#1 best-selling author Mark Schofield reveals his list of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft. Schofield, who wrote 17 Drives – a chronicle of the 2015 college football season – has ranked Dak Prescott as his 17th ranked prospect. Click here to look at all of his work on the 2016 QB class.
A multiple-season starter in the SEC, Dak Prescott exploded onto the national stage in 2014 with a very impressive junior campaign. He enjoyed Heisman consideration mid-season after an early victory against LSU, throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns, and added another 105 yards on the ground, including a mesmerizing 56-yard TD scamper. After starting the season 9-0, the Bulldogs faltered down the stretch, losing to both Alabama and Ole Miss, as well as Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Prescott returned to campus for his senior year, and despite some early-season struggles for the team (losses against LSU and Texas A&M quickly ended any national championship hopes) Prescott showed individual improvement at the quarterback position, both in terms of his statistics and the film he put together. He completed 66% of his passes for 3,793 yards and 29 touchdowns, all career highs. In addition, he cut his interception numbers from 11 his junior season to only five as a senior. On film, Prescott seemed to have a deeper understanding of the Bulldogs’ offense, and was able to identify open receivers and route structures that he often missed in 2014.
During the course of his career at Mississippi State Prescott displayed upper-level athleticism for the quarterback position, as well as a very strong arm with the ability to make throws to all levels of the field, and into some smaller throwing windows. He was tasked with making full-field progression reads at times, and is capable of working through multiple reads starting on one side of the field and working to the other. He also showed an ability to quickly reset himself when the pocket or conditions in the secondary changed, and quickly throw to another option. He has the ability to deliver throws with velocity to all levels, and shows good play speed at times when working through progressions.
Another area where Prescott excels is using his eyes, helmet and field of vision to manipulate defenders, whether on passing plays or on designed runs. He is very adept at freezing a safety in the passing game or flashing his eyes to the outside to hold the linebackers before tucking the football and cutting inside on a designed quarterback run. He also shows an ability to maintain aggression as a passer, challenging smaller windows that other quarterbacks might shy away from.
Accuracy is a major area of concern with Prescott, as he struggles with precise ball placement on short and intermediate throws. He can deliver deeper passes with the general accuracy necessary for those plays to succeed, but left a number of yards and plays on the field in the shorter passing game by failing to put the football where it needs to be. Play speed for Prescott is a double-edged sword. He plays fast enough and processes information quickly enough on some plays, but there are times when his reads and decisions are almost made at a frenetic pace. This causes him to give up on route concepts and not be patient enough for them to break open, forcing him off structure and into perilous situations. This was evident against Alabama in 2014 when he missed a number of open receivers and was then put into a position to force throws late in the play that went for interceptions. He also needs to improve his footwork as he moves to the NFL, as he was primarily a shotgun QB with some pistol concepts.
With his arm strength, aggressive nature and ability to challenge windows down the field, Prescott fits best in a Coryell / Arians system. This will allow him to take advantage of his general accuracy on deeper throws, as well as his ability to maintain aggression and challenge the secondary at deeper levels.
This play highlight’s Prescott’s abilities to stay aggressive and put the throw where it needs to be in the vertical passing game. In the first half of their 2014 game against Alabama, the Bulldogs trail 19-0 and face a 2nd and 14 in their own territory. Prescott stands in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field against Alabama’s 4-2-5 nickel defense, which has the nickelback in blitz alignment over the slot receiver to Prescott’s left. At the snap, the QB meets his running back at the mesh point and then opens to his right, where he has dual vertical routes from his tight end and the Z receiver, and a swing route from his running back. The coverage is decent in the secondary, and the checkdown is available. Given the situation it would be understandable for a quarterback to check this throw down, but that’s not what Prescott does:
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Instead, he pump fakes on the swing route and attacks vertically, showing good touch and placement on the seam route to the TE. He fits this throw into a small window between the underneath linebacker and the free safety, and the throw-and-catch gives MSU a fresh set of downs. Notice on the replay angle how the pump fake influences the playside safety toward the outside vertical route, opening up the seam from the TE.
7 – UDFA
One- and Three-Year Projection
Scouts and evaluators are varied on Prescott. Some believe that his skill set translates well to the next level and believe he is perhaps the number four quarterback in the class. Others are simply not sold. After reviewing his tape from the past two seasons, it is clear that Prescott has made a leap as a quarterback from his junior year to his senior year. He has improved in his ability to operate from the pocket and work through reads on both sides of the field. However, the inaccuracy is a big sticking point, and given the difficulties present in trying to scheme around inaccuracy, it is tough for me to see Prescott’s transition to the NFL going well, absent a remarkable change in this area. He is likely a long-term backup in the NFL, with the potential to be a spot-starter given his more impressive skills, such as play strength, arm talent and athletic ability, which can be enough to win games off the bench.