Passer Appraisals Week 5: Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott

Passer Appraisals Week 5: Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott

Each week at I will post an article on two notable quarterback performances over the prior week. This week we will be looking at Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Buccaneers lost 19-14 to the Patriots this past week.  Jameis Winston completed 26-of-46 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown, also scrambling for 11 yards on three attempts (56.52%).  In his career, Winston has 751 completions on 1,256 attempts—a 59.8 percent completion rate.

The game started out slow, with the first points (a field goal) not occurring until 1:20 left in the first quarter.  Both teams were struggling to get any real momentum.  This might be part of the reason he made a notably bad play at the end of the first quarter.  On 2nd-and-9 with about 48 seconds remaining, he took a snap from under center, faked to his running back and felt pressure as defensive lineman Trey Flowers broke loose from Bucs center Evan Smith.  As Flowers circled toward Winston to wrap him up, Winston hurled the ball up into the air (a slow hanging-in-the-air throw) about five feet in front of DeSean Jackson with three defenders around him.  Fortunately for Winston, the ball landed in the field of play without being touche—but almost all the time you do this, the ball will be picked off.  It’s a very risky sort of play you might expect from Brett Favre or Jay Cutler, but seeing it in Winston shouldn’t come as a surprise.  One of his criticisms coming out of Florida State was that he was throwing balls up for Kelvin Benjamin to come down with and that Benjamin was the reason for the team’s success rather than Winston.  When he’s in a pressured situation like this his better option would be to tuck the ball, and take the sack or throw it out of bounds.  Hopefully the team can tone down his “YOLO” mentality a bit as time goes on.

With two and a half minutes left in the second quarter, he made an almost identical play to DeSean Jackson.  From their own 26-yard line, he took a snap from the shotgun, and with almost no pressure, he gently lofted a ball thirty yards downfield into the arms of safety Duron Harmon.  Fortunately for Winston, Harmon’s leg got hooked on cornerback Malcolm Butler and DeSean Jackson, and Harmon couldn’t hold onto it on his way to the ground.

To be fair, there were many times in this game I wished Winston’s receivers did a better job of catching the ball, but Winston had his own issues.  It was more often that Winston’s timing, speed of the throw and accuracy were very questionable.  In the end, as fantasy owners, you want yards and touchdowns with few interceptions, regardless of how many incompletions there were.  Winston is somewhat reliable in that area, with a long career ahead of him.

In typical Winston fashion, with the Bucs down by nine points with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, he and the offense started to get it together.  A lot of 10-yard throws and some good runs by the offense put the team in scoring position more than once, but kicker Nick Folk had missed those nine points in field goal attempts.  Things were looking grim.  On a 2nd-and-10 from the Patriots’ 18-yard line with 2:15 remaining, Winston threw a perfect pass straight up the middle of the field to Cameron Brate in the end zone for a touchdown.  Brate had two defenders on top of him and two more nearby, but anyone who streamed Winston against the Patriots finally had a touchdown to add to the stat sheet.  After a Patriots field goal, the Bucs came out again to try to get a one-minute touchdown, and got the ball all the way downfield on several 20-yard attempts, but eventually ran out of time.  It was clear this loss was on the shoulders of the kicker, but Winston could have been a lot more efficient before the team ever got into desperation mode in the fourth quarter.

Fantasy recommendation:

I would love to have Winston in a best-ball league where you can take the high weeks and low weeks and not need to try to decide whether to start him or not.  All indications before the game were that the team “points against” for a quarterback plus a healthy Bucs offense (including their returning-from-suspension running back Doug Martin) were in favor of Winston being a top-five quarterback this week.  Instead, his one touchdown and 334 yards barely kept him inside the top 10 ahead of Philip Rivers and—gag—Jacoby Brissett.  For redraft purposes, I’d hold on to Winston and use him, but I can’t consider him to be more than an inconsistent QB2 on a weekly basis. If I owned him in dynasty I’d be looking to sell him for a prospective early first-round pick after the Bucs and he have a good week.

While the Cowboys lost at home to the Packers this week, the play of Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was on point.  He completed 25 of his 36 pass attempts for 251 yards and scored three touchdowns to go along with one interception.  He rushed four times for 37 yards and an additional touchdown.  For the year, Prescott has 1,192 yards passing (averaging 238 per game) with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions plus 16 rushes for 126 yards and another two touchdowns.

