Dak Prescott caught the entire NFL off guard with his stellar level of play last season. Drafted in the fourth round from Mississippi State, Prescott was viewed to be a developmental prospect behind Tony Romo and was supposed to spend the entire season holding a clipboard. However, once Romo went down with a brutal back injury in the preseason, Prescott took the starting job and ran away with it, leading the Cowboys to and NFC-best 13-3 record.
The Offensive Rookie of the year completed 67.8 percent of his passes and posted an incredible 23:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Prescott finished his rookie campaign with a 104.9 passer rating, which is one of the best passer ratings for a rookie in NFL history. He racked up 282 and six touchdowns on the ground as well, effectively establishing himself as a duel-threat player. In the postseason, he became the first rookie to throw for three scores in a playoff game and helped engineer a furious comeback that could’ve sent the ballgame against the Packers into overtime had Aaron Rodgers not been a freak of nature.
Once a player does so well in their first season, the thought of them taking a step back in their second year begins to arise. But Saints head coach Sean Payton doesn’t foresee that happening to Prescott.
“I’m not even talking or discussing sophomore slumps,” Payton said during a radio appearance earlier this week, via ESPN.com. “I’m looking at cutups and looking at improving and inserting some new thoughts and ideas. You shake his hand and you feel like he’s a guy who’s hard to get off his spot and that’s going to serve him well throughout his career. I like the look in his eye. When the game starts and you’re watching the game, you feel calm watching him play — and that’s a good trait because you trust him.”
Although it may sound ridiculous to say a handshake is the reason a player won’t experience a sophomore slump, Payton had a valid point when he referred to Prescott’s calmness. That’s something many people took notice to last season – his ability to stay patient and calm in the pocket helped him avoid backbreaking turnovers and create positive plays, even if those plays didn’t pick up a whole lot of yardage.
Prescott undoubtedly had a great supporting cast surrounding him, as he had the NFL’s top ranked offensive line protecting him and had dangerous weapons in Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Jason Witten, along with fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, who lead the NFL in rushing yards last season. But all of those things will still be around for him in Year 2, coupled with an offensive scheme that will surely set him up for success yet again. It’s not completely out of the question Prescott will face setbacks in 2017, but he has all the ingredients he did in 2016 to help him build on his magnificent rookie season.