It wasn’t that long ago that Dak Prescott was one of the best values in fantasy football drafts. Back in 2016, in a dynasty rookie draft, I had the fortune of selecting him in the fifth round of one of my home league’s 14-team rookie draft. He wasn’t chosen in the top 60 picks. Of course, that’s what happens when you’re a fourth-round draft pick and projected to be a backup quarterback in the NFL. However, having just witnessed Cowboys starter Tony Romo struggle through the 2015 season with injuries, taking a flier on Prescott at that point was pretty straightforward.
Fast forward to 2020, and he’s no longer that kind of value; however, there’s still something to like about Dak Prescott’s game from a fantasy football perspective.
In that rookie season of 2016, Dak Prescott finished as the sixth-best quarterback in fantasy football behind only Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Kirk Cousins. His combination of throwing and running made him a fantasy must start early into his career and has carried many a team to the fantasy playoffs and championships.
Prescott’s worst finish in his four-year career was as the QB11 in 2017, which was arguably his worst season in the NFL. That season was marred by injuries to Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith that certainly had an impact on his production but still had him as one of the 11 best fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL.
In 2018, he fared slightly better with a QB10 finish. Prescott was up and down through the first seven weeks of the season as the Dallas Cowboys attempted and failed to utilize a wide receiver by committee approach. Through the first seven games of the season, Prescott averaged just 16 fantasy points per game. After the Dallas Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper through week 16 (the week most fantasy championships are played), Dak Prescott averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game. The difference being, in the first seven games, Prescott eclipsed 14 fantasy points just four times. In the final eight games (week 17 excluded), Prescott surpassed 14 fantasy points in seven of eight games.
Now, 14 fantasy points isn’t a huge number, but it’s a solid floor for your quarterback in standard passing leagues (25 yards per point, 4 points per passing touchdown).
In 2019, Dak Prescott exploded and finished as the QB2 per Pro Football Focus, only behind Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Lamar Jackson. With Kellen Moore at the helm in a “4-verts” offense, Dak Prescott shot past his career highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns. With more than 4,900 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, Prescott set a new standard for himself. Now, the combination of Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore will look to double-down on the Cowboys pass friendly offense.
Much of the 2019 offense is the same. The only turnover is at center, tight end, and slot wide receiver. One could argue that the Cowboys will upgrade at both tight end and slot wide receiver, at least as far as passing numbers go.
Jason Witten will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, but in 2019, he was a shell of himself. He averaged just 2.6 yards per reception after the catch. His replacement in 2020, Blake Jarwin averaged 5.1 yards per reception after the catch. Jarwin also averaged nearly a full air yard more than Jason Witten as well and had only ten fewer first down receptions despite Jason Witten having more than double the number of targets as Blake Jarwin.
As good as Jason Witten has been throughout his career, Blake Jarwin, at this point, is an upgrade in the passing game.
Also into the fray is 2020 first-round pick CeeDee Lamb, who will replace 2019 standout Randall Cobb, who left for the Houston Texans in free agency.
Lamb comes to the NFL with a huge learning curve but can make a day-one impact for the Dallas Cowboys. He shows incredible hands, route running, and yards after the catch ability. Lamb can win at every level of the defense and will be a threat in the red zone for Dak Prescott.
Lamb averaged more than 17 yards per reception over his three years at the University of Oklahoma and an astounding 21 yards per reception in 2019. If you go back and watch Lamb work, you’ll see that he made a lot of that happen after the catch. His ability to make people miss and break tackles is pretty remarkable, given his size. The Dallas Cowboys will be able to use him all over the field, and his presence will help open things up for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Blake Jarwin, and Ezekiel Elliott (including in the running game).
If there’s an area of Prescott’s game to keep an eye on, it’s his rushing effectiveness. In 2019, he ran for fewer yards and touchdowns than he has in any other season of his career.
Per FantasyPros.com, Dak Prescott is the third quarterback off the board in their Consensus Fantasy Rankings and the 56th overall player. The only two quarterbacks being ranked ahead of Prescott are Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. That’s the company that Dak Prescott keeps, and he should considering he finished top five in QBR in 2019 and offered a similar rushing element.
I’m generally not inclined to draft a quarterback early in fantasy football drafts, simply because I’d rather spend that early draft capital elsewhere. However, Dak Prescott is as safe a draft selection as you can make. He’s never ranked outside the top 11 at QB and those were in what many consider to be up and down seasons.
Prescott has 33 combined touchdowns in 2019 and has the opportunity to meet or surpass that total in 2020 with more aggressive game-planning in the early part of games.
Too many times under Jason Garrett did the Cowboys struggle to find any rhythm. I believe some of that was due to the disconnect between the conservative Jason Garrett and the air it out Kellen Moore. Garrett’s philosophy was ball control, which worked for a time, but became too predictable in recent years.
Kellen Moore wants to establish a vertical passing game, and Prescott showed in 2019, hrs more than capable of getting the ball downfield for big plays.
Now under a more aggressive head coach on Mike McCarthy, Moore will allow Dak Prescott to air it out from the first snap of the game.
Dak Prescott will be a must-start nearly every week in the 2020 NFL Season. Don’t let the contract situation scare you away from a sure-fire top-five fantasy football quarterback.
As for Andy Dalton, if you’re in a deep league with 30 or more roster spots, he’s certainly worth a hold in the event of a Dak Prescott injury. Especially in two-quarterback or superflex leagues. The only way he’ll see the field is if Prescott is injured and if he does see the field, Andy Dalton is a top 15 fantasy quarterback.
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the better quarterback situations in the league. Even if Dak Prescott isn’t able to play all 16 games, Andy Dalton’s presence won’t mean a huge drop off for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, or Blake Jarwin. The passing game will still be proficient, even if not as explosive as with Prescott in the game.