Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott capped off a fascinating debut campaign by nabbing the 2016 Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award at Saturday’s NFL Honors ceremony.
The wide belief was that the award would go to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, or perhaps a combination of both Dallas rookies. Prescott ended up receiving 28 of the 50 votes, while Elliott got 21.
Not to say that Prescott doesn’t deserve the award: quite the opposite. Drafted as an afterthought in the fourth round — behind Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg (!), Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler and Connor Cook — Prescott was thrust into the starting role in August when Tony Romo went down with a broken bone in his back.
Once fate took over, Prescott never wavered. Showing the calm of a veteran from his opening snap, the rookie dazzled viewers during a pristine preseason. Many expected that to change when the real action began, but Prescott was just warming up.
Starting all 16 games — and keeping Romo on the bench — the former Mississippi State star guided Dallas to a 13-3 record and the NFC’s top playoff seed. Along the way he threw for 23 touchdowns and just four picks, while completing 67.8 percent of his throws at a generous eight yards per attempt.
To be fair, Prescott was aided from wire-to-wire by the jaw-dropping play of Elliott, the fourth-overall pick who lit up defenses for a league-leading 1,631 yards on the ground. While falling 177 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record, Elliott became just the fifth rookie since the 1970 merger to lead the NFL in rushing, along with Dickerson, Earl Campbell, George Rogers and Edgerrin James.
The argument for Prescott is the position he plays. While Goff entered the league unsure of what direction the sun rises, the Cowboys‘ rookie passer was a plug-and-play wonder who thrived at the toughest job in sports. Nothing was too daunting for Prescott. People kept waiting for him to fail, but instead he proved to be a level-headed leader from the very first throw.
That should scare the rest of the NFC East — and every team in the land — is that both Prescott and Elliott are just getting started. Barring injury, this duo is poised to bring joy to Cowboys fans for years to come — no matter who won this award.