An in-depth dive into Dak Prescott’s stats leads to the conclusion that Dallas should pay him

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What the numbers say about paying Dak Prescott, part 2,306.

There are a lot of thoughts, opinions, and some things in between as they relate to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Each side has stats, stories or anecdotes used to support their theories. So let’s go to someone who does this for a living and is among the most well-respected number-crunchers in the business, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell.

He always studies his topics intently and clearly did so for his latest piece centered around Dak Prescott. Barnwell took it upon himself to dissect some particular Dak takes and discover how true or untrue they may be. He hits on topics like “is Dak really replaceable”, “where he ranks against 25 other QBs”, and whether “eight criticisms are fair”.

There is so much information here that you really need to read it for yourself. Here a few highlights. Barnwell uses Jared Goff and Carson Wentz as barometers a lot in the piece since they come from Prescott’s draft class and both just got paid big contracts.

Speaking about Dak Being clutch:

Let’s split it a different way. In the fourth quarter and overtime, when the game has been within eight points, Prescott has been excellent; he has the league’s ninth-best passer rating (104.8) and third-best QBR (79.2) when the game is late and within one score. Neither Goff or Wentz can compare. Goff ranks 26th in passer rating (80.9) and 29th in QBR (42.7) in those same moments, while Wentz is 19th in passer rating (87.0) and 19th in QBR (59.6). Prescott also has the best winning percentage in games decided by eight points or fewer at 19-13, while Goff is at a similar 13-9 and Wentz has gone 13-17.

On Dak’s accuracy and missing open receivers:

Missing open receivers? It happens to everyone, but this isn’t a realistic problem for Prescott. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, he has had the sixth-lowest rate of open receivers across our 25-passer sample since 2016, meaning he has had fewer open targets to hit than Wentz (ninth) or Goff (19th). When he has had those open receivers, Prescott has completed 82.6% of his passes, which is seventh best in the league. He has completed those passes at a higher rate than Wentz (81.8%, 21st) or Goff (80.4%, 26th).

NFL Next Gen Stats also has a measure known as completion percentage over expectation, or CPOE, which accounts for the movement of every player on the field and the success rate of similar passes from the past to estimate every quarterback’s chance of completing each pass they throw. If Prescott was missing open receivers and hitting only easy completions, CPOE would tell us he should be completing more of his passes.

He has completed 65.8% of his passes. CPOE estimates that Prescott “should” have completed 63.1% of his throws. As a result, CPOE suggests his completion percentage is 2.7 points better than expectation, which is the fifth-best mark in the league against those 25 qualifiers. Again, he’s better by this measure than Wentz (plus-0.3%, 10th ) or Goff (minus-2.4%, 23rd).

On Dak against the better defenses:

Prescott looks the worst of the bunch here. Wentz was clearly the best of the three against great defenses, posting the best passer rating (90.0) and adjusted yards per attempt (7.0). Prescott and Goff were virtually identical in terms of passer rating (82.3 for Prescott, 81.4 for Goff) and AY/A (6.3 for Dak, 6.4 for Goff).

Measured versus their numbers against the lesser defenses, Prescott also dropped off more noticeably than the other two. Wentz was virtually the same against all defenses; his passer rating against the great defenses was 94.2% of what it was against the other defenses. Goff was just behind him at 89.1%, while Prescott was well off the pack at 79.7%. By AY/A, the gap was even larger, with him down at 75.5%. Of the various criticisms of him, this seems like the most meaningful and accurate complaint.

That is a just a taste of things you’ll learn in Barnwell’s article. Please click over and read it, since we took a lot of information and placed it here, he should receive the page-views that he deserves, so check it out. You’ll be much smarter about arguing for or against Dak Prescott.

His summation?

In Barnwell’s view, Dak Prescott is in the “six-to-eight range” when ranking the best NFL QBs

Dak Prescott is not the best quarterback in the National Football League, he isn’t in the top three; however, Dak is, according to this stats breakdown, in the top 10 of signal-callers at the game’s present moment and probably sits in the six-to-eight range.

Barnwell’s final takeaway is noteworthy.

We’re done with Goff and Wentz comparisons. My point in bringing those two up isn’t to say that Prescott is better than either of his classmates, although you can make a case given the facts laid out above. In a world in which Goff and Wentz were awarded lucrative extensions without many complaints, Prescott has proved that he deserves a similar deal. While he’s not Mahomes, the preponderance of evidence suggests he’s a top-10 quarterback and somewhere in the six-to-eight range. The idea that the Cowboys can just replace him with a cheaper option and get similar production is not supported by evidence or history.

I think the Cowboys will end up giving in and handing Prescott an extension by July 15, in part because they don’t have to look far to see the alternative.

Circle July 15th on the calendar, if a deal isn’t done by then, things are going to get very complicated for the Cowboys.

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