Dak Prescott was off to a phenomenal start to the 2020 season before he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle in Week 5 against the Giants. Prescott was on pace for well over 6,000 passing yards through the first four games of last season, which would be by far his career-high. Dallas has heavily invested in their offense, from the offensive line to a top-notch pass-catching corps to making Ezekiel Elliott one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL. This offense should see elite production in a bounce-back campaign, and Prescott should return to his former status as a clear-cut top-five fantasy quarterback.
On the money 🤑 pic.twitter.com/lAew8GbPOp
— Arrogant Dak Prescott (@ArrogantDak) June 9, 2021
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Let’s dive into Dak Prescott’s absurd pace through the first four games of 2020: 548 completions on 804 attempts for 6,760 passing yards and 36 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. For reference, only 12 quarterbacks all-time have thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season, and the single-season passing yardage record is 5,477, set by Peyton Manning in 2013. We’ll never know if Prescott would have actually broken the passing yardage record by over 1,200 yards last season. Still, one thing is for sure – a putrid Cowboys’ defense that allowed the fifth-most points per game in the NFL created a pass-happy game script early and often in 2020.
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Even across 17 games in 2021, I’m not projecting Prescott to come close to 6,700 passing yards. Still, I have him down for career-high numbers in passing yards and passing touchdowns. The Cowboys’ offense has continued to accumulate some elite talent. At the same time, the defense is unlikely to be significantly better this season, despite an offseason focused on that side of the ball. Prescott has also run for 5.16 yards per attempt and 308.3 yards per 16 games over the course of his career. That added rushing production, along with what I’m expecting to be among the better TD:INT ratios in the league, has Prescott sitting as the QB4 in my projections. Prescott isn’t concerned about the ankle injury anymore, so neither am I, and I have him making a full recovery and bounce-back this year.
Dak Prescott said he has buried his ankle injury, both mentally and physically. Says he doesn’t even think about it any more.
When did he officially bury it? “I had a good Cinco De Mayo. I was a little active, did a few little dance moves and felt like I’m ready to go.”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) June 9, 2021
ADP & Auction Value
ADP: 56, Round 5, QB5
Auction Value: $13
Despite what we saw out of Dak Prescott early in the 2020 NFL season, his ADP hasn’t changed much relative to last year – he was the seventh QB off the board in most fantasy leagues last season. Prescott was the top scorer at the quarterback position in fantasy points per game. He found himself in a pretty perfect position for fantasy football production before his injury. Assuming Prescott can stay healthy this year, he certainly has the upside to be a top-three quarterback in fantasy, so you can fairly easily make the case that he is a value here. Still, quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, and Tom Brady are drafted multiple rounds after Prescott. Prescott’s $13 value is tied with Aaron Rodgers for 6th at quarterback, and he is currently going for more money than Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, and Joe Burrow. You can make the case that Prescott is a value depending on how you view Dallas’s defense, but he’s not the best value at the quarterback position.
Dating back to his rookie season in 2016, Dak Prescott has finished as a top-six fantasy quarterback in points per game in three of five seasons and has never finished lower than 11th in overall scoring (excluding last year). It’s inconceivable with Prescott’s level of passing capability and the talent in this Dallas offense that he could finish outside the top ten of the position this season. While the Cowboys have an elite offensive line and a talented runner in Elliott, they have shown they want the offense to be fueled by Prescott’s arm, and I would expect him to be near the league lead in passing attempts. Barring another significant injury, Prescott is locked and loaded as a top-10 fantasy QB at the bare minimum.
We saw it last season. As the Cowboys’ defense couldn’t cover a stationary wall with paint, their offense was put in bad situations time and time again. That led to Prescott having an absurd number of passing attempts through the first four games. He was on pace for 804 passing attempts over that span – the most of all time was Matthew Stafford’s 727 attempts in 2012. Part of what led to such a crazy number of passing attempts was a wild number of turnovers during those first four games of 2020, and that will regress to the mean almost certainly. However, Dallas didn’t do much to improve their defense outside of taking Micah Parsons in the first round along with some other developmental defensive players, and their cornerbacks are still among the worst in the NFL. Dallas should have similar defensive issues this season, and with the talent at Prescott’s disposal, he could finish as the QB1 with some luck this year.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
We didn’t get to see this offense produce a full season of elite play last year, especially as their offensive line was decimated by injury. Tyron Smith played in just 2 games, and La’El Collins didn’t touch the field. Zack Martin did play in 10 games, but the former four-time All-Pro guard was clearly hampered by injuries all year. Those three should be good to go for Week 1 this year, and the offensive line should return to being one of the best in the NFL. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup make up arguably the best trio of receivers in the NFL, but we didn’t see that come to fruition last year after Prescott’s injury. Lamb should be even better in Year 2, and Cooper is still among the league’s best at his position. Ezekiel Elliott is also coming off the worst season of his career as he ran for under 1,000 yards and just 6 touchdowns in 15 games, establishing a 4.0 YPC clip, the worst of his career. It’s rare to see an opportunity for a bounce-back season for an entire offense of players, but that’s exactly what we’re looking at for Dallas.
This was play of day from Cowboys practice. WR CeeDee Lamb aggressively high-pointed deep ball from QB Dak Prescott while showing nimble body control to stay inbounds. Lamb beyond his years as rookie. Now a year better. Video via @dallascowboys. pic.twitter.com/s5qHgsYqKR
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) June 3, 2021
Strength of Schedule
One thing not quite working in Dak Prescott’s favor this season is a tricky schedule as FantasyPros rates it as the seventh-most difficult schedule for fantasy QBs this year. Fellow division-mates in Washington (3rd-fewest) and the Giants (5th-fewest) were among the stingiest defenses against quarterbacks, and Prescott will have to face each twice. The Cowboys do have the luxury of facing the AFC West, a division full of beatable defenses as the Chargers (8th-most), Raiders (9th-most), Broncos (10th-most), and Chiefs (15th-most) were all in the top half of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last year. Dallas also faces the Falcons, who surrendered the most fantasy points to QBs last year. The NFC South has some challenging defenses to play other than Atlanta, but this schedule isn’t overwhelmingly bad. I don’t love that Dallas has to play Washington and the Giants in three of the final five weeks of the season, but it’s not enough to push me away from drafting Dak Prescott or any of their skill position players in fantasy.
Dak Prescott has proven himself as a dynamic fantasy football weapon with his high-level production through the air and on the ground, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see him play a full season last year. Prescott was the top scorer in fantasy football before his injury, and he may have finished as the QB1 had he stayed healthy. Nonetheless, his efficiency should improve this year from a healthy offensive line and a second year in Mike McCarthy’s offense. With an elite trio of receivers at his disposal in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup and a phenomenal offensive line, Prescott is well-supported in the offense. He’s also going to be asked to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden as the defense is likely to create many pass-heavy game scripts with their tendency to surrender points. All that adds up to a top-five fantasy season for Prescott, and finishing as the QB1 is within the range of outcomes for him this year.
— PFF (@PFF) June 2, 2021
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