Dallas Cowboys (13-3; 1st in NFC East)
Dak Prescott – No matter what way you slice it, Prescott had one of the best rookie seasons for a QB ever, and he was the eighth QB taken in the 2016 draft. Thrown into the starting lineup by a Tony Romo back injury during the preseason, Prescott never relinquished the starting gig, even when Romo was healthy. In 16 games, Prescott went 311/459 passing (67.8%) for 3667 yards with 23 TDs and just 4 INTs. He added 57/282/6 rushing (4.9 YPC) to finish with 21.2 FPG, which tied him for 14th among QBs. But removing his Week 17 game, in which he barely played in a meaningless game, Prescott averaged 22.5 FPG, which tied him for 7th at the position. At 0.77 FP/PA, he was second to only Matt Ryan among QBs. Prescott finished as a top-12 QB in 10 separate weeks, which made him the draft-day value at the position, as he often wasn’t even drafted. And his revelation will mean that the Romo era in Dallas is officially over – unless Romo is comfortable being a backup, he will be playing somewhere else in 2017. What was amazing is how the Cowboys replicated their 2014 success, but with Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott instead of Romo and DeMarco Murray. There’s no doubt that Prescott was insulated by the NFL’s best line and best run game, but he also answered the bell and nearly led the Cowboys to a win in the playoffs despite Aaron Rodgers building a three-score lead on Dallas. That showed a ton about Prescott’s resolve, especially since he bounced back from a terrible interception in that game to tie the game multiple times late. All in all, though, Dallas still didn’t want Prescott throwing the ball a ton – only once all year did he attempt 40-plus passes, and that came in Week 1’s loss to the Giants. He threw for 300 or more yards twice, so he was far more efficient than a high-volume passer. Prescott was at his worst – and that was rarely – when under pressure and forced into third-and-longs. But that’s not uncommon for a rookie QB, or really any NFL QB. For the most part, the Cowboys were able to stick to their game, which involved running it early and often, and allowing Prescott to take shots and pick up manageable third downs in clean pockets. In that regard, he was nearly flawless. The only real question is whether everything will line up perfectly for the Cowboys in 2017 as it did in 2016. It may be foolish to expect that, but from what little of what we saw of Prescott facing adversity, he will handle it well. He will be drafted as a top-12 QB in 2017.
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