Dak Prescott is a good quarterback. People can question his ceiling all they like, but the Cowboys quarterback boasts an above-average 97.8 career passer rating since entering the league as a fourth-round pick.
Entering 2023, however, the Cowboys’ offense is more confusing than it has been in years. With numerous changes in personnel and a schematic change coming with new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Prescott’s fantasy production is sure to change.
However, whether it will change for the better remains to be seen. Let’s dive into the numbers.
Dak Prescott 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook
A thumb injury sidelined Prescott from Weeks 2-6, so an end-of-season finish as the QB18 isn’t entirely fair to look at. Still, being the QB13 in PPG is underwhelming for the quarterback at the helm of Dallas’ offense.
Prescott had a career-high 15 interceptions in just 12 games, resulting in an interception rate of 3.8% which is well above his career average of 2%. While he did throw 23 touchdowns — a good number for the games he played — the quarterback’s yards-per-game (238.3) was the lowest it’s been since 2017.
In the past, if those numbers tilted toward the red, Prescott could make up for it on the ground. But after 18 rushing touchdowns in his first career 48 games, he’s scored just five in his last 33 games. The rushing yards and touchdowns have plummeted since his serious ankle injury in 2020.
However, there are reasons to expect those rushing numbers to bounce back, and hopefully in a big way. That reason lies in the scheme.
The 2022 Cowboys were an absolute mess, and despite offensive coordinator Kellen Moore going down with the ship, he wasn’t the sole reason why Dallas struggled as much as they did.
Moore preaches a fast tempo-based passing offense led by downfield strikes and quicker plays. Moore’s Cowboys have never been outside the top 10 in plays-per-game. They still finished eighth in 2022, but there’s a reason why that was the lowest finish in Moore’s career.
The Cowboys ran the ball far too much in 2022, with the sixth-most rushing attempts in the league. It’s wild how the Cowboys switched up the plan for 2022 — ranking 19th in passing attempts — when Moore’s offenses never finished outside the top 10 in passing attempts in the years prior.
# of 1st down RB runs in the 1st half of games which gained 2 or fewer yds:
58 – TEN
56 – CLE
53 – TB
53 – DAL
48 – NYJ
47 – LV
45 – WAS
45 – JAX
44 – SF
44 – NYG
43 – ARI
43 – LAC
42 – PIT
42 – MIN
41 – IND
41 – SEA
41 – DET
41 – MIA
40 – CHI
40 – NE
39 – BAL
38 – GB
38 – ATL…
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 6, 2023
Mike McCarthy stuck his nose in and changed things up. The hiring of Schottenheimer as the offense coordinator suggests that McCarthy wants to see the team run the ball consistently or at least balance out with the passing attack. The days of top-five passing attempts are gone for Prescott, but that doesn’t mean he’s out for the count in fantasy.
Schottenheimer last worked with Russell Wilson in Seattle from 2018-2020. The Seahawks quarterback averaged 75 carries for 410 yards and two scores each season under Schottenheimer, which would tie a career-high in rushing attempts and break a career-best in rushing yards for Prescott.
Interestingly enough, Schottenheimer takes over in Dallas as Prescott turns 30 — the same age Wilson was when Schottenheimer took over in Seattle.
If Prescott can increase his rushing output, that will do wonders for his fantasy value. And given that the Cowboys ranked 19th in passing attempts, Prescott may not lose as many reps as people may think with Schottenheimer’s run-heavy reputation.
Reminder: Wilson had two of his four career 500+-passing attempt seasons in his three years with Schottenheimer.
McCarthy will be calling the plays in 2023 — he’s stressed his desire to run the ball — but the team simply doesn’t have the personnel to execute a rushing attack at a higher rate than it tried (unsuccessfully) last year.
The Cowboys traded a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick for Brandin Cooks, who’s coming off his worst season since joining the Texans in 2020. Entering his age-30 season, Dallas is hoping Cooks experienced a bump in the road rather than the end of it.
Meanwhile, Houston gained a piece of Dallas back when the Texans signed tight end Dalton Schultz this offseason. Veteran stalwart Ezekiel Elliott is gone, resetting a backfield Elliott has dominated since being a first-round selection in 2016.
