The other day, I was scrolling through some ESPN stories and came across a head-scratcher - according to ESPN's stats division, Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott's performance this season has been miles about that of another highly-touted rookie, Carson Wentz.
QBR is ESPN’s way of calculating a quarterback’s performance. Unlike the traditional passer rating metric, QBR purports to take into account things like strength of opposition, how far passes travel through the air and whether the quarterback was under pressure.
The fact that Prescott has a higher QBR than Wentz isn’t surprising - he also currently has a better passer rating (103.9 vs. 92.7). It was the size of the difference that was eye opening.
According to ESPN and the 10,000 lines of code that go into calculating QBR, Prescott leads the league with an 82.9 QBR, while Wentz ranks 29th with a 49.9.
Has Prescott really been nearly twice as good as Wentz? That may be news to ESPN's Mike Sando, who interviewed six NFL executives to find out which quarterback they’d rather have on their roster. Surprise - all six would choose Wentz.
If ESPN’s QBR is such an advanced metric, I’m surprised it doesn’t include factors that contributed to Prescott’s impressive start.
First, let’s look at Prescott’s offensive line, ranked best in the league by the number-crunchers at Football Outsiders. The Eagles come in around the middle of the pack at 13, but only two games without Lane Johnson have been factored into that ranking.
What about the relative strength of the weapons surrounding Prescott? Not only does he get wide receiver Dez Bryant back this week, he’s got the league’s second leading rusher in rookie phenom Ezekiel Elliott, which helps mightily in the Cowboys play-action pass attack.
Prescott is currently completing an astonishing 79.6 percent of his play action passes for an average of 10.7 yards per attempt, tops in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. 26.6 percent of Prescott’s passes are play-action as well. So yeah, he’s benefiting from that unstoppable running game.
Meanwhile, Wentz is throwing to a wide receiving crew that can’t hold onto the football. They currently own the fourth worst drop percentage in the league, according to Sporting Charts. As a result, the offense has scored just one touchdown over the last eight quarters, and just three TDs over the last 13.
Even 34-year-old Jason Witten is outperforming highly-touted Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who has yet to live up to the 6-year, $43.6 million contract extension he signed in the offseason. In fact, Witten has more catches that anyone on the Eagles’ roster, and he’s not even their leading receiver.
So is Prescott mathematically better than Wentz at this point in their relatively brief careers? Sure, but it seems like a stretch to say he's been nearly twice as good. Call me when the Eagles actually hire someone on offense to help Wentz.