Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Profile #41 - Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws the ball during organized team activities at Cowboys headquarters in Irving, Texas Wednesday May 25, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)
Andy Jacobsohn/Staff Photographer
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws the ball during organized team activities at Cowboys headquarters in Irving, Texas Wednesday May 25, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)
Editor's note: This is Bob Sturm's draft profile of Prescott from March before the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the fourth round.

I have never been a scout or a NFL general manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, click here.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State -- 6-foot-2, 230 pounds -- redshirt senior -- No. 15
With each passing week, word gets louder and louder to all that follow the Cowboys that we better get familiar with all of the second-tier QB talent in this draft. The price at the very top is very high (also the product is very impressive), and given what we know about this front office, there is a very high chance they will scratch that "win now" itch at No. 4 overall, and therefore dive into the murky waters of trying to find a future starting QB outside of their top two picks. 
This seems to agree with what the fans want -- just go pick up that future No. 1 in Round 3 or 4 -- and load up on guys who will be instant starters in the top two rounds. Unfortunately, reality bites. And reality tells us that teams that try to find their QBs after Round 2 (or even the top few picks of Round 2) have a snowball's chance in Hades of actually finding that guy. Oh, sure, there is the occasional Russell Wilson and the even more occasional Tom Brady, but the odds of finding your five-year starting QB after pick No. 40 drops quickly to about a 1-in-25 chance. After Round 3, it drops to about 1-in-50. And to find a Brady, or even a Tony Romo where they were found, is pretty much the same odds as Leicester City winning it all. It may happen, but it surely should not be expected.
Regardless, let's examine those QBs who might be the fall-back plan after the shiny models are off the board in Round 1. Dak Prescott is one of the most appealing of Tier 2 for a number of reasons. He has massive amounts of big-time experience where he won a lot of games, played in a lot of big games, and noticeably improved along the way. He is a true dual-threat QB who appears to have some very appealing mental-processing traits in his approach to QB. He looks like he might be the coveted "maestro" who can go to his third option on a play with smooth transitions. On top of this, he possesses passing and running capabilities that serve him well in addition to toughness and leadership traits that are coveted. In other words, while he has some negatives, there are enough positives that this player might not even fall to Round 3.
What I liked: He was a very confident player in his system at Mississippi State, where he would use multi-layered reads to find the open man for many productive years. He was generally using a series of shorter throws (less than 10 yards) to free up the occasional downhill toss when coverage took a wrong step. He has no problem with velocity as his fastball zips to all spots with force, and in the pocket he has the ability to keep plays alive. On third down or in short yardage, he moves the chains on his own and certainly affects the numbers a defense deploys, freeing up opportunities to the edges. He makes quick decisions and goes through his progressions with ease, and when he gets in a groove it becomes quite frustrating to defend him. On the move, especially to his left, he looks really comfortable and is able to make the defense make a decision which he then adjusts to to declare it incorrect. I like his sandlot skills when the play breaks down. He excels in this second portion of a play. His willingness to take a hit to deliver a throw is yet another attribute coaches admire.
What I did not like: Whenever a QB plays in a zone-read that has a series of either/or decisions, a defense can jam him up by playing disciplined and staying at home to "do their job." It is worth noting that against the better opponents on his 2015 slate, this seemed to really slow down Prescott's arsenal and he ended up looking pretty ordinary. He also has bouts with mechanics and accuracy that causes him to miss badly on occasion -- sometimes down the field where there is a rare opportunity. He also is not ultra-elusive in the backfield. He can be a threat with his legs moving forward, but in terms of being difficult to sack, he would not cause anyone to confuse him with Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger. He can be caught and sacked. And again, it would be difficult to say his offense asked him to make a lot of "NFL throws" in terms of digs, deep outs, skinny posts, or anything where he must challenge safeties. Most of his deep passes were man opportunities to the safe sidelines.
Summary and potential fit with the Cowboys: There are many reasons to see links between the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. They certainly have not hid their desire to cross paths with him multiple times this draft season, and while they will not be alone in their interest, of the Tier 2 prospects, he is the name that pops up the most. The parallels with Tim Tebow are certainly worth investigating in that their college statistics are very similar and they shared a coach. That said, his throwing mechanics are far beyond Tebow's and he maintains the component of running/improv skills when the play breaks down.
As we said above, the odds of QBs in this range of a draft developing into something special are much longer than most pundits (or teams) are willing to admit. That said, at the right price (top of Round 3?), you can see why Prescott may be a prospect that a coach like Scott Linehan believes he can develop and get to agree to the Romo retirement timeline. There are certainly traits and flashes where you can see a high ceiling -- if you want to fall in love, watch his bowl game vs. N.C. State. Now, in a QB-starved league, might he go well beyond pick No. 67? Reports suggest Denver is salivating at the end of Round 2.

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