NFL Film Breakdown: Is Dak Prescott Worth the Money?

While the Cowboys may have underachieved this past season, Dak Prescott threw for highs in yards (4,902), yards per attempt (8.2), and touchdowns (30) in his contract year. He didn’t get the long-term contract that he wanted, but he did get a one year, $33 million franchise tag while the Cowboys try to figure out a deal for the quarterback. His legs make him dynamic and he thrives in clean pockets with the ability to make all the throws you could ask for. He can throw deep outs from the opposite hash, has a solid deep ball, and when he throws in rhythm he can dice up defenses. While he has all the physical tools, at times he can lock onto receivers, take extra hitches that make him late on throws, and can struggle with over-striding in his throwing mechanics which causes some inaccuracy. Is he worth a big contract from Dallas? Let’s check out the film and find out.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Dak’s legs definitely add an element to his game that not every quarterback has. He’s a surprisingly powerful runner and can absolutely make defenses pay – especially in man coverage when they turn their backs to him.

Although rare, the Cowboys even call zone reads and trust him to get chunks of yardage off of it. Here he’s reading the defensive end. If he comess straight down the line of scrimmage, Dak will pull it and run around him to the outside. If #90 goes vertical and sits on the edge, Dak will hand the ball off to the running back. The left tackle does a great job of taking his zone steps and getting a piece of the linebacker #55 and Dak is able to take advantage of the space and get an explosive play on the ground.

Combine his ability to run with his arm talent and you’ve got a pretty dynamic quarterback. Whether he’s getting tackled or driving the ball in a clean pocket, he’s capable of making some really impressive plays. He can create both in the passing game and in the run game by using his legs.

Below he shows anticipation and arm strength by throwing the deep out route to the sideline from the opposite hash.

He also does a generally good job of diagnosing coverages and changing the velocity of his balls to fit them into windows. Below he reads Cover 2 and fits the ball into the honey hole down the sideline between the corner in the flats and the Cover 2 safety over the top.

He also does a great job when throwing on rhythm with only one or two hitches. He becomes more accurate, is able to read defenses quickly, and find open areas in zone.

Dak has shown the ability to be a top tier quarterback. The issue is he can struggle with consistency. While in the previous gif of hitting the honey hole, he saw the rotating safety and threw an appropriate ball, in this next gif he does the opposite. He misses the safety rotation into Cover 2 from the Rams (top of the screen) and throws a ball that has too much air under it and really should be intercepted along the sideline.

He also has a huge issue with over-striding on his throws. Over-striding creates a base that is too wide and happens when his lead foot extends out too far when he begins his throwing motion. This really limits his ability to rotate his hips, generate power, and throw accurately. You can try it at home yourself and over extend your non-dominant leg and try to get your hips to point forwards over your toes. You can’t. Now if you tighten your base to just outside shoulder distance, you can get full rotation of your hips and get them pointed forwards. You can see below just how wide his base is on his throw, causing him to be unable to rotate his hips fully and leave his back foot as he throws which causes the ball to die on him and go into ground in front of the receiver.

You can see from behind now what it looks like for him to be unable to get his hips fully into the throw. He can’t bring his back leg all the way through on the follow through and is off balance and falling back onto his right foot after completing his throwing motion. All this causes the ball to be low and behind the receiver.

He can also have a tendency to stick on his first read a lot. I’m all for taking the shot below when you see man coverage on one of your best receivers in Amari Cooper, but the corner plays it well off the line and is in his hip pocket. Then Dak throws the ball out of bounds anyways. If he instead came off that read after Cooper didn’t win the route immediately to find Randall Cobb #18 sitting right over the ball it’s obviously a much more productive play.

You can see it again below. The Eagles ran a ton of man coverage against the Cowboys in this game and Dallas had the perfect play dialed up for it out of a tight bunch formation. It works exactly as it was drawn up. Randall Cobb from the slot has his defender rubbed and he’s open for a huge play down the sideline on a wheel route. That should be the primary read on the play. You’re trying to create that natural rub and force defenders to navigate traffic and stay with their man. Instead, Dak stays on Amari Cooper the whole play on the intermediate crosser and misses both Cobb and Jason Witten wide open to the top of the screen and in the middle of the field.

Dak has all the tools and has shown he can perform at a high level. He can put different velocity on the ball with touch and power, can make reads, has incredible athleticism and power for a QB and can really excel in a clean pocket. While issues pop up with his mechanics and missed reads, it’d be hard to find a free agent quarterback that would be better or even come close to offering the Cowboys what Dak can. With a new offensive system and a coach that helped shape Aaron Rodgers in Mike McCarthy, Dak may end up taking that next step and go from very good quarterback to one of the top tier quarterbacks in the league. Only time will tell but Dak is certainly not the issue in Dallas and has the tools to put the team on his back and push them into contention year after year.

