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Maybe the most surprising storyline of the 2016 NFL season has been the emergence of Dak Prescott. The young quarterback went from a third-string rookie taken in the fourth round to the starter on arguably the best team in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys.
Prescott was not even the Cowboys’ first choice in the draft as Jerry Jones twice tried to trade up for other quarterbacks but was unable to get the deals done.
In all, seven quarterbacks were taken in the 2016 NFL Draft before Prescott’s name was called with the 135th pick. Here is how those other QBs performed in their rookie seasons.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams — First round (No. 1 overall)
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Games started: 7
Key stats: The Rams went 0-7 in games started by Goff. He completed just 54.6% of his passes with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His 5.3 yards per attempt ranked last among the 32 quarterbacks who started at least seven games.
Pro Football Focus grade: 39.7 (35th)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 22.1 (would have ranked last among the 30 qualified quarterbacks)
What draft experts said at the time: “Goff took Cal football to a different level, and the Rams hope he does the same in L.A. He’s a little bit like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, who both started from Day 1. Goff can do the same with the run game and defense the Rams possess.” – Mike Mayock of NFL.com.
Where he is now: Goff did not even dress to start the season. He eventually served as a backup to Case Keenum before taking over as starter in Week 11. Initially the Rams appeared to be intent on letting Goff sit his entire rookie season, however, ownership eventually forced Jeff Fisher’s hand leading to the change.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles — First round (No. 2 overall)
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Games started: 16
Key stats: 62.4% completions (18th in NFL), 16 touchdowns (tied-25th), 14 interceptions (tied-9th), 6.23 yards per attempts (29th)
Pro Football Focus grade: 76.8 (No. 22 overall)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 53.3 (No. 25 overall)
What draft experts said at the time: “Wentz comes with great intangibles and is a naturally accurate thrower. Pairing him with QB guru Doug Pederson would aid Wentz’s steep learning curve as he transitions from the FCS.” – Todd McShay of ESPN.com.
Where he is now: The Rams traded Sam Bradford just before the season started, elevating Wentz to starter a lot sooner than many expected. He rewarded the Eagles early by putting on an impressive display in the first four games with 7 touchdowns and just 1 interception. However, an easy early-season schedule may have masked some issues. Over the last 12 games of the season, Wentz threw 9 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos — First round (No. 26 overall)
- Brian Blanco/Getty
Games started: 2
Key stats: 59.0% completions, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 6.0 yards per attempts
Pro Football Focus grade: 40.5 (unranked)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 28.6 (would have ranked last among the 30 qualified quarterbacks)
What draft experts said at the time: “Lynch is a lot like Joe Flacco, but is more athletic. Lynch can be special.” – Mike Mayock of NFL.com.
Where he is now: Lynch impressed in the preseason, enough to justify the use of a late-first-round pick. While there was a call to make Lynch a starter right away, the Broncos seemed content to let Lynch backup Trevor Siemian for the season. Lynch did get rushed into action in Week 4 and started the Broncos’ Week 5 loss and Week 13 win when Siemian went down with injuries.
Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets — Second round (No. 51 overall)
- Bill Kostroun/AP
Games started: 0
Key stats: None
Pro Football Focus grade: Not available
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): Not available
What draft experts said at the time: “He has prototypical size and arm talent. However, the tape is wildly inconsistent and he’s a wild card.” – Mike Mayock of NFL.com.
Where he is now: Three different quarterbacks started games for the Jets this season, including second-year quarterback Bryce Petty. Hackenberg did not see any regular-season action. In fact, some ominous quotes suggest he has a long ways to go. An unnamed coach told ESPN that Hackenberg couldn’t even throw a football into an ocean. When asked about that coach’s observation, team owner Woody Johnson said: “I guess it depends which ocean.” Another Jets source told the Daily News that Hackenberg “will never make it.”
Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots — Third round (No. 91 overall)
- Maddie Meyer/Getty
Games started: 2
Key stats: 61.8% completions, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 7.27 yards per attempts
Pro Football Focus grade: 48.1 (unranked)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 45.0 (would rank 30th among 31 qualified quarterbacks)
What draft experts said at the time: – “Sources with teams say that Brissett is a sleeper quarterback who they’re keeping an eye on. As we reported in the rumormill, some east coast scouts rate Brissett ahead of other more highly touted prospects like Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg. Other sources aren’t fans of Brissett … Brissett had a decent week at the Senior Bowl, but didn’t light a fire under his draft stock. That was the same outcome of his combine workout. Brissett’s more of a mid-round backup with some developmental potential.” – WalterFootball.com
Where he is now: Brissett showed some promise in the preseason and in a start against the Houston Texans as he was filling in for the suspended Tom Brady and the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. He later underwent surgery on his thumb and missed the rest of the season. It’s still early, but he now looks like a potential long-term solution at quarterback for the Patriots if Brady ever decides to retire.
Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns — Third round (No. 93 overall)
- Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Games started: 8
Key stats: 65.6% completions (10th in NFL), 6 touchdowns (31st), 2 interceptions (32nd), 7.08 yards per attempts (18th)
Pro Football Focus grade: 74.2 (No. 23 overall)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 49.8 (would rank 28th among 30 qualified quarterbacks)
What draft experts said at the time: – “There was a lot of buzz on him late in the draft process. He won’t wow you with arm strength, but his decision-making abilities are a strength.” – Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.
Where he is now: Kessler started the season well down on the Browns’ depth chart. But after injuries to both Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, Kessler became one of six players to throw at least 9 passes for the Browns this season and he started eight straight games before McCown returned. Despite the team going 0-8 in his starts, Kessler showed some promise, with 6 touchdown passes and just 2 interceptions.
Connor Cook, Oakland Raiders — Fourth round (No. 100 overall)
- Norm Hall/Getty Images
Games started: 0 in the regular season and 1 in the postseason
Key stats: 32-66, 311 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions in two games.
Pro Football Focus grade: 41.7 (unranked)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 18.0 (would have ranked last among the 30 qualified quarterbacks)
What draft experts said at the time: – “Cook might be NFL ready right away. The issue is what’s his ceiling.” – Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.
Where he is now: Cook seemed destined to not get any playing time this season, or really, any time in the near future with the emergence of MVP candidate Derek Carr. However, injuries to Carr and backup Matt McGloin forced Cook to make his first career start in the Wild Card round of the playoffs against the Texans. Things did not go well for Cook as the Raiders lost 27-14.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys — Fourth round (No. 135 overall)
- Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Games started: 16
Key stats: 67.8% completions (4th in NFL), 23 touchdowns (tied-15th), 4 interceptions (tied-29th), 7.99 yards per attempts (4th)
Pro Football Focus grade: 83.3 (No. 11 overall)
Total Quarterback Rating (QBR): 81.6 (No. 3 overall)
What draft experts said at the time: – “There are physical, athletic, and leadership traits comparable to Tim Tebow, but Prescott is vastly more pro-ready as a passer. He’s an ideal backup as he continues to work on overall consistency, but he’ll bring a dynamic element if his name’s ever called.” – Mark Dulgerian of NFL.com.
Where he is now: Coming into the NFL Draft, Prescott had a DUI arrest looming over his head (charges were later dismissed) and he was most often compared to his idol, Tim Tebow, at a time when most had soured on Tebow.
Prescott wasn’t even Jerry Jones’ first choice in the draft, according to ESPN the Magazine. Jones wanted to trade up for Paxton Lynch but would only offer a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick. The Seahawks wanted a second and a third and traded their pick to the Broncos instead. Jones would later say that he regretted not making the move. Then, in the third round, Jones again tried to trade up, this time to get Connor Cook, but the Raiders offered the Browns a better package and got Cook.
After the draft, the Cowboys’ back-up quarterback, Kellen Moore, broke his ankle. Jones tried to sign Nick Foles but was spurned when the former Rams signal-caller signed with the Chiefs. Jones then tried to trade for Josh McCown, but walked away when the Browns demanded a second-round pick.
Finally, in the preseason, Tony Romo injured his back and Prescott, who had already impressed in preseason action, was handed the reins. Four months later, the Cowboys are now Prescott’s team, the Cowboys are the top seed in the NFC, and Romo is never getting his starting job back.
- Bob Leverone/AP