The Dallas Cowboys targeted the quarterback position early in the 2016 NFL Draft and despite being linked to Dak Prescott for quite some time leading up to the draft, the quarterback they had in mind at the top of the draft was Paxton Lynch. After the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott, Jerry Jones and company worked the phones to move up and select the Memphis quarterback, according to Peter King.
Dallas had Lynch as a clear first-round pick, the 12th overall player on their board, and the conversation in the room echoed what they'd discussed as a staff for weeks: We think Romo's going to be our quarterback for three or four more years, but he's also been hurt two of the past three years. At some point we've got to start the process of finding his heir.
Dallas had tried trading up for Lynch, calling up teams in the late teens up to the late 20s. The Cowboys were willing to give up their second- and third-round pick up until the mid 20s where they would then give up their second- and fourth-round pick to move up.
One team that showed interest in trading back was the Seattle Seahawks, but after the Cowboys refused to give up their second- and third-round picks, the Denver Broncos swooped right in and offered a better trade. The Broncos and the Seahawks agreed upon the trade and Lynch became a Bronco and the rest became history.
The Cowboys went on to address the quarterback position just a few rounds later by drafting Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State, but the original plan was for Lynch to be apart of this roster and not Prescott. Before the draft, the Cowboys were the team that did the most due diligence with Prescott. There seems to be some comparisons between Lynch and Prescott, but there's a reason Lynch was a first-round pick while Prescott slipped until the fourth round.
With OTAs underway and the team heading into training camp, criticism over Prescott may be extremely premature, but there are some question marks regarding his development over the course of the 2016 season and whether it will keep the Cowboys away from the position in the 2017 NFL Draft. As it stands now, Kellen Moore will be the backup behind Tony Romo with Prescott holding the clipboard in a developmental role, unless Jameill Showers can get himself in the mix somewhere. This would mean that the Cowboys would be carrying three quarterbacks for at least a majority of the season.
Barring any injury to Romo, we likely won't see any snaps out of Prescott in 2016. Even with a Romo injury he still may not play. His game needs refinement and adjustment before being a quarterback at the professional level. But if he struggles to show progress throughout the year, who's to say that the Cowboys won't try to double-dip at drafting a Romo successor in next year's draft?
There are some decent options in Brad Kaaya, Deshaun Watson, and Chad Kelly. Many quarterbacks will emerge as the season nears, but these are the three quarterbacks people seem to have in mind in regards to next year's class. Just remember, Todd McShay put out a 2017 NFL mock draft less than a week after the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft. McShay had the Cowboys selecting quarterback Mitch Leidner out of Minnesota:
Leidner shows some upside as a passer, but I'll be looking to see if he can improve his accuracy (59.5 completion rate and 14-11 TD-INT ratio in 2015). Listed at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, Leidner has ideal size and has shown the ability to make plays with his legs off designed runs and scrambles. He's a late riser to keep an eye on, similar to Blake Bortles and Carson Wentz.
The one thing that will hold back the Cowboys is that they simply do not target quarterbacks often. Since the turn of the century, the Cowboys have drafted three quarterbacks: Quincy Carter in the 2001 NFL Draft, Stephen McGee in the 2009 NFL Draft, and Prescott in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Dak Prescott will be brought along slowly in Dallas. The team met with Prescott at the combine, but they also had a private workout with the quarterback on top of practicing with him for a week at the Senior Bowl. Prescott was part of the South team in the Senior Bowl, but the Cowboys' definitely had their eye on him throughout the week of practice as well as the game.
Regarding his value, Prescott was likely a third-round pick before the DUI. In fact, Walter Football had him graded as a second-round pick before the incident. Dallas received a good value in Prescott and while Lynch may have been their original target, Prescott was definitely a contingency plan the Cowboys had no problem with. Tracking Prescott's progress throughout the season will be something to watch, but just because the Cowboys drafted Prescott does not mean he's their quarterback of the future nor will keep them away from the position in next year's draft.