We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.
The Cowboys’ decision to finally give Dak Prescott a long-term contract was undoubtedly made easier by his 2020 season. Don’t get me wrong: Obviously nobody wanted Prescott to only play five games due to a horrific ankle injury, but for the first time we really saw the former fourth-round pick elevate his supporting cast in a non-ideal situation. It was rare to see much other than excellence from Dak inside of loaded offenses in 2016 and 2019, although offensive line injuries and the lack of a true No. 1 WR did produce some lows in 2017 and 2018.
All Prescott did in the first five weeks of the season was rip off point totals of 17, 40, 31, 38 and 37 despite dealing with 1) longtime C Travis Frederick being retired, 2) two games from all-world LT Tyron Smith, and 3) zero games from longtime starting RT La’el Collins. In the immediate aftermath of Prescott’s injury, the Cowboys produced rather pitiful 10-, 3-, 9- and 19-point efforts before having a bye week to regroup; this offense dominated for most of September because of Prescott, not in spite of him.
What follows is a breakdown on what to expect from the 2021 version of this Cowboys offense as well as what Prescott’s fantasy football ceiling could be with better injury luck.
Prescott has always been a great (fantasy) QB
The glorious American pastime known as fantasy football is especially rewarding to dual-threat players like scrambling QBs and pass-catching RBs because they have two avenues to rack up points. It took Prescott a few years to truly morph himself into an elite thrower of the football, but he’s largely been a great fantasy option since Day 1 thanks in large part to his career average of 19 rush yards per game and nose for the end zone. Overall, only Cam Newton (27), Josh Allen (25) and Prescott (24) have at least 20 rushing scores among all QBs since 2016.
- 2016: Overall fantasy QB6
- 2017: QB9
- 2018: QB10
- 2019: QB2
- 2020: QB33
Of course, Prescott’s 2020 fantasy campaign was borderline erotic when we zoom in on his per-game production. The Cowboys’ rising sixth-year QB dominated after an average season debut, posting QB18, QB1, QB4 and QB1 performances in Weeks 1-4. Despite missing a large chunk of Week 5, Prescott’s average of 26.9 fantasy points per game comes in as the second-highest single-season mark ever behind only 2019 Lamar Jackson (27.7) among all QBs in NFL history.
Funny but true stat: Prescott (13 TDs in 5 games) had more total TDs than Daniel Jones (12 TDs in 14 games) last season. Sheesh.
We largely don’t have any recent evidence of Prescott doing anything other than functioning as a high-end fantasy QB1. His quest to keep on keeping on should be heavily aided by the reality that this offense is once again overflowing with playmakers.
This Cowboys offense is more loaded than ever before
Hopefully Prescott benefits from improved health for both himself as well as his offensive line. The good news is that 2020 proved he can still provide high-end production without the benefit of his O-line absolutely dominating. It’s tough to fathom what this offense might look like with this version of Prescott *and* anyone’s idea of a great unit up front; there is simply an abundance of playmakers at Dak’s disposal.
- It’s tough to name five better route-runners alive than Amari Cooper, who ranks sixth in receiving yards since the Cowboys acquired him halfway through the 2018 season.
- We saw plenty of flashes from 2020 first-round pick CeeDee Lamb as a rookie. The 22-year-old talent has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of achieving.
- Michael Gallup deserves to be on the short list of the league’s most-overqualified No. 3 WR. His blend of route-running goodness and contested-catch ability makes him the perfect complementary option.
- Blake Jarwin was a popular late-round fantasy pick before last season and offers far more seam-stretching ability than Dalton Schultz. Regardless of who winds up seeing the most snaps, Dak has multiple reliable inline options available.
- Ezekiel Elliott was borderline terrible as a receiver last season, tying for the position lead in drops and averaging a pitiful 0.87 yards per route run. However, this performance led to electric No. 2 RB Tony Pollard getting more run than usual. More of this, please.
It’s tough to name another offense that clearly has a better crop of skill-position talent. Sure, the likes of the Bills, Bengals, Panthers, Falcons and Buccaneers among others also find themselves with at least three high-end pass-catchers; just realize Dak is in about as good of an offense as we could hope for when it comes to accessing his surrounding talent.
Add it all together and …
Prescott is top-five, not-five, when it comes to ranking 2021 fantasy football QBs
We’re looking at the reigning QB1 in fantasy points per game here, people. It shouldn’t be a hot take that Prescott is a Tier 1 fantasy football QB; there’s a reasonable enough argument to be made that he should be the first player off the board at his position thanks to 1) his demonstrated high-end fantasy ability, 2) the Cowboys’ existing collection of great skill-position weapons, and 3) the potential for this defense to again lend itself to plenty of shootouts.
It’s hard to overstate just how special Prescott was in the brief time we got to watch him last season.
Healthy Dak Prescott is good for America as well as the glorious game we call football pic.twitter.com/p1z2tHujSR
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 7, 2021
Right meow the only signal-callers I’d take ahead of Prescott in fantasy land are Patrick Mahomes (responsible for two of the NFL’s seven highest-scoring seasons in terms of fantasy points per game), Josh Allen (reigning overall QB1 in total fantasy points) and Kyler Murray (owner of the highest fantasy points per game mark ever in Weeks 1-11 last season before suffering a shoulder injury). Potential potholes on Prescott’s path to success include less rushing success than normal due to the after-effects of the ankle injury as well as the defense finding a way to climb out of the league’s bottom-five scoring units, but ultimately I believe there’s too much talent surrounding Prescott to fade him as a top-five fantasy signal-caller. The leaps Prescott has made as a passer over the past two seasons should be more than enough to make up for a potential reduction in rushing upside, particularly with even a little bit better injury luck from the big uglies up front.
The jury is still out on whether or not Prescott can emerge as a great real life QB since we tend to judge that sort of thing on playoff success. However, we have years of evidence already that we’re looking at one of fantasy’s truly elite signal-callers. Continue to treat Prescott as such in 2021 and beyond.