Dak Prescott 2017 Bust?
One of the bigger parts of Prescott’s fantasy success was due in part to his rushing ability. He finished the 2016 season with only 282 rushing yards but managed to score 6 touchdowns. Those 6 scores would tie him with Tyrod Taylor for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback for the season. Unless he plans to throw for 30 touchdowns this year, those rushing touchdowns need to be replicated. History shows that staying on top in rushing touchdowns may not be so easy. Since 2000, only one quarterback has led the position in rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons. Cam Newton is the lone quarterback to do so and he did it in three straight seasons.
How a regression in rushing touchdowns could affect a running quarterback’s season can be best viewed between Russell Wilson’s 2014 and 2016 seasons. In 2014, the Seahawks signal caller would rush for 849 yards and score 6 touchdowns. Those rushing stats along with 3,475 passing yards and 20 touchdowns would have him finishing third among quarterbacks. Those numbers are somewhat similar to Prescott’s rookie campaign. Dak’s 3,667 passing yards would only be 192 more yards than Wilson’s 2014 mark and he would throw for 23 touchdowns. As we all know, Prescott would wind up as the sixth scoring quarterback.
2016 would paint a different picture for Wilson and it is something that Prescott, for the sake of fantasy owners, will need to avoid. In 2016, Wilson would rush for only 23 fewer yards than Prescott’s 282 total but would have just one rushing touchdown. The lower total of rushing scores would have Wilson finish as the 11th ranked quarterback. Wilson would finish well behind Prescott despite throwing for five more touchdowns and 552 more passing yards.
Another player who is less comparable than Wilson but also suffered from a rushing regression is Jameis Winston. The Tampa Bay quarterback would throw for six more touchdowns in 2016 than he did in 2015 but would drop from the 13th to the 16th ranked quarterback. The quick explanation is Winston’s tendency to throw the ball to the wrong team but if you look deeper, his rushing numbers also played a role. In 2016, Winston would fall from six rushing touchdowns in 2015 to just one. Given the fact that Prescott had only two 300-yard passing performances last season, a regression in the ground game will undoubtedly hurt his rank. The table below will show Prescott’s potential drop off if he produces his 2016 numbers with the same drop off in rushing scores as Wilson and Winston.
|Stats/Rank||R.Wilson (14)||R.Wilson (16)||Winston (15)||Winston (16)||D.Prescott (16)||D.Prescott **|
** – Mirrors Prescott’s 2016 stats but a drop off in rushing scores.
Another way in which Prescott could fall down the ranks is the off the field issues for Ezekiel Elliot. The word has been circulating throughout the NFL that a domestic violence case prior to Elliot’s breakout season could end with a suspension. Other incidents that have come after that initial case could accelerate that suspension. It is unknown just how many games Elliot would have to sit out but no matter if it is two or four games, it will hurt Prescott. This will allow teams to turn their attention to game planning around Prescott rather than Elliot.
The Cowboys first two opponents in 2017 are not ideal for the sophomore signal caller. The Giants and Broncos will get the first crack at Prescott. Both of those teams sat at the top of the league last season in fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Broncos would spend 2016 allowing the fewest completions, passing yards, and touchdowns in the NFL. At the very least, week 2 at the Broncos is as good a time as any to sit Prescott.
The Giants also present a problem for Prescott. In the Cowboys second meeting with the Giants last season, Prescott would post his lowest completion percentage of the season. It would also be his only game with multiple interceptions. While the Broncos would tie for allowing the most rushing scores to quarterbacks (4), the Giants allowed just 85 rushing yards and zero rushing scores all season long. Those two tough matchups are more than enough to hurt Prescott’s end of season return for his fantasy owners. It is also worth mentioning that on The 2QB Experience podcast, Evan Silva had mentioned that last season the Dallas Cowboys had the easiest schedule in the NFL. This year they will have one of the 10 most difficult.
— TwoQBs (@TwoQBs) July 19, 2017
The other reason Prescott will drop among the ranks in fantasy is competition within his position and consistency of play. According to fantasy pros, in four points per passing touchdown formats, nine of the top 15 quarterbacks in 2015 would remain in the top 15 last season. Evaluating who might be one of those six to fall from the top 15 then comes down to weekly consistency. In 2016, Prescott would have just two games where he would finish in the top 5 among his position. Only Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers would have lower outputs with just one game each in the top 5. Quarterbacks like Cam Newton that finished outside the top 10 or even the top 15 will find their way back into the top half of scoring.
The 2016 season would represent some different trends among the fantasy elite. Cam Newton and the previously mentioned Russell Wilson serve as prime examples. Both quarterbacks would post career low totals in rushing attempts and yards. In the three years prior to 2016, Newton would average 586 yards rushing and seven touchdowns a season. Last season would be a low point as Newton would wind up with 359 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Panthers coach Ron Rivera has discussed limiting Newton’s ground game. Even if that is the case, 2016 would likely be Newton’s floor so improvement in 2017 is realistic. The rushing woes in 2016 would have Newton plummeting down to the 17th ranked quarterback while Wilson finished 11th.
From one future hall of fame quarterback to another, Ben Roethlisberger could also eat into Prescott’s rank. The Steelers signal caller, while playing in two more games than he did in 2015, would see his YPG average drop by just over 50 yards in 2016. The injury risk is real with Roethlisberger and that has hurt his rankings in the past. That being said, having Bell, Brown, and Bryant all on the field at the same time could be huge. In 2014, all four of these Steelers played 10 games together. Those numbers projected over a 16 game span can be viewed below and are courtesy of Heath Cummings at CBS sports. If Bryant can finally get himself on the field and stay there, those players could propel Roethlisberger’s YPG and overall end of season ranking to new heights.
|Steelers||Pass||Total Yards||TD||INT||Rec||Yards||Rec TD|
Dak Prescott, at least for this season, will fall into the same sort of category that Russell Wilson was in during the early part of his career. It will be heavily debated if Prescott is as good of a fantasy quarterback as he is an NFL quarterback. Prescott will have productive performances but it will not translate as well for fantasy owners in 2017. Between a regression in his run game, schedule, and competition at the quarterback position, Dak Prescott will finish 2017 ranked in the lower half of the league.