The Dallas Cowboys are staking their claim as the best team in the NFC. While a swarming defense and Tony Pollard’s rise as an elite playmaker are undeniable pieces of this ascension, the most important factor may be the man behind center.
Dak Prescott has shaken off an ugly start to his 2022 season — a terrible showing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, which included the broken thumb that cost him five games — to reclaim his place at the center of the Cowboys’ offensive universe. Sunday’s game was Prescott’s best of the season, a 22-of-25 performance that saw him find the end zone twice and effectively sit out the fourth quarter of a 40-3 win.
That’s propelled him from 17th to eighth in this week’s quarterback rankings, leapfrogging players like Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson in the process. He’s recorded a passing rating over 100.0 in three of his four games since returning to the active lineup. Dallas, unsurprisingly, is 3-0 in those contests.
He’s still got plenty to prove, but as of now — roughly halfway between opening night and Super Bowl 57 — Prescott is a top 10 quarterback. Let’s see who’s keeping him company after 11 weeks of the 2022 season.
We know the data is limited — but it does give us a pretty good idea of who has risen to the occasion this fall. Let’s see which quarterbacks are great and who truly stinks through seven weeks. These numbers are from the NFL’s Next Gen Stats model but compiled by the extremely useful RBSDM.com, run by The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin and Sebastian Carl.
Using expected points added (EPA, the value a quarterback adds on any given play compared to the average NFL result) along with completion percentage over expected (CPOE, the percent of his passes that are caught that aren’t expected to be in typical NFL situations) gives us a scatter plot of 35 quarterbacks (minimum 160 plays) that looks like this:
The size of each dot represents the amount of plays they’ve been a part of. A place in the top right means you’re above average in both EPA and CPOE. A place in the bottom left suggests things have gone horribly wrong (i.e. Baker Mayfield).
There are a lot of players taking up the creamy middle ground and some strange outliers, making it tough to separate this year’s average quarterbacks into tiers. Here’s my crack at it, but full details follow in the text below.