Evaluating Dak Prescott vs Carson Wentz, Four Years Later

Two NFL quarterbacks- Dak Prescott vs Carson Wentz – taken in the 2016 NFL draft came into the league at different vantage points.

In Carson Wentz, the number two overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles saw a franchise caliber player for the next decade. Wentz took a different path than most high draft pick signal-callers, a winner from the FCS North Dakota State University, a powerhouse program but not quite at the same levels of a Clemson, or Oklahoma.

Credit: NDSU Athletics
Credit: NDSU Athletics

Carson Wentz went 20-3 as starter. Two time FCS National Champion. The concern for Wentz was the limited starts of just 23 FCS games in his final two years, also the level of competition. Carson Wentz has a big NFL arm with the mobility to extend plays. At the combine, ran a 4.7 40 at 6’5 237 lbs and checked all the boxes by scouts to be perceived as one of the top quarterbacks in the draft – which led to the Philadelphia Eagles taking their first quarterback in the first round since Donovan McNabb, also with the second overall pick, since 1999.

With the 135th pick in the fourth round, the Dallas Cowboys selected Dak Prescott. It was reported that Jerry Jones tried to trade up twice in the draft for other QBs such as Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook. Sometimes the moves Jones can’t get done are the best for the organization.

Credit: HailState.com
Credit: HailState.com

Dak Prescott led Mississippi State to a number one ranking in the polls in 2014 as a third-team All-American QB. Dak  was poised with leadership and pure toughness. Playing under then head coach Dan Mullen, the comparisons to Mullen’s former QB at Florida – Tim Tebow – arose. A much better passer than Tebow, but Prescott showed some inaccuracies with his deep ball ability. At Mississippi State, the program had its best success under Prescott in 2014 reaching a number one ranking in the polls. His success in Starkville has made Dak one of the most decorated players in Mississippi State history.

 Carson Wentz in Philadelphia and Dak Prescott in Dallas – hailing from the same draft class-  have been tied together for the last four years. Landing in the same division has pitted the two QBs against one another in the race to make the playoffs representing the NFC East. Throughout four years, both quarterbacks have shared their fair amount of successes.

In 2016, Dak as a rookie took the league by storm. Leading the Dallas Cowboys to 13-3 record and winning the NFC East, Prescott had his highest completion percentage as a pro at 67.8. The rookie would end the campaign throwing 23 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, having an INT percentage of just 0.9. Adding to an impressive start Dak would go on to post a quarterback rating of 104.9 and lead the Cowboys on 5 GWD’s – Game Winning Drives. That season’s team was built around a strong offensive line and second-year phenom running back Ezekiel Elliot, which allowed Dak Prescott to flourish.

Credit: AP Photo/Ron Jenkins
Credit: AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

2017 saw the rise of Carson Wentz. The Philadelphia QB led the team to a 11-2 record, seeming to be a league MVP before an injury derailed the rest of his season. Wentz was leading the league in touchdown passes with 33 – a TD percentage of 7.5. At the time, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady were the only other QBs to throw 33-plus touchdowns and 7 or less interceptions through the first 13 games of a season.

Credit: AP Photo/Ryan Kang
Credit: AP Photo/Ryan Kang

Doug Pederson did such a great job of play calling as a product of the Andy Reid coaching tree. Equipped with this and the league’s best offensive line, allowed Carson Wentz to have an MVP leading season and gave Nick Foles – the backup quarterback – the opportunity to finish the season with a Super Bowl victory.

In 2018 Wentz, coming off an ACL injury, was only able to play in 11 games. The Eagles star QB had his best completion percentage of 69.6 but the team’s success dropped overall. 2018 saw the success go back to Dak Prescott as the Cowboys re-took the division albeit struggling for the first half of the season going 3-5. 

Dak Prescott’s numbers were far from impressive. The Dallas QB led the team to just 20PPG, completing just 62.3% of his passes, for 205 YPG, and only 8 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Having rookie Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns as primary targets on the outside for the first seven games, the Cowboys would make a blockbuster trade for 24-year-old WR Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders – addressing a dire need as the offense had been struggling to create on the outside.

In the remaining games of the season, Dak’s numbers improved dramatically. The Cowboys quarterback completed 71.7% of his passes with a career-best 85.7% against the Saints completing 24 of his 28 passes. Prescott threw for 14 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, having a four-game stretch from weeks 10-14 without an INT. Dak would even see his YPG average increase to 274.2. This was all thanks to the team’s new offensive weapon, whose impact was felt most during a three-game stretch where each game was featured on prime time TV starting with the Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving game.

Cooper, during the three game stretch, reeled in 26 receptions for 473 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. The standout moments were Cooper’s ability to take FOUR receptions for over 75 yards – including two receptions going for 90 yards on Thanksgiving. Cooper’s breakout performance showcased Dallas’  three-headed monster at QB, WR, and RB.

The addition of Amari Cooper allowed Dak to excel his game and take the Cowboys into the playoffs where Prescott won his first postseason game at home against Seattle. Dallas lost the following week to the NFC conference champions – the Los Angeles Rams.

In 2019, the numbers alone favor Dak. Prescott and the Cowboys led the NFL in total yards, Dak threw for 4902 yards, 30 touchdowns, but had zero GWD’s. The Dallas Cowboys started off hot, going 3-0. Dak looked to be like a league MVP candidate but those games came against teams picking in the top five of the NFL Draft. In fact, Dallas went a perfect 6-0 against teams that will be picking from 2-5 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Beating up on lesser competition begat the question of actually how good was the 2019 Cowboys offense.

After a hot 3-0 start, Dallas suffered two three-game losing streaks. In fact, in three of the Cowboys losses they were held to 10 or less points. Dallas would fail  to score a touchdown in two of those games. 

The last loss was perhaps the hardest: dropping a Week 16 contest, 17-9, to Philadelphia that basically sealed the division for Carson Wentz and the Eagles. In the meeting of NFC East foes, Dak only completed 56.8% of his passes for 265 yards and no touchdowns, meanwhile Wentz – with a depleted roster around him – completed 77.5% of his passes for 319 yards and one touchdown pass.

Although in 2019 Dak Prescott had career numbers, the efforts of Carson Wentz with the Eagles to get to the playoffs with a depleted roster was the more impressive feat.

Numbers don’t lie but also don’t tell the entire story. As prolific as the Cowboys offense was in 2019, they struggled to muster up points against playoff teams during the season. While Carson Wentz helped his team get to the postseason with less around him. Wentz still produced efficient numbers. For the first time since his rookie season, Carson played in all 16 regular season games and finished the year with a TD:INT ratio of 27:7, and 4 GWD’s.

Throughout both quarterbacks’ tenure in the league, they have each experienced major success and are viewed as franchise quarterbacks.

Dak overall has the better stats and unlike Wentz has yet to miss a game in his career due to injury. Many will say the best ability is availability.

In the NFL, talent is needed around a young quarterback for the player to flourish. Yet, Wentz has shown he can be amongst the league’s best as he has found a way to win without the supporting cast.

Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton are examples of younger QBs being able to will a franchise to win without being surrounded by otherworldly talent.

You can make the argument of whom you’d prefer between either quarterback, we shall see over the next few years which quarterback takes their progression to the next level.