clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Carson Wentz has the brightest future, but Dak Prescott is the most compelling NFL rookie

However you look at it, it’s been a great year for rookies in the NFL.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The first sign this was going to be the Year of the Rookie came at the start of the preseason when No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff made his debut with the Los Angeles Rams against the Dallas Cowboys. Given that the Rams traded two first-round draft picks to select Goff, expectations were high. But he was overshadowed by no-name fourth-round pick Dak Prescott, who’s gone on to lead the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East.

Eight weeks into the season, it’s evident that game was a harbinger of things to come. While Goff remains stapled to the bench, Prescott is seemingly on the verge of taking away Tony Romo’s starting job for good. His most impressive performance came last Sunday, where he orchestrated a game-winning touchdown drive in overtime to lead the Cowboys over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The quarterback who Prescott defeated, Carson Wentz, is another impressive first-year passer. He entered training camp as the third-string quarterback, but was named the starter prior to Week 1 after the team traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings. The Eagles paid a big price to land him — they traded up to the No. 2 spot in the draft — and it’s worked out. Pro Football Focus currently ranks the North Dakota State standout as its top rookie.

While Prescott and Wentz were largely under the radar this summer, Joey Bosa commanded a swath of attention while he was in the midst of a bitter holdout with the San Diego Chargers. Finally, after more than one month, the stalemate ended. Even though Bosa sat out the first four games of the season, he’s a favorite to land Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Since this year’s rookies are so dynamic, they’re deserving of more recognition than your standard superlatives. The halfway point of the season is the perfect time to give them their due:

Rookie Awards

Brightest future (Carson Wentz): The rookie who’s having the best season may not necessarily have the best future. This award factors in longevity, which means its recipient plays a style of football that is conducive to a long and fruitful career. Wentz fits that criteria to a T.

Wentz, 23, has cooled down a bit after an MVP-caliber start. Through the first four games of the season, he threw for 1,007 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. Since then, he’s posted a passer rating of 76.4, though it’s worth noting he had a QB rating of 91.4 last Sunday night against Dallas.

What makes Wentz a good bet to last is the way he plays quarterback. At 6’5, 235 pounds, he’s a big-bodied passer who has the physique to withstand a grueling NFL schedule. He also runs judiciously, only taking off 19 times this year. His longest run is for 10 yards.

As Cam Newton and others continually demonstrate, the world is not kind to quarterbacks who venture out of the pocket with regularity. They take a beating, with referees often not protecting them like other quarterbacks. Newton complained about that this week and even met with commissioner Roger Goodell.

Wentz probably won’t have to deal with that kind of adversity during his career. If he keeps up this performance, he could be the Eagles’ starting QB for the next decade.

Drama King (Dak Prescott): Prescott is a gift from the Storyline Gods. Not only is he the standout rookie quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys — a distinction that would propel anybody to superstardom — but he give Tony Romo the Wally Pipp treatment. It’s like this stuff is scripted.

When Romo went down with a back injury at the start of training camp, he was expected to return to his starting job after the Cowboys’ Week 7 bye. But now, after six straight wins, those plans have changed.

The team has yet to clear Romo to play, and that buys the Cowboys some additional time. Eventually they’re going to have to make a choice, though. With the way Prescott is playing, it’s nearly impossible to shift away from him.

Cutting ties with Romo would carry severe financial implications for the Cowboys. If he’s traded, he’ll cost the Cowboys $19 million in dead money next year. Designating Romo a post-June 1 cut would leave Dallas with $12 million in dead money for 2017 and nearly $9 million in dead money the following season.

But if the Cowboys want to win this season, they must stick with Prescott and his 99.6 quarterback rating. It’s rare that a rookie quarterbacks performs this well — and causes as much drama in the process.

Roommates of the Year Award (Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa): Elliott and Bosa were roommates during their time together at Ohio State. They may both walk away with hardware at the end of this season.

Prior to the start of the season, Elliott said running behind the Cowboys’ offensive line was the “easiest job in America.” That definitely isn’t the case, but he’s making it look that way. He leads the league in rushing (799 yards) and yards per contest (114.1). Even though Prescott has been spectacular, Elliott may be Dallas’ MVP.

Bosa, meanwhile, is off to one of the best starts in recent history. He’s recorded 26 pressures in his first four games, which is more eight more than than any rusher in their first four contests this decade. If only the Chargers would’ve prioritized bringing him to camp than haggling over contractual semantics.

Mr. Consistency (Michael Thomas): Getting to play with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees would be a treat for any rookie wideout. Thomas has taken advantage of the opportunity, and then some.

Despite only playing half of a season, he’s emerged as perhaps the Saints’ best wide receiver. Thomas leads New Orleans in catches with 42 and is second in receiving yards (500). He averages six receptions per game, too, meaning he’s always a factor.

Thomas bursted onto everyone’s radar with several acrobatic catches over the summer, and he’s carried that over to the regular season.

Saddest season (Jared Goff): Goff was so bad in the preseason, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher named him the third quarterback on the depth chart — behind Sean Mannion. He’s now the backup to Case Keenum, but still can’t crack the starting lineup.

Two weeks ago seemed to be the perfect time for the Rams to insert Goff into the lineup. Keenum played terrible against the New York Giants in London, throwing four picks in a 17-10 loss. With Los Angeles entering the bye, it would’ve been easy for Fisher to slide Goff in there.

But that’s not what happened. After the game, Fisher doubled down on Keenum. So, there you have it: the No. 1 overall pick can’t beat out a guy with more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (eight) on a 3-4 football team. It’s a sad situation indeed.