-- There's no need to anoint? Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. His stat line has already done the job. Nine games does not ensure stardom or even success in game No. 10, but reasonable attempts to find blemishes in Prescott's game return only more supporting evidence.
You might have heard: Prescott has played well enough for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to leave $108 million favorite son Tony Romo on the bench, perhaps forever. Familiar disclaimers apply. Prescott plays with $70 million receiver Dez Bryant, $37 million tight end Jason Witten, the game's preeminent offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the NFL's most exciting young running back since Adrian Peterson.
Back to the fun stuff. The harder you look at what Prescott has accomplished so far, the harder it is to resist hyperbole, especially when comparing him to other rookie QBs in the past 10 years.
Prescott has fared better statistically through his first nine games than any of the 27 other first-year passers in ESPN's Total QBR vault, which dates to 2006. His 82.5 QBR is better than Andrew Luck's, better than Cam Newton's, better than Russell Wilson's, better than Robert Griffin's, better than Matt Ryan's -- better than them all.
Prescott has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,339 yards (8.4 per attempt) with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. His 106.2 passer rating is fourth best in the NFL.
The conversation picks up there.
Those are great stats, but how does Prescott compare to other recent rookies when defenses can play more challenging coverage combinations -- such as when they have additional defensive backs on the field?
Prescott has seven TDs and one pick in those situations, plus 11 rushes for 90 yards and another score. Luck tossed six picks with seven touchdowns when he faced additional defensive backs in his rookie season. His 18 carries for 112 yards and three scores boosted his QBR. Prescott was billed as a dual-threat QB, and he is one, but Luck was more of a runner early on.
Got it. What happens when we compare these rookies on longer passes -- say, those traveling more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage?
Prescott is first in completion rate (53.3 percent on 24-of-45 passing), first in QBR, first in passer rating. He has five TDs with no picks on those throws. Evaluators wondered about Prescott's accuracy coming out of college. He has surprised them in that area.
We all know defenses fear the Cowboys' ground game. What happens to Prescott's stat line on those longer throws when play-action is removed from the equation?
Prescott remains in the top three for completion rate (51.4 percent on 18-of-35 passing), QBR and passer rating. He threw all five TD passes on these longer throws without the benefits of play-action tactics.
Football is much easier for quarterbacks when a dominant ground game keeps the offense ahead of the chains.
No question, but the numbers say Prescott has been stellar when down-and-distances were not ideal. His 82.0 QBR when the Cowboys needed more than 10 yards for a first down ranks first among the 28 rookies. Prescott has had the ball in his hands as a passer or runner 43 times in those situations, five fewer than the average for the 28 rookies since 2006.
What about third-and-long?
Prescott ranks seventh among the 28 in QBR (59.4) on third-and-5 or longer, and he's ninth among all qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL this season. He has completed 39 of 57 passes for 427 yards with two TDs, one pick and five sacks in these situations. Not bad at all.
Is Prescott pumping up that third-and-long QBR with timely rushes?
No, that would be Aaron Rodgers, who leads all quarterbacks with 10 carries for 74 yards in those situations. Prescott ranks 54th out of 55 quarterbacks with minus-2 yards rushing in those situations. Only Sam Bradford has fewer (minus-4).
They say pressure busts pipes. How has Prescott fared when defenses get to him?
First in QBR (54.5) among the 28 rookies on 87 action plays when pressured. He's also first in QBR (88.8) when not pressured, and eighth when facing five or more pass-rushers (74.4).
One more thing. It seems as though the Cowboys have rarely trailed this season, but what do the numbers say about Prescott in crunch time?
Prescott ranks fourth among the 28 rookies in QBR (83.0) when tied or trailing by one score in fourth quarters. He has completed 25 of 42 passes for 283 yards with one TD, no picks and one sack in these situations. Dallas is 3-1 in games when Prescott played in fourth quarters while tied or trailing by one score. He failed to see a wide-open receiver deep against the Giants late in an opening-week defeat, but the numbers say Prescott is just fine with games on the line. Poise seems to be one of his greatest attributes.
There's no easy way to quantify the advantages provided by Prescott's supporting cast.
True enough. Prescott obviously would have a tougher time if the Los Angeles Rams had drafted him. That is something to keep in mind when Jared Goff or any other rookie almost inevitably fails to match the standard Prescott has set so far.