A Word on Fanbases
One of the biggest debates coming out of the 2016 was Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott. He earned OROTY over Ezekiel Elliott, much to my and a good portion of /r/NFL's consternation. On the stat sheet, he outplayed both the #1 and #2 pick in the same draft. It culminated with him being named a top 20 player in the entire NFL on the Top 100 list, to my and /r/NFL's great consternation.
The debate around Dak Prescott reminds me of that of my own team's QB in a lot of ways. The team won a lot, and the QB got a ton of the credit, as they do. The media crowned that QB as the next great thing. Because of this, and the team's large fanbase, redditors got really annoyed and pushed back. The QB became only good because of the team around him, overrated, annoying. In Dak's case, "RGIII" was thrown out to shut down any excitement Cowboys fans had for their QB. The QB's fanbase only got more outspoken as they saw their guy getting underrated and dismissed unfairly. And on and on it goes...
I got the idea for a post seriously comparing Dak to the 2012 class before the NFL Top 100 list, but the debate around his placement is definitely what got me working on it. I admit I went into this biased; I was in the camp annoyed by what I saw as overrating Dak, and his Top 100 rating was the cherry on the shit sundae. But when I actually looked at the stats compared to the 2012 class, I think Dak is in pretty good company, and in some ways, doesn't have any of an easier job than Luck, Wilson, or RGIII did in their rookie years.
He's Only Good Because O-Line (PFF Time to Throw)
I'm gonna be honest, the only reason this stops at 2012 and doesn't include Carr, Bridgewater, Bortles, Winston, and Mariota is this section. I wanted to look at PFF's stat, "Time to Throw." As explained in this article:
Now to explain what ‘time to throw’ is, we record the time from when the ball is snapped to the point where the quarterback has either thrown a pass or can no longer throw a pass (has been sacked or has scrambled past the line of scrimmage).
This is free and available for 2012 and 2013, but started being paywall locked in 2014. I only have the 2016 class stats thanks to /u/trapline being a crazy person and paying for those. Without him I couldn't have even started this analysis.
My assumption going into this was of course that Dak had 50 years to throw behind the best OL in the league, and that explained a lot of his success. So I was somewhat surprised when I compared him to our 2012 trio.
|QB||Time to Throw (seconds)|
Now, it's possible that PFF changed the way they collect their data between 2012 and now... but the Time to Throw calculation should be pretty much the same as a concept, and Dak actually got the ball out faster than both Wilson and RGIII in their rookie seasons, only slightly slower than Luck.
We can make all sorts of arguments about this. Wilson and RGIII were extending plays with their legs by scrambling around, it wasn't just how long their OLs could physically hold the defense back, etc. It also worth noting that PFF's OL evalutions for the 2012 guys top out with the Redskins at #16 and the Seahawks and Colts' both well below average. But I think Dak being about the same as Luck, who has the capability to scramble but wasn't exactly in a read-option offense, is at least a little significant.
He's Only Good Because Run Game (Team Rushing Production Minus QB)
Ezekiel Elliott is an absolute stud and nothing about writing this wall o' text convinced me he shouldn't have won OROTY for his 1,500 yard, 15 TD performance last season. But as Cowboys fans often point out, Dak isn't the first rookie blessed with a strong run game. Wilson had prime Marshawn Lynch, RGIII had Alfred Morris (and more importantly, the Shanahans' incredible zone-blocking run scheme), and even Luck had a decent performance from the combination of Vick Ballard and Donald Brown.
To attempt to quantify rushing production, I calculated the total rushing stats from each team, minus any direct running from the QB himself. Once again, this has some qualifications, as you may correctly point out the read-option and rushing capabilities of Wilson and RGIII, in particular, opened things up for their running backs. That can't be ignored, but let's continue with that caveat in mind (Source: ProFootballReference):
|Team||Total Attempts||Total Rushing Yards||Total Rushing TDs|
The Cowboys as a team minus QB had the most rushing production of the group, but they aren't running away with it. The non-QB rushers had identical attempts to the 2012 Seahawks and only a few more yards. They tallied only 3 more rushing TDs than the 2012 Redskins. While Dak has incredible support from the run game, I think it's fair to say that Wilson and RGIII had great run games too (Luck less so...)
Now here's each QB's pure rushing production and % contribution to their team overall:
|QB||Rushing Yards||% of Team Total||Rushing TDs||% of Team Total|
Dak contributed less than RGIII and Wilson on the ground. He was basically comparable to Luck in rushing production, getting into the end zone for one more TD and about 30 more yards. However, in terms of percentage, Luck shouldered a much larger burden of his team's rushing attack--particularly in scoring. I think the TL;DR for this section is that Dak contributed the least as a runner relative to his team.
One Read and Take Off? (Pure Passing Production)
Looking at each QB as a pure passer:
Dak threw for more yards than RGIII and Wilson, though not Luck. He's tied with Luck for 2nd in TDs thrown. Essentially, the volume production is middle of the pack for this group. His efficiency is higher, with the highest ANY/A and passer rating and lowest Interception and Sack percentage. Looking at this, I see a QB who was probably the most careful with the ball of any of the 4 when he dropped back to pass.
One could definitely argue Dak was best-placed to afford being careful, given that his team had the highest run game production of the 4 guys, the best O-line, and that he contributed the least to the running game. I won't get into that here since I'm just doing the stats.
Final Stat Comparison for Reference
Obviously I counted up all the yards and TDs, both rushing and passing, for this section. I also added both INTs and fumbles into "total turnovers." All stats are per PFR. I'm not sure if they're counting fumbles lost or just plain fumbles but it is consistent for everyone.
|QB||Total Yards||Total TDs||Total Turnovers||Total TD:Turnover|
In summary, Dak was potentially the most efficient of the 4 QBs, with a total TD to total turnover ratio of 2.23. He produced only the 3rd most total yards, but the 2nd most total TDs, and the least total turnovers of the group. What's that actually mean? I dunno; see same caveats above.
Yo This Post is Way Too Long, Just Give Me a 5 Second TL;DR So I Can Get Mad in the Comments
Bottom line: I think it's too early to call Dak Prescott a top 20 player in the NFL, but his rookie season compares very favorably to the 2012 success stories. We as a sub shouldn't forget how much help some of those rookies had, and we shouldn't dismiss Dak's potential for supporting cast alone. (At the same time, Drew Brees is objectively better and the NFL Top 100 objectively sucks).
Submitted June 27, 2017 at 09:01AM by Super_Nerd92
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