Dak Prescott is coming off a sensational rookie season that was capped off with Pro Bowl honors and the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Prescott’s season ended in heartbreak in the divisional round with a 34-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers. After leading the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC, Prescott was unable to find the same success in his first playoff performance.
The future still looks incredibly bright for the young star. Drafted in the fourth round with the 163rd pick Prescott’s expectations were low before being thrust into the starting role after starting quarterback, Tony Romo, tragically injured his back in the third week of the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks. Dak Prescott surpassing expectations is an understatement after his historic rookie season. The rookie star burst onto the scene in 2016 and set in stone his place as a top 10 quarterback in the NFL today. But, where should the young face of the Dallas Cowboys franchise rank in the top 10 exactly?
Here is the ranking of top 10 quarterbacks heading into 2017:
1. Tom Brady (28 TD, 2 INT, 112.2 Rating)
Tom Brady is coming off his fifth Super Bowl victory, and he’s better than ever. Arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, Tom Brady will be 40 years old once the 2017 season rolls around and he is still the top quarterback in the game today.
2. Aaron Rodgers (40 TD, 7 INT, 104.2 Rating)
Aaron Rodgers had a rocky start to his 2016 campaign, but he ended his 2016 season as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the game. Rodgers made quick work of the New York Giants in the wildcard round before single-handedly taking down the Dallas offensive juggernaut in the divisional round led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Unfortunately, dethroning the #1 team in the NFC took a toll on the Green Bay Packers, and they were thrashed the following week in the NFC Championship 44-21 by the Atlanta Falcons. Still, the way Rodgers carried his team to the NFC Championship game proves that he is still a force to be reckoned with heading into 2017.
3. Matt Ryan (38 TD, 7 INT, 117.1 Rating)
Matt Ryan won MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors before failing to seal a Super Bowl win with a lead as large as 25 points. Tom Brady was able to outperform the 2016 MVP in the fourth quarter in the greatest comeback victory in Super Bowl history. Some may argue that it was the greatest Super Bowl collapse other than the greatest Super Bowl comeback, but nevertheless, Matt Ryan is coming off his best season in 2016. Ryan will look to repeat his MVP-caliber season in 2017, so he can lead his team to another Super Bowl berth in hopes of hoisting Atlanta’s first-ever Lombardi Trophy.
4. Dak Prescott (23 TD, 4 INT, 104.9 Rating)
There are not many quarterbacks that can replace Tony Romo. Tony Romo has been a fringe top 10 quarterback throughout the majority of his career in Dallas. Injuries took its toll on the elite quarterback that finished 2014 as the most efficient passer in the NFL. Dak Prescott took advantage of yet another injury to Romo and his ability to efficiently drive the offense down the field and score touchdowns while eating up the clock forced Jerry Jones to stick with the fourth round rookie quarterback from Mississippi State. There’s no looking back now. The decision has already been made. Dak Prescott will now be out to prove his rookie season was no fluke, and that he deserves his top 10 status. With the mental makeup and character of a guy like Dak Prescott, a sophomore slump will be nothing more than a media-driven rhetoric in his second season as starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
5. Drew Brees (37 TD, 15 INT, 101.7 Rating)
The New Orleans Saints did not enjoy much success in 2016, but that does not mean Drew Brees should be stripped of his elite status. Brees surpassed 5,000 yards for the fifth time in his career. Brees was first in the league in passing yards, second in completion percentage, third in touchdowns, and fifth in QB rating. The New Orleans offense is potent enough to make noise in the NFC South, but they need serious work on their defense if they expect to contend in 2017.
6. Derek Carr (28 TD. 6 INT, 96.7 Rating)
Before Carr suffered a season-ending injury in Week 16, he gave the Oakland Raiders a legitimate chance upset the Patriots in the playoffs. The Oakland defense struggled at times, but the team won seven games in which they had given up at least 24 points because their star quarterback allowed them to stay in games. The Raiders were unable to get their offense going after Carr’s injury which further proves his value to the offense. The AFC playoff picture could have looked much different if Carr did not go down with a broken fibula in week 16.
7. Kirk Cousins (25 TD, 12 INT, 97.2 Rating)
The Washington Redskins had one of the most prolific passing attacks in the NFL in 2016. Cousins ranked third in passing yards with 4,917 passing yards this season, and if it weren’t for some of the questionable decisions that lead to interceptions, then Cousins would likely already have a long-term contract extension worked out with Washington. Cousins may need to prove himself for the third straight year as he could be franchise tagged for the second consecutive year by the Washington Redskins.
8. Ben Roethlisberger (29 TD, 13 INT, 95.4 Rating)
Big Ben said he would consider all options, including retirement, after being eliminated in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. Roethlisberger will most likely return to the field in 2017, but he seems to be disgruntled about something going on inside the organization. Big Ben hinted at disagreements with the coaching staff during post-game interviews throughout the year, but he still led his team to the AFC Championship. Roethlisberger is still playing at a high level, and it would be a disservice to his career if he retired over disagreements with the coaching staff.
9. Andrew Luck (31 TD, 13 INT, 96.4 Rating)
The Indianapolis Colts need to desperately acquire talent on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball before they waste Luck’s prime years. Luck’s offensive line allowed 41 sacks in 2016 which was tied for 31st in the league. Luck continues to carry a dysfunctional franchise on his back, and until the front office decides to give the star quarterback competent help, they will continue to waste his prime years. Through all the adversity, Luck still ranked eighth in passing yards, ninth in QB rating, and fifth in passing yards with a horrid offensive line and not much help in the running game. Luck earned his top 10 status with his ability to put up top statistics with a below average football team in 2016.
10. Marcus Mariota (26 TD, 9 INT, 95.6 QB Rating)
Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. The Titans relied heavily on Demarco Murray and the rushing attack in 2016, but Marcus Mariota’s smart decisions and playmaking ability forced opposing defenses to stay honest when defending against the run. If not for Mariota’s broken fibula in week 16, the Tennessee Titans would have likely caught the Houston Texans in the AFC South division race. Mariota will have to start 2017 where he left off if he wants to prove his status as a top 10 quarterback. Some may say he’s nowhere near as talented as some of the quarterbacks left off this list, such as Russell Wilson or Matthew Stafford. But, Mariota may be one piece away from taking the next step. Adding a dynamic #1 receiver like Clemson’s Mike Williams or Western Michigan’s Corey Davis in the first round of this year’s draft would give Mariota a solid receiver corp also featuring Rishard Matthews and Tahjae Sharp.
Mike Walker is a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan that writes for PFS. Follow him on twitter @MikeWalkerPFS.