kind of precision to complete tough throws into coverage. The game-manager label might suit Prescott, because he fails to stand out in any area. While he is a solid enough signal-caller, he doesn’t flash outstanding potential. Although the numbers appear promising, Prescott is far from the most effective quarterback under pressure. He recorded a -7.0 grade when disrupted in the pocket in 2015 (0.0 is considered average), despite throwing five touchdowns to just one pick.
It may have seemed as if Prescott improved at protecting the ball in his senior season—he had just five picks in his final year at Mississippi State—but he benefitted from 11 drops from defenders to maintain respectable numbers. Along with the other quarterbacks in this piece, Prescott’s decision-making isn’t always consistent. His tapes against Ole Miss and Alabama are ugly. When games started to drift away from Prescott, he was rarely capable of changing the momentum back in his teams’ favor. After an underwhelming Senior Bowl, Prescott should only be considered towards the end of the draft.
Louis Riddick, ESPN
At the 18-minute mark of this radio spot with Finebaum from the Combine in February, Riddick said, “Dak is a guy who in the throwing drills really didn’t help himself very much. He’s a guy whose accuracy is all over the place. His ability to get comfortable with the footwork and the timing and then the accuracy at the NFL level is gonna be something that’s a huge work in progress.”
“I know that people like the kid. [He] wants to be good as far as being a pro style quarterback. But, I think he has a steep learning curve, and the fact of the matter is guys like Carson Wentz and Jared Goff really separated themselves from the second and third tier quarterbacks right now. Again, it’s gonna be imperative that [Dak] goes somewhere that has tremendous fundamental teaching of the quarterback position, and not every team is created equal in that respect.”
Nevertheless, Riddick at the Draft, Riddick felt that Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys were a good fit for what he was talking about:
Mike Mayock, NFL Media
“He is what he is,” Mayock said of Prescott, via PhillyVoice.com. “He’s basically one of those middle-round quarterbacks. There are teams that are going to want to work with him. He’s got height, weight; he’s got some arm strength. What he did in the state of Mississippi to galvanize that team in that state I thought was special. What happens with those kinds of guys is a quarterback coach will fall in love with the kid. It’s not going to make him a first rounder because he’s a great character kid, but a coach will fall in love with him and draft him.”
At the Draft, Mayock was very high on the Cowboys’ pick:
Todd McShay, ESPN
“He’s probably going to be drafted right around Round 3, let’s say,” McShay said on Finebaum. “He’s gonna be brought in to be a very good backup — someone that you can win a few games with if your starter goes down. And then, if things go well, if developed properly and he continues to improve with his accuracy and adjusts from the college game and that offensive system to the NFL game, then great. If you wind up getting a solid starter then it’s a huge benefit.”
“We all love his character, his leadership, his toughness, and everything he brings to the table,” McShay continued. “I thought he really improved this past year with the timing and getting the ball out in time and throwing to spots. He’s not there yet in terms of where he needs to be in the league, but he got a lot better from the 2014 season to the 2015 season.”
That being said, even after the Cowboys had drafted Dak, McShay had them picking quarterback Mitch Leidner from Minnesota in the first round of his way-too-early mock for 2017.
Ron Jaworski, ESPN
Jaws probably had the most friendly pre-draft analysis of Prescott. “Dak Prescott is a guy that I really, really like,” he said, via NJ.com. “He reminds me to a certain degree of Donovan McNabb, coming out of Syracuse. He had that mobility, played in that unique style of offense. Had a lot of play-action and I’m telling you, Prescott has been very impressive with his ability to throw the football.”
Jaws said that Dak Prescott would be optimal for someone like Chip Kelly’s offense.
Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
McGinn runs the evaluations of lots of anonymous scouts in his Draft previews for the Milwaukee newspaper. Here’s what they told him:
Billed by the Bulldogs as the most decorated player in their history. “This was not a good team but for two years they competed against the best teams,” one scout said. “He was the entire team there. The guy’s just a winner. He’s got patience, focus, makes quick decisions, good arm strength, nice touch, stands tall in the pocket under pressure.”
Posted 23-10 record and had a passer rating of 99.6. Also rushed for 2,501 yards and 41 TDs. “He motivated that team, held guys accountable,” another scout said. “I just don’t see the vision downfield. He’s a very streaky thrower. There will be a place for him in the league. I’d take him over Tim Tebow hands down.” Arrested for a DUI in mid-March. Wonderlic of 25. “He’s got no accuracy, got no vision,” said a third scout. “I don’t think he’s an NFL quarterback.”
Jon Ledyard, USA Today Draft Wire
In this piece, Prescott was projected as a sixth round pick:
When he’s at his best, Prescott shows a great natural feel for pressure in the pocket, sliding around to re-establish his base and hang tough in the face of contact. There is no doubt that when the mechanics are clicking, Prescott can throw a pretty ball on a rope, but these moments are simply too rare to take a chance on in the first half of the draft. I think Prescott will get snatched up late on day three due to the flashes of talent that are evident on tape and an exceptional work ethic that promises improvement, but right now there isn’t much to show he’ll be anything more than a decent backup someday.
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Hard to find an NFL comp for Prescott because he’s built like Donovan McNabb, but lacks McNabb’s ability and polish. Prescott has NFL size, mobility and enough arm, but the tape shows a player who must improve his mechanics, poise and quickness through his progressions if he is to become a full-time starter in the NFL. There are absolutely draftable traits and upside, but he will need extended work to smooth out his flaws. Until then, a team would be wise to utilize him on short-yardage packages.
Greg Cosell, Yahoo Sports
“Prescott has two issues,” Cosell said, via Philly Mag. “He has a tendency to drift when he throws the ball. His feet aren’t under him and I’m talking about even when there’s no pressure at all. And secondly, he doesn’t have a great sense of timing and anticipation. The ball comes out. If you just closed your eyes and opened them without knowing who he was, he kind of looks like Donovan McNabb, kind of the way he throws it. He’s got a good arm, but he’s a drifter and he falls away from throws.”
The time from when Tony Romo went down in the preseason until Dak Prescott officially wrested the starting job is probably a separate story — remember in October when Jason La Canfora weirdly reported that there was “zero chance” Dak would start over Romo when the latter returned? — but this SFY clip (disclosure: my boss Jason McIntyre is in this clip) came up in my research yesterday and is fun to rewind:
“Dak Prescott played in the SEC,” Whitlock said. “We saw him play. I know who Dak Prescott is. He ain’t no starting quarterback in the NFL.”