On Monday, NFL Network released the penultimate episode to their Top 100 Players of 2017 list. Players 20-11 were named on the list and there were a few surprising names on the list. Aaron Donald was only 15th, despite possibly being the best defensive player in the league in 2016. Drew Brees climbed all the way to 16, after coming in at 30 last year.
But nothing was more surprising than Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott landing at No. 14. Without a doubt, Prescott had an outstanding rookie year, but was it good enough to declare him the 14th best player in the NFL right now? Of course not. These lists are silly offseason fodder, but it’s still interesting nonetheless to see how NFL players rank their peers.
When Detroit Lions fans caught wind of Dak’s ranking, they had some emotional reactions:
How much crack do you have to smoke to think that Dak Prescott is better than Matt Stafford?— Facebook Refugee™ (@dadlook) June 20, 2017
I don't want to live in a world were Dak is ranked higher than Wheels Stafford in anything— Ryan Collins (@Shafty_Von_Hack) June 20, 2017
Ridiculously high, but this is all about the team around him. Very possible that last year will end up being the best year of his career imo— FRYMANATION (@FRYMANATION) June 20, 2017
Can't wait for Kellen Moore at 13.— John Whitaker (@Wrath_of_John) June 20, 2017
Of course, Lions fans are going to take umbrage with Prescott fresh off of one impressive season, is ranked higher than Matthew Stafford (No. 31)—who has put together a solid nine-year career.
But is there an actual argument to be made for Prescott over Stafford?
If we’re going based entirely on the 2016 season, there absolutely is. Prescott, statistically speaking, was one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Just look at how he matches up with Matthew Stafford:
Dak Prescott: 104.9 passer rating, 82.6 QBR, 23:4 TD/INT ratio, 1,301 DYAR, 31.5% DVOA
Matthew Stafford: 93.3 passer rating, 71.6 QBR, 24:10 TD/INT ratio, 764 DYAR, 7.2% DVOA
Make just about any statistical comparison between the two, and Prescott easily comes out on top.
But context matters, and no one had a better supporting cast than Prescott. Not only did he have the luxury of one of the best rushing attack in the league, but his offensive line gave Prescott the kind of protection that is rare for a rookie quarterback. Through 13 games last year, the Cowboys offensive line ranked eighth in pressure rate per ESPN Stats & Information charting. (Insider required).
As for Stafford, his offensive line ranked 17th in pressure rate, and he had one of the worst running games in the league.
But let’s not diminish what Prescott did last year. A 23:4 touchdown to interception ratio is phenomenal for any quarterback in any context, as is a 67.8 completion percentage or a 104.9 passer rating. And Dak managed to do it all as a fourth-round rookie.
Is he a more complete quarterback able to carry the team on his back like Stafford? Probably not. Stafford threw the ball, on average, nine more times per game than Prescott in 2016—Prescott has never had to shoulder that kind of burden in the NFL.
But he may never have to. If you think this Prescott thing is just an NFL fad—like the Mark Sanchez over Matthew Stafford crowd—you are wildly mistaken. First, Sanchez never had the year that Prescott did (go ahead, look at his stats), but more importantly, Prescott’s supporting cast is going nowhere. Ezekiel Elliott will be around for years to come in Dallas. As for their offensive line? All five projected starters are 26 years old or younger.
Prescott may not be better than Stafford at this point in his career, but with his supporting cast, he may look the part for the next several years.