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2020 Dallas Cowboys Draft Review: Best Class Since 2016

The Dallas Cowboys, the league’s most polarizing team by a mile. Every move they make is overanalyzed and critiqued. So, when you hear the national media rave about something the Cowboys do, you know it was exceptionally good. And by golly, this draft class has to be the possibility of being one of the best in franchise history, full or cornerstone players. Here are my opinions of each pick and how they factor into America’s team.

1.17- CeeDee Lamb, WR Oklahoma

The best pick of the entire draft, regardless of any team, was Lamb. Lamb is easily the third-best receiver, maybe even second, right off the bat. The Cowboys were figured to target a receiver at some point as their current options for a third/slot receiver was Noah Brown, Devin Smith, and Cedrick Wilson, who combined for fifteen catches last season. Not ideal. While Lamb has a long and lanky frame and average speed, his footwork, body control, and hands make him an elite prospect. His college numbers were inflated due to being in a pass-first offense and in a conference with weak defenses that played mostly soft zone (I mean seriously if anyone played defense in the Big 12 they would be a contender), but anyone who’s watched football can tell that Lamb is bound for success at the next level. A reason why he dropped possibly is that he didn’t face much press coverage in college and when he did, he struggled. However because he’s on a team with two established starters, he will wreak havoc in the slot, where he won’t have to deal with much press coverage. New wide receivers coach, Adam Henry, helped develop Odell Beckam, Jr. and Jarvis Landry, so he knows what it takes to teach young receivers the nuances of the craft. Add that in with Mike McCarthy’s play-calling, which tends to favor a pass-first approach, Lamb will be one of the better slot receivers this season. When you have a quarterback like Dak Prescott, who’s due for a big contract, you need to find ways to make his life as easy as possible. And because Dak will soon be the highest-paid quarterback in the league, it will make it tough to pay both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Both are at a contractual crossroads after the 2021 season, with Gallup being a free agent and Cooper being able to get cut with minimal cap damage. The emergence of Lamb would make it easy for the Cowboys to let one of the two go and still maintain an elite receiving group. 

2.51- Trevon Diggs, CB Alabama

From a physical standpoint, Diggs was the third or fourth-best cornerback in this class, and getting him at 51 was tremendous value. While he’s skilled athletically, the reason why he dropped a bit was because he’s quite raw. There will be times where like many young defenders, he doesn’t turn his head around and locate the ball. He started his career as a receiver but moved to corner and oftentimes he shows his inexperience, which is ok. The most encouraging sign is that he’s performed well in the best collegiate conference despite not being anywhere near his ceiling. More likely than not, he’s going to see significant snaps early and will be forced to learn on the job. Thankfully, the Cowboys defensive line is one of the best in the league and if you ask any defensive coordinator, a good pass rush is a defensive backs best friend. Diggs will be able to get away with his pure athleticism by using a lot of press coverage to cover receivers for three to four seconds, which will be just enough time for the defensive line to apply pressure on the quarterback. The Diggs you see in the preseason, where he should be getting as many snaps as possible, will be completely different than the one you see in week 17. While Diggs didn’t participate at the combine, he favors comparably to former starter Bryon Jones. They share the same height, wingspan, and similar weight while they were both relatively new to playing cornerback. While Jones might be a bit more athletic, Diggs is ahead of the curve on playing time and playing competition which I feel like makes Jones a decent comparison for Diggs. 

3.82- Neville Gallimore, DL Oklahoma

Most teams don’t value the nose tackle position as they did ten years ago as the league is now pass-oriented, thus making the need for a run-stuffing, space-eater in the middle of the defensive line not a necessity. That being said, if you can get a nose tackle type player who can also provide value as a three-technique and play all three downs then you got yourself a player. Gallimore was a wrecking-ball at Oklahoma, disrupting and blowing up plays. Being a nose tackle and fighting off typically two blockers, Gallimore showed no fear and is tougher than a two-dollar steak. He most likely won’t be tasked with too many responsibilities early as veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe are ahead of them on the depth chart. However, both have an out in the contracts after the season and neither are a long-term answer. You spend this season trying to coach up Gallimore as a pass rusher and make him a rotational player, getting roughly twenty snaps a game, especially in short-yardage situations. I see him as an immediate upgrade over Tysten Hill, a Rob Marinelli pick and possibly cut candidate and a starter in year two. He may never be a pro bowler, but he has the potential to be an elite nose tackle, which would be great value for a third-round pick.

