By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
With no word on the contractual status of Ryan Fitzpatrick for the 2016 season and beyond, and the precarious salary cap situation the New York Jets find themselves in as well as the dry free agency market at the position, the team’s search for a quarterback would be best served in the upcoming draft.
Being that the team is in need of impact players at multiple positions, the quarterback spot may not be addressed in the first or second round. If that does turn out to be the case, the top four rated signal callers in the draft are projected to be gone before the Jets pick in the 3rd round. The next man up appears to be Dak Prescott, the dynamic dual-threat quarterback from Mississippi State.
Spending his first two seasons in college mostly as a running complement to starting quarterback Tyler Russell, Prescott still managed to throw for 2,134 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. On the ground in his first two years, Dak totaled 166 carries for 947 yards and 17 TD’s.
Prescott then exploded onto the scene as the team’s starter as a junior in 2014, when he threw for 3,449 yards with 27 TD’s, 11 INT’s and a 61.2% completion rate. Prescott’s 3,449 yards passing were good for third in the SEC and his 27 TD’s placed him in second place in the conference.
A true dual-threat behind center, Dak also carried the ball 210 times for 986 yards and 14 TD’s. His 14 touchdowns were good for first in the SEC. In addition, he finished 8th in the Heisman Trophy voting, and first in total yards with 4,435, for the 2014 season.
During his senior year in 2015, Prescott improved upon his passing game, completing 66.2% of his passes for 3,791 yards, 29 TD’s and five INT’s. Becoming more of a passer, his rushing stats took a step back, although he still had 160 carries for 588 yards and 10 TD’s. His passing yards placed him second in the conference, while his passing touchdowns and eight yards per pass attempt finished third in the SEC.
Over the course of his career at Mississippi State, Prescott broke a total of 38 school records, including 15 career marks. He was also a two-time All-American and two-time first-team All-SEC as well as the MVP of the 2013 Liberty Bowl.
Given his playing style and the fact that he played for Head Coach Dan Mullen, who was the offensive coordinator for the University of Florida from 2005-2008, he has been compared to former Gators’ star and NFL flop, Tim Tebow. However, that is an unfair comparison as Prescott is a far more refined passer with a better arm and superior mechanics.
Blessed with natural arm strength and excellent field vision, Prescott effectively works through his progressions and distributes the ball with authority, using an over-the-top delivery. He has also displayed the ability to trick defenders with his eyes, causing them to freeze as his receivers break open.
Prescott gets rid of the ball quickly, without the long windup that Tebow is infamous for, and when he steps into his throws he can hit targets all over the field with force and accuracy. Although he is always prepared to extend plays outside of the pocket with his legs, his first inclination is to find an open receiver and finish the play with his arm.
Prescott is a solidly-built serious threat with his legs, who has proven that he can take a beating, fearlessly carrying the ball like a running back. Over the past three seasons, he compiled 37 rushing touchdowns and had 94 rushes of ten yards or more. His combination of strength, toughness and agility has allowed him to break more than his share of arm tackles, and he is a true threat to finish the job with his feet in the red zone.
Despite the fact that he has grown tremendously as a passer since he got to Mississippi State in 2012, Prescott still has a lot of work to do when making the jump to the NFL. His footwork can be inconsistent at times, causing him to throw with reduced accuracy off of his back foot. Dak also needs to work on his follow through as he tends to use his upper body strength to heave the ball on occasion.
Thanks to shoddy play by his offensive line in 2015, Prescott appeared to lose a bit of his poise in his senior year. He displayed a tendency to get caught up on his primary targets, not getting through his reads quickly enough to make the completion when under significant pressure. Another area Dak needs to improve upon is his ability to lead receivers on routes as opposed to zipping it directly at them.
Any quarterback entering the NFL, especially one with a mid-round grade, is going to need work to succeed on the professional level, and Prescott is no different in that way. However, he has shown steady improvement in most areas of his game and has displayed the leadership and willingness to learn that will be a great asset when developing his game further as a pro.
Dan Mullen, his Head Coach at Mississippi State, who has over 20 years of college coaching experience, referred to Prescott as the best player he ever coached, while lauding his leadership abilities. Additionally, community leaders heaped praise upon him for his involvement and volunteerism during his time at Mississippi State.
Far from a finished product, Prescott is certainly equipped with the tools and mindset needed to excel in the NFL if placed in the proper system and given the appropriate attention to his development. He will be quite an interesting option to consider on the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft.