Report: Cardinals to bring in QB Dak Prescott, DB Kevin Byard

Photo: USASTI

Photo: USASTI

BY: ED COLE GLENDALE, Ariz. – There’s quite a bit of quarterbacking talent coming out in the 2016 NFL Draft whose names don’t end in Wentz, Goff or Lynch. How about Prescott, Dak for the Cardinals? According to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals will host Prescott on Thursday. Prescott put up some very impressive numbers during his four years at Mississippi State. He completed 734-of-1169 pass attempts (62.8-percent) for 9,376 yards, 70 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Prescott also showed his rushing prowess as well, especially from his sophomore season through his senior season. In all, he rushed 536 times for 2,521 yards and 41 touchdowns. He had four rushing scores in 2012 - his freshman year, but he – pun intended – took off after that, rushing for 13 touchdowns in his sophomore season, 14 in his junior season and 10 in his final season in Starkville, Miss. NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein took a look at Prescott - whom he compares to former Chandler Wolves quarterback, and current Packers quarterback Brett Hundley - and broke down his strengths, his weaknesses and gave his bottom line on Prescott: STRENGTHS Thick, muscular frame. Has proven over last three seasons that he can withstand a pounding. Has enough natural arm strength and hip snap to fit throws into an NFL window. Stands tall and delivers a tight spiral with over-­the­-top delivery. Very little wind­up and gets ball out with the flick of a wrist. When pocket is clean, can deliver accurate strikes around the field. Played with improved vision and care for football this season and eliminated many of the ill-­fated throws that turned into interceptions in 2014. Still a work in progress, but continues to show a level of growth as a passer. Threat with his legs, scoring 37 rushing touchdowns over last three seasons and had 94 rushes of ten yards or more during that time. Can be used as goal-­line rushing option. Willing to extend plays outside of pocket with legs but look to finish the play with his arm. Mentally tough enough to carry a heavy offensive burden for the Bulldogs over last three years. When protected better in 2014, showed an ability to challenge deep and strike with accuracy and touch. WEAKNESSES Beat up this year thanks to poor protection. When he wasn't being sacked, he was being hit hard. Not as competitive a rusher in 2015. Sacks and usage in run game might be taking a toll. Increase in short pass attempts from 86 to 208 this year reason for higher completion numbers. Accuracy on intermediate and deep throws dropped sharply. Pocket poise has been compromised. Hyper­ aware of pressure around him and lacks awareness to slide and find temporary shelter to make throw. Concern over pressure too often trumps ability to get through progressions. Must speed up the pace of his reads. Footwork is a mess. Slight stride onto stiff upper leg with little weight shift. Restricted follow through and too often tries to muscle throws with upper body. Throws to target rather than leading or throwing them open on short/intermediate throws. Too respectful of underneath coverage and must be more willing to challenge the defense. Needs to improve anticipation. BOTTOM LINE Hard to find an NFL comp for Prescott because he's built like Donovan McNabb, but lacks McNabb's ability and polish. Prescott has NFL size, mobility and enough arm, but the tape shows a player who must improve his mechanics, poise and quickness through his progressions if he is to become a full­-time starter in the NFL. There are absolutely draftable traits and upside, but he will need extended work to smooth out his flaws. Until then, a team would be wise to utilize him on short-yardage packages. With the Cardinals secondary in a state of flux, with safety Rashad Johnson gone, safety Tyrann Mathieu still rehabbing his right knee after ACL surgery, and cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Tony Jefferson’s futures up in the clouds, the team’s reportedly taking a look at some talent that they didn’t see at the NFL Scouting Combine in former Middle Tennessee State defensive back Kevin Byard. Byard – who garnered first-team All-Conference USA honors last season – ended his career with the Blue Raiders ranked No. 1 in interceptions (19), interception return yards (377) and interception returns for touchdowns (four). In 49 career games played with Middle Tennessee State, Byard forced or gained 25 turnovers (19 interceptions, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery). Zierlein also broke down the good and the bad of Byard, and gives his bottom line take on him: STRENGTHS Strong football IQ. Lines secondary up and is assignment-­oriented. Disciplined in zone coverage reading and responding to the quarterback’s eyes. Scans through route developments like a quarterback. Good awareness as single-­high safety and rarely panics when faced with route combinations meant to create mistakes and indecision. Plays with smooth backpedal and adequate footwork and looks to have. Always active. Former high school receiver with plus ball tracking and ball skills over the top. Holds school record with 19 career interceptions and has 19 passes defensed over the last two years. Effort never questioned and brings desired football character onto field and into locker room. Willing downhill charge against the run. WEAKNESSES Despite his frame, not as physical a hitter as expected. Had opportunities to make the big hit but rarely chose to send that message. Active tackler, but needs to be better at squaring up and finishing with direct wrap ­up tackles rather than grab and drag finishes. Average agility to deal with trash near line of scrimmage when stepping downhill against run or screens. Can improve his angles to the ball. Slight hitch in when redirecting opening door for dangerous separation by speedy targets. Below average mirror and match in man coverage. Scouts concerned with overall long speed in coverage. SOURCES TELL US "Ankle tackler so that's a concern and I just don't trust him in coverage. I know he has all the interceptions but I don't see a player who can match up in space against NFL-­caliber receivers. I know some scouts love him because of his football IQ, but that’s not enough for me." -- NFC Director of Scouting BOTTOM LINE Byard is a four­-year starter whose ball skills and high interception total has garnered him attention since his freshman season. While he has the looks of a player who could excel near the box, he lacks the consistent physicality needed and he does his best work as a deep safety. Scouts are all over the place on Byard.