When I scouted for the Carolina Panthers from 2003-2007, I was required to give every player a critical factor grade based on five core characteristics (intelligence, leadership, competitiveness, clutch factor and perseverance) that we believed were essential to being a championship player. I continue to use those traits as a barometer of a prospect's potential at the next level when I study them for NFL Media. While I'm not sure that Mississippi State's Dak Prescott possesses a skill set that is conducive to playing quarterback in the NFL, I definitely believe that he exhibits the qualities needed to be a championship player at the next level.
Looking at the 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior lead the Bulldogs to an upset win over LSU in Death Valley, I saw a smart football player with all of the intangibles to be a winner at every level. From his superb mastery of the Bulldogs' offense to his charismatic leadership style, Prescott put on the kind of show that leads scouts to fall in love with a prospect capable of standing out on the biggest and brightest stages. Not to mention his brilliant display of athleticism and playmaking ability as an explosive dual-threat quarterback on the perimeter.
Thus, I'm intrigued by the thought of Prescott playing the position at the next level after watching the likes of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton enjoy success as pros with similar skill sets. While Prescott must continue to evolve as a pocket passer to enhance his chances of playing the position as a pro, he certainly teases scouts with his talent, athleticism and impressive intangibles. Given the evolution of the game at the quarterback position, Prescott is an intriguing prospect to watch over the next couple years.
College Football Playoff final four
1. Florida State: Despite playing without Jameis Winston, the Seminoles found a way to knock off a ranked opponent at home. While the Seminoles didn't earn style points for the win, the fact that they were able to hold on in a very competitive contest says a lot about Florida State's toughness.
2. Oregon: The Ducks' offensive line woes prevent Marcus Mariota from playing in a clean pocket, but the Heisman Trophy candidate is such a spectacular playmaker that he is able to get it done with little assistance from his front line. While the Ducks will need to shore up their woes in pass protection, the presence of Mariota gives them a legitimate shot of winning the title.
3. Oklahoma: The emergence of Samaje Perine gives the Sooners a hard-nosed runner to complement an explosive offensive attack. With a battled-tested defense that's capable of slowing down high-octane offenses, the Sooners might be the most complete team in college football.
4. Alabama: The Crimson Tide are a little more offensive-centric than we are used to seeing from a Nick Saban squad, but the philosophical shift could help the team compete against the explosive offenses that dominate the top of the charts. If Lane Kiffin can keep the Blake Sims-Amari Cooper connection thriving against SEC competition, Saban's team could be the last one standing at the end of the year.
1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon: The junior standout surges to the top of the charts after single-handedly carrying the Ducks to a 38-31 win over Washington State. Mariota completed 21 of 25 passes for 352 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. The flawless performance showcased Mariota's growth as a passer and suggests that he is capable of carrying the Ducks' offense on the strength of his right arm.
2. QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M: "Trill" continues to run through the cupcake portion of the Aggies' schedule without incident. The sophomore completed 16 of 22 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns and his first interception of the season in Texas A&M's 58-6 win over SMU. The games will eventually become more competitive, but it's hard to knock Hill for compiling big numbers against inferior competition.
3. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: The buzz will grow louder for Prescott to join the ranks of Heisman Trophy candidates after playing a key role in the Bulldogs' upset win over LSU. The junior certainly deserves accolades on the heels of an impressive performance that saw him rack up 373 yards of total offense while exhibiting explosive qualities as a dual-threat playmaker. Given Dan Mullen's experience nurturing Tim Tebow into a Heisman Trophy winner, I would keep an eye on Prescott as a dark-horse candidate to walk away with the honor.