MOBILE, Ala. — Dak Prescott is the greatest quarterback in Mississippi State history, by the longest of long shots. And yet, that cachet doesn’t necessarily hold substantial water when discussing his NFL prospects.
At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, does Prescott not have the requisite size of a viable NFL quarterback?
At 63 percent over a four-year span, including a completion rate of 66.2 percent as a senior, has Prescott not exhibited enough accuracy to flourish in a West Coast system?
With only 23 career interceptions, including just two outings of three picks, has Prescott not demonstrated a coveted capacity to take care of the football — against big-time defenses, no less?
And does Prescott (9,376 yards passing, 111 career TDs) not warrant some bonus points for his absurd numbers in college … even though Mississippi State has produced just one draftable wide receiver in the last 20 years?
(Eric Moulds was a first-round pick with the Buffalo Bills in 1996. His 12-year pro career included: 764 catches, 9,995 yards, 49 TDs and three Pro Bowls.)
Here’s another fun question to ponder: On an NFL-only scale … where does Prescott rank among former Florida great Tim Tebow (2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national champion) and former Nevada star Colin Kaepernick?
Regarding the draft …
Tebow was the second quarterback off the board in 2010 (Round 1, 25th overall); and in hindsight, he was likely the second- or third-best QB of a light class which included Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, John Skelton, Rusty Smith, Dan LeFevour, Tony Pike, Zac Robinson and Joe Webb.
Kapernick had stiffer competition for the 2011 draft, lagging behind Cam Newton (No. 1 overall), Jake Locker (No. 8), Blaine Gabbert (No. 10), Christian Ponder (No. 12) and Andy Dalton (No. 35) within the first 35 picks before getting snagged by the 49ers in Round 2.
Regarding coachability …
It can be argued that neither Tebow nor Kaepernick had many quarterback or head coaches at the NFL level who truly believed in their long-term potential. Yes, Jim Harbaugh was a card-carrying member of the Colin Kaepernick Fan Club in his time with the 49ers (2011-14) … but that bond wasn’t strong enough to keep Harbaugh in San Francisco beyond four seasons. (The Niners brass certainly deserves blame for that.)
As for Prescott, he’s been a sponge-in-training for quite some time. For example, the college graduate spent a lot of quality time with the Mississippi State coaches last fall, soaking up everything he could during team and organizational meetings.
“Whether (it’s Mississippi State) or the Senior Bowl, I want to know exactly what (the coaches are) thinking — ask as many questions as I can,” says Prescott. He then identified two NFL players as work-ethic rode models
“Russell Wilson and Cam Newton … they opened the door for the dual-threat quarterback in the NFL,” says Prescott. “They’re pocket passers first, and they’re doing it right.”
Regarding NFL production …
Tebow had a decent starter’s record of 8-6 from 2010-12, highlighted by the Broncos’ wild-card victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2012, when Tebow’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas clinched Denver’s overtime win. It was the redoubtable highlight of an up-and-down pro career … which also includes an ugly completion rate of 48 percent.
Kaepernick (10,098 yards passing, 141 total TDs at Nevada) enjoyed more pro success than Tebow, guiding the 49ers to back-to-back appearances in the NFC title game — and a Super Bowl berth to culminate the 2013 season. The decline began two years ago, when Kaepernick posted solid numbers (3,369 yards passing, 23 total TDs, 10 interceptions, 61-percent passing efficiency) … but San Francisco still finished with a middling 8-8 record.
Throw in a disastrous 2015 campaign (2-6 as a starter; season-ending shoulder injury after that), and it’s fair to wonder if Kaepernick might see the lion’s share of his (back-loaded) $100 million contract extension from a few years ago.
Of course, the above info has little practical application when predicting Prescott’s pro fate — although there are a number of open-ended questions regarding the Mississippi State dynamo:
**Is Prescott, a potential Round 3 draft pick, better suited for spread-attack offenses?
**Might Prescott be a better fit than Kaepernick with Chip Kelly’s new offense with the 49ers?
**Does Prescott have enough experience running pro-style offenses, directly under center? And does this even matter, since most NFL teams rely on the shotgun?
“Dropping back (in the pocket) isn’t that difficult,” says Prescott. “I’m athletic enough to do it and do it well. I just haven’t had enough reps at it.”
When watching Prescott roll through the practice machinations during Senior Bowl Week, he certainly carries the qualities of an “IT” quarterback. Even if we’re talking about an indefinable IT at this stage of the drafting season.
But that’s OK. In fact, check out this 2011 scouting report of Kaepernick (source: NFL.com) … which might read remarkably similar to Prescott’s NFL.com scouting report for 2016:
“Plays out of The Pistol (formation), lacks experience under center. Has not been asked to make NFL progressions and reads. Not quick to check down or hit hot read against the blitz. Misses too many short passes. Doesn’t have consistent touch on the deep ball. Release is somewhat elongated and can dip down to sidearm at times.”
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.