No player taken in last year’s NFL Draft — perhaps in recent memory — outperformed their draft position more than Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott did coming out of Mississippi State.
The Cowboys’ fourth-round draft pick started the season as the backup quarterback, but when Tony Romo was injured in the preseason, Prescott stepped in and led Dallas to a 13-3 record, best in the NFC. That performance far exceeded being picked No. 135 overall. That’s part of the reason he was named the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Prescott ranked third in passing behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan and passed for 23 TDs with four interceptions.
Given their performances throughout the season and playoffs, here are five more players who should have been drafted higher last year:
Hunter Henry, 2nd round, San Diego: Though he shared time with Antonio Gates in San Diego, Henry is clearly the tight end of the future in southern California. The fourth pick of the second round out of Arkansas, Henry finished his rookie season with eight touchdowns, which was tied for the most by a tight end, and second among all rookies. He was selected to the NFL’s All-Rookie team.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed nearly 70 percent of the passes thrown to Henry.
Deion Jones, 2nd round, Atlanta: Taken No. 52 overall, the LSU standout was among the best defensive players in the Super Bowl, and the linebacker had nine tackles against the Patriots.
Jones had 108 tackles last season and also chipped in three interceptions and two returned for touchdowns. He also was selected to the All-Rookie team.
Malcolm Mitchell, 4th round, New England: Another fourth-round pick, the Georgia product came on late in the season to develop some chemistry with Brady.
In the regular season, Mitchell had 32 receptions for 401 yards and four touchdowns. Mitchell emerged with four catches for 98 yards and a TD against San Francisco in Week 11.
After that, Mitchell caught 306 yards and four touchdowns. In the Super Bowl, he had six catches for 70 yards, including one falling down near the sideline that kept a drive alive.
A’Shawn Robinson, 2nd round, Detroit: Robinson of Alabama played in 16 regular-season games — started five — and the playoff game. Among the Lions’ interior linemen, only veteran Haloti Ngata played more. Robinson made 30 tackles, including two sacks, and knocked down seven passes, the most among the NFL’s defensive-interior linemen.
Chris Jones, 2nd round, Kansas City: A star at Mississippi State, Jones’ presence was one reason the Chiefs could see Dontari Poe leave for free agency. Jones was the Chiefs’ best interior defensive lineman last season with two sacks and 10 quarterback hurries.