On-pace stats can be a slippery evaluation slope, since that means an injury, a suspension etc. took someone off the field. But through the first five games of the 2020 season, here’s the 16-game pace Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was on.
Passing Yards: 5,939 yards
Passing Touchdowns: 29 (28.8 technically)
Total Touchdowns: 38
Fantasy Points (-2 per INT): 443.68
Of course Prescott suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 5 against the New York Giants. In Weeks 1-4 he finished as QB19, QB1, QB4 and QB1. Before going down in Week 5, he was on his way to another great week.
Prescott being a top-tier fantasy quarterback is nothing new. From 2016-2019 he finished as QB6, QB11, QB10 and QB2. Even if he had fallen off from his early pace in 2020, a top-5 finish among quarterbacks was a lock. Dallas’ abysmal defense would’ve assured he finished toward the top of the league in pass attempts, to go along with what he adds with his legs. Since 2016, as cited by Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus, only two other quarterbacks (Cam Newton and Josh Allen) have at least 20 rushing touchdowns.
Under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the Cowboys’ defense shouldn’t be as awful as it was in 2020. But it’s not as if his defenses when he was the head coach in Atlanta were great.
The Cowboys were thinned along the offensive line last year by injuries and retirements. Narrowing to when Prescott was healthy, left tackle Tyron Smith played two games and La’el Collins landed on IR before the season started. Right guard Zach Martin missed the last few games of the season with a calf injury.
In Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys have three wide receivers who finished top-36 in fantasy last year (standard scoring)-without Prescott for 11 games. Cooper has been the No. 1 wide receiver Prescott needed, with the sixth-most receiving yards in the NFL since being acquired in 2018. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz are a capable tight end duo.
Don’t forget about running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had an awful 2020 season. He was particularly bad as a pass catcher (eight drops, 0.87 yards per route run, according to PFF). Tony Pollard is a good backup back who should see more snaps.
The after-effects of his ankle injury may limit Prescott as a runner early in the season. But on the flip side, his nose for the end zone will remain. The Cowboys’ defense could be a lot better, and still be a bottom-half of the league unit. A healthy offensive line and an enviable group of skill position talent keeps the fantasy ceiling high for Prescott.
Dak Prescott 2021 Fantasy Outlook
Assuming Prescott remains on track to play Week 1, there aren’t many quarterbacks who’ll go before him in fantasy drafts. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are the obvious ones, with nods to Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson. In the cases of Murray and Jackson, I’m leaning toward Prescott being better.
Again assuming he’s ready to go for Week 1, the fantasy floor for Prescott is a top-10 quarterback this year. The ceiling is a finish as the QB1. And it’s a legit ceiling.