There is a vocal portion of Cowboys Nation who believe that Dallas shouldn’t give Dak Prescott a long-term extension. They’d rather the team let Prescott leave in free agency and find a new starting quarterback in the draft. But that is no simple proposition; finding a winning QB in the NFL Draft is much harder than many realize.
Yesterday, I briefly touched on this notion in another article about Dak’s value to the Cowboys. I said that Dallas runs a huge risk if they try to find someone better than Prescott, potentially entering another ugly period of QB play like we saw between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo’s tenures.
That risk is clearly qualified by an examination of NFL Draft history.
If you think finding a new QB is as simple as spending a 1st-round pick, then check out the last five years of passers taken in that round.
- Baker Mayfield (1st)
- Sam Darnold (2nd)
- Josh Allen (7th)
- Josh Rosen (10th)
- Lamar Jackson (32nd)
- Mitch Trubisky (2nd)
- Patrick Mahomes (10th)
- Deshaun Watson (12th)
- Jared Goff (1st)
- Carson Wentz (2nd)
- Paxton Lynch (26th)
- Jameis Winston (1st)
- Marcus Mariota (2nd)
- Blake Bortles (3rd)
- Johnny Manziel (22nd)
- Teddy Bridgewater (32nd)
Out of 16 total first-round quarterbacks, how many of them are proven winners? How many of them are already considered busts? How many are somewhere in between?
That 2014 group has two recurrent punchlines, Bortles and Manziel. Johnny is completely out of the league and Blake has entered the “veteran backup” stage of his career. Bridgewater is the only guy with a possible future, seemingly the heir apparent to Drew Brees right now in New Orleans.
The next year’s duo of Winston and Mariota are both barely holding on to their jobs. Neither has had sustained success and are trending downward.
The top two in 2016 are doing well, but what about Paxton Lynch? That was the guy Dallas apparently coveted in the draft but missed on, eventually settling for Dak Prescott in the fourth round.
Lynch lasted just two years in Denver and was released at final cuts in 2018. He was signed this past January by Seattle as a reclamation project.
Let’s just stop here for a bit and reflect, because Paxton Lynch serves as a perfect illustration of the danger of trying to replace Dak Prescott in the draft.
Given Dak’s winning record in the NFL, Dallas would be drafting in the 20s the year after he’s gone. So we’re not talking about hopefully landing a Mayfield, Goff, Wentz, or some other top prospect. The likely scenario would be taking a player more like Lynch, Bridgewater, or Lamar Jackson and hoping they wind up as good as their elite classmates.
Lynch didn’t seem like a bad pick three years ago. The Cowboys certainly didn’t think so, and neither did a legendary QB in John Elway. But so far he’s been one of the worst 1st-round quarterbacks in recent NFL memory.
But even if the player they draft doesn’t bust as hard as Paxton, what’s the upside? What are the chances that a QB drafted somewhere in the back of the first round will emerge as an elite player?
What are the odds he’d be any better than Dak Prescott?
Odds, risk, gamble; these are the keywords in this discussion. Trying to draft an upgrade at QB over a player with Prescott’s proven ability and success isn’t a strategy, but more like taking your winnings and betting it all on the next dice roll.
Now if your idea is that Dallas lets Dak leave and then tanks the following year, getting a high pick in the 2021 or 2022 drafts, then what are you really rooting for there? A lost season, and potentially a lost window as your offensive line and other players get that much older?
Nobody is saying that Dak Prescott is the best QB in the NFL. But he’s the best QB for the Dallas Cowboys right now and for the next several years.
Dallas can’t afford to hit the reset button anytime soon. They have invested in an infrastructure with the offensive line and now a top-dollar contract for DeMarcus Lawrence, with another likely on the way for Amari Cooper. They have to keep giving themselves the best chance to win in the present.
Prescott is that best chance for now. He’s brought them to the playoffs twice and was an Ezekiel Elliott suspension away from a third postseason appearance.
It’s still a gamble; Dak has his liabilities to work through. But we lived through Tony Romo’s more reckless years, even when faith wavered in his ability to lead the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl.
Sure, you can wish that Dak Prescott was Pat Mahomes. But 31 other teams right now wish they had that guy, too. Just like most of the NFL has wished they had Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in recent years.
Chasing that dream through the draft, the NFL’s annual trip to the casino, can easily leave you broke.
Dallas already hit big when they found Dak Prescott in the late fourth round. They could lose everything if they get greedy.