The Dallas Cowboys are weird.
Out goes pass-friendly Kellen Moore. In comes run-friendly Brian Schottenheimer. Plus, Mike McCarthy wants to run the ball more.
Yet Ezekiel Elliott is gone and not replaced. Brandin Cooks was added. Mike Gallup is two years removed from injury. pic.twitter.com/2moRy2L2mV
— Michael Sicoli (@Michael__Sicoli) July 10, 2023
The team hasn’t reinforced the running back room like a run-heavy unit would, suggesting the Cowboys may take a more balanced approach than they tried in 2022.
Dallas already has a superstar in CeeDee Lamb. The addition of Cooks combined with Michael Gallup — now two years removed from his ACL tear — boosts a receiver room that should be deeper than years past.
Jake Ferguson won’t be able to replicate Schultz’s production in the receiving game, but he did flash more often than a rookie tight end normally does. He may not be as big of a downgrade as people think.
Prescott is currently the QB10 in drafts, sitting in the middle of the sixth round in 1-QB formats. He sits in between Deshaun Watson (QB9) and Tua Tagovailoa (QB11) in current redrafts.
Darren Waller, Javonte Williams, and Brandon Aiyuk are similarly priced non-QBs.
Prescott’s rushing volume will determine how high his ceiling will be, but his fantasy production should be among the safer options in fantasy.
The interceptions will drop from his career-high 15. Hopefully, a 6.0% drop percentage — 12th worst in the league — will drop for the entire Dallas unit with the addition of Cooks.
If Prescott can just hit his career average yards-per-game, that will provide roughly 20 more passing yards each week. In a 17-game season, that’s an additional 340 passing yards that equate to almost 14 extra fantasy points.
— Ernie (@es3_09) July 13, 2023
Even then, the rise in rushing volume should provide a solid boost. Prescott matched his carry count in 12 games in 2022 as he did in 16 games a year prior. Now yet another year removed from his 2020 ankle injury — paired with an offensive coordinator that knows how to work with a mobile quarterback — Prescott should provide a rushing baseline he hasn’t had in years.
Passing: 4,233 yards, 28 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Rushing: 288 yards, four touchdowns, three lost fumbles
Fantasy PPG: 18.77
That would’ve led Prescott to be the 2022 QB8 in PPG in standard scoring (four-point passing TDs). Draft him accordingly.
A Look Inside the Dallas Cowboys
Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Michael focused on Dak Prescott in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Cowboys by Ryan Weisse.
Pollard took significant steps forward as a player last year, and fantasy managers took notice. He ran for over 1000 yards, caught 39 balls, and scored 12 touchdowns, finishing as the RB8 in fantasy. He did all this while splitting time with Ezekiel Elliott, who is no longer on the team. While this should mean an increase in volume, it will also likely signal a drop in efficiency. Things get harder when you’re handling every touch from early on in a game. Another top-10 season is within reach, but expecting a top-5 season might be a reach.
There are 238 vacated carries as long as Zeke doesn’t resign with this team. Most will go to Pollard, but if Davis is the 1b to Pollard’s 1a, or even just his backup, he is a major sleeper heading into 2023.
Lamb finally broke out last year, and it’s easy to think he’ll improve in 2023. However, the coach has said they want to run more, and it’s more likely Lamb mirrors his 2022. He was the WR5, so that’s nothing to scoff at, but don’t expect much improvement.
Cooks moves from Houston and into a much better fantasy situation. Some of his best seasons were as the WR2 to Robert Woods. With defenses focusing on Lamb, Cooks should get back to his 1000-yard ways in 2023.
Gallup finds himself the odd man out if the team’s passing volume dips. He will be the WR3 behind Lamb and Cooks, and last year, that role only netted 73 targets. A drop in pass attempts could see Gallup in the 60-70 target range, killing any upside he once had.
Luke Schoonmaker / Jake Ferguson
When you list two names, it means they don’t have one. If either guy were to take over the role vacated by Dalton Schultz, there would be some fantasy upside. They can be ignored in fantasy drafts as long as they’re splitting the role.
We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles.