Running back Ezekiel Elliott is suspended for the first half of the season. This NFL decision tremendously limits Dak Prescott’s upside in fantasy.
Last year, the pocket was extremely clean for Dak due to Zeke’s presence as a dangerous runner. Defenders were aware that if they focused to heavily on Dak, then there was a high probability that Zeke would slip out of the backfield one way or another to cash in on the mistake. Unfortunately for Dak, Zeke won’t be around to start the season.
While backup RB Alfred Morris is a good player, and quite honestly often underrated, defenses won’t scheme for him the same way. Nor will they for Darren McFadden. Albeit, both running backs are good for pass protection in many ways, defenses will be more apt to hurry Dak Prescott in the pocket and make him throw the ball.
Last year, Dak threw 23 touchdowns. Eight of them fell into the hands of Dez Bryant and another five went to Cole Beasley. The problem with the Dak-to-Dez combination is that most of the passes didn’t take advantage of Dez’s ability to get downfield. Dak seemed reluctant to let it fly and focused more on the underneath and short yardage pass plays. With the pressure that he’ll potentially face while Zeke is on the shelf, downfield passes may be out of the question altogether. Dak also won’t be free to run as much.
There’s no disputing Dak’s efficiency, but there are two things that won’t play into his favor. First, defensive coaches have had a full offseason to study up on Dak and likely have a better read on him. Second, Dak’s not had to face the type of pressure in the pocket that he’ll face this upcoming season.
While Cole Beasley gets a huge bump in this offense, I don’t see Dak putting up above average numbers for the first half of the season. Should Dak figure out how to get the ball to Dez consistently, he could prove us wrong. The offense worked well last year because Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott combined offered an unstoppable 1–2 punch. Now it seems that this offense is better suited for Tony Romo to step back in and take the reigns.
For these reasons, we like Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton far better than we like Dak Prescott’s situation. Until Ezekiel Elliott returns, then it’s simply too big of a risk to draft Dak as a starting quarterback.
(This article was originally published on August 14, 2017)