4.123- Reggie Robinson, CB Tulsa

The Cowboys biggest weakness was secondary and after picking Diggs in the second, they doubled down and grabbed a player similar to Diggs in style in Robinson. Robinson is also a developmental corner who right now is more athlete than football player. At the combine, he ran a 4.40 at 6-1, 205 pounds, which is great for a player of that size.  At times he can get grabby, which resulted in penalties, and displayed poor footwork in press coverage which immediately puts the corner a step behind the receiver. What Robinson does possess is an alpha male attitude and the desired size for the position. Most great corners have that chip on their shoulder and will talk smack to opposing receivers, which is exactly what Robinson does. He’s not as far along as Diggs which doesn’t make him an immediate Day 1 starter, but both Jourdain Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie have not proven themselves to be legitimate starters. Both of those players could progress into that, but can’t bank on it. Robinson is a developmental piece that I would bet at some point sees meaningful snaps at boundry corner but will make a mark on special teams as a gunner on punt coverage. 

4.146- Tyler Biadasz, C Wisconsin

Now here’s a guy (Chris Collinsworth voice) that I felt like should have been a second-round player, but had some injury concerns that saw his stock tank like it was stuck in quicksand. Biadasz is one nasty mofo on the offensive line and is exactly the kind of guy you want to run behind. He’s not the best athlete and not the strongest guy, but his football IQ is off the charts and he won’t stop blocking his guy until they are on the ground. Every Saturday he brought his hard hat and lunch pale to the stadium and used that blue-collar mindset to make life miserable for whoever lined up in front of him. The big elephant in the room as previously mentioned is the injuries. He has had surgery on his hip and shoulder and both were considered to be relatively serious injuries. But, I’m no doctor so I can’t project how he’s going to be health-wise in five years. I can see that injuries affected his play this year but still played at a pretty high level. No one was better at center in college at calling line audibles and even if physically he wasn’t 100%, mentally he quickly diagnoses what’s going on, which is beneficial to the quarterback. If he were to redshirt this season, Joe Looney is capable of being a short-term starter at center who won’t kill you but won’t be one of the best at the position. At worst, you’re looking at Biadasz starting in year two and Dak handing the ball off to Zeke up the middle with some green grass in front of him. 

5.179- Bradlee Anae, EDGE Utah

Rarely do you see an edge prospect who’s a mature pass rusher and versatile player drop to the fifth round, but Jerry had the luck every gambler at a casino wishes for during draft weekend. Anae inexplicably dropped to the fifth round, when he has a third-round value based on skill. Yes, he did run a 4.9 40 at the combine but responded with a 4.7 40 at his pro day. Also, when you watch the tape, you’ll see that Anae wins based on technique and his motor and never relies on speed. He could probably play standing up in a 3-4 but fits what the Cowboys run which is a 4-3 where he can focus on setting the edge and providing pressure. He’s a very advanced prospect in terms of pass rush moves, specifically being able to disengage tackles by using his hands with a quick chop, rip, or swim move. He’ll be a consistent 6-8 sacks per year guy when given the appropriate playing time and while he could gain some more muscle, he’s ready to play now. The Cowboys are a strong but interesting edge group. You have the star in Demarcus Lawrence and then a few question marks. Tyrone Crawford is coming off of hip surgery and missed most of the last season. Then you have Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory, guys who are currently suspended by the league, but are hopeful and should be eligible for the season. Can you count on these guys though? Absolutely not. I doubt even the front office is relying on these two for the long-term, making the Anae selection even that much more valuable. 

7.231- Ben DiNucci, QB James Madison

Essentially a seventh-round pick is a player you can’t risk becoming an undrafted free agent where he has 32 options and have to get him on your team. That’s why many times fans will never have heard of their team’s seventh round selection because they have a trait or multiple traits that a team values so much that they are confident that another team will value them equally or even could outbid you if they were to go undrafted. DiNucci wasn’t a sexy name in this year’s quarterback class and struggled at the D1 level, but reinvented himself into a pinpoint accurate passer at 1AA James Madison. At the time many figured he’d compete with Cooper Rush for the backup spot. However, the Cowboys picked up veteran Andy Dalton on a one year deal to become the backup (probably the best back up in the league) thus pushing that aforementioned position battle into one that helps DiNucci. Now it looks like DiNucci will be destined for the practice squad and that’s exactly how the Cowboys want it to happen. Have him in the quarterback room all training camp and preseason, get a good amount of snaps, then become the leader in the clubhouse for the future back-up quarterback position. While some might question what’s the value of trying to develop a career back-up, look no further than the Eagles and Nick Foles. It became obvious that Cooper Rush would never be a good back-up, so spend the time working with a guy who has the potential down the line.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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