Prescott came out hot in this game.  At 13:50 in the first quarter on their own 22-yard line, he took a snap from shotgun and stepped up through a collapsing pocket.  Green Bay linebacker Nick Perry stepped through the crowd and tackled Prescott by his left (planted) foot as Prescott got the throw off.  The ball traveled 50 yards to be caught by Brice Butler at the Green Bay 43-yard line.  Butler was able to juke his way out of a tackle and ran the ball out of bounds at the Packers’ 29-yard line.  Of course, this play got the team and fans cheering, and momentum went toward Dallas for a while.  After a few running plays and short gains and the benefit of a bad call on pass interference, the team scored on a short Prescott pass to Cole Beasley from the 2-yard line.  The Cowboys were up 7-0 halfway through the first quarter and the home crowd was loving it.

As the second quarter began another notable play happened.  Prescott took a snap from the shotgun on a 3rd-and-6 play from the Packers’ 25-yard line—an obvious pass play situation.  La’el Collins, tackle for the Cowboys, was stood up and pushed off balance by edge rusher Nick Perry.  Perry raced around Collins and pursued Prescott off to the right.  While running with his eyes staring downfield again, Prescott locked onto 6-foot-3 fullback Rod Smith.  Prescott kicked out and threw across his body to deliver a perfect 31-yard strike to Smith coming back toward him.  Smith was somehow dragged down by a safety clearly shorter and lighter than he was, keeping the drive alive and giving the team a 1st-an-goal on the Green Bay 7-yard line.  Two plays later and Cole Beasley was catching a touchdown pass in the center of the end zone from Prescott and giving Dallas the lead.

From beginning to end, this game was a gutsy performance between two great offenses.  Dallas wound up losing to a one-minute masterful drive at the end of the game by Green Bay, but Prescott and the Cowboys put up 31 points and could have won the game if not for that one spectacular drive.  More importantly for fantasy purposes, Prescott is within six points of the highest scoring fantasy quarterback through five weeks (including averaging the four quarterbacks that were on bye last week).  He’s on pace for 3,814 yards with 41 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.  Those are easily top-12 numbers, making him a no-brainer QB1 in redraft.

Fantasy recommendation:

Look, I’ll be honest.  I haven’t been a big Prescott fan over the past year.  His original draft pedigree along with the top-tier offensive line last year made me worry he would falter as soon as they lost some players, but the 2016 rookie of the year hasn’t disappointed.  In dynasty or redraft 2QB or superflex leagues, I’d be buying.  In dynasty, I’d offer a 2018 mid-first for him and if I was going to sell, I’d ask for an expected 1.01 plus a late first for him.  He’s going to be the franchise quarterback in Dallas for the expected future and will set the bar for a quarterback contract long before his rookie contract expires in 2020.

Non-Quarterback Thoughts

Buy Sterling Shepard in dynasty if possible.  You should have been buying him long ago.

I keep waiting for Zay Jones to live up to my dreams for him.  I still have faith in you Zay.  But it hurts.

Tight end Austin Hooper has a long career ahead of him in Atlanta.  He’s barely past his rookie season.

I’m deaf in one ear and never had a chance to serve our country in the Armed Forces, something that still bothers me 30 years later.  So, my opinion may not be worth a hill of beans to some.  But if kneeling during The National Anthem as a peaceful protest gets two thumbs up from Army Green Beret veteran and former Seahawks long-snapper Nate Boyer, it’s okay with me.

Can’t wait for Willie Snead, Stefon Diggs, and John Brown to be all playing at the same time, as I invested heavily in those three in redraft.

Go and check all your leagues to make sure Aaron Jones, J.D. McKissic, and Matt Breida are taken.  I was amazed to find them still available in some dynasty leagues.

A. Don Davenport

Don is a 2QB dynasty-only writer with a government contractor job (he'd tell you what he does, but then he'd have to kill you), who also does voice work for and rides a sport bike through the countryside for fun.Don is married to a fiery redhead and has a grown-up son along with two "furry children."Several years ago a co-worker came to him and asked him to join a 2QB fantasy football league he was starting. Don didn’t know anything about it, so he started to study the strategy of the game and this format in particular. By the time the draft started he was ready, but came in second place, losing in the championship game. He's had a chip on his shoulder ever since. He kept a running monologue in his head about how he would explain to others the values of the players in this format and after a while he decided to start writing it down. You can follow Don on Twitter @‪ADonDavenport‬

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