The Dallas Cowboys added Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and the hope is that the two-time All-American will eventually take over for Tony Romo in the starting lineup after having time to develop. But Jerry Jones would have preferred to prep Paxton Lynch for that role.
In the days after the NFL Draft, it's rare to hear any owner, general manager or coach admit that anything about the draft went wrong. "We got our guy" is a tired cliché, but Jones didn't even pretend that Lynch wasn't the player he earmarked for the job.
"I probably should have overpaid here," Jones told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of his unsuccessful attempts to trade up for Lynch. "I was still mad about it. Actually thought we had it done."
The Cowboys officially missed out on Lynch when the Denver Broncos traded up five spots from No. 31 in the draft order to take the No. 26 pick from the Seattle Seahawks, giving up the No. 94 overall selection, a third-round pick, to move up. According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, the Cowboys had an offer on the table to give up a fourth-round pick to move from No. 33 to No. 26, but wouldn't bump the offer to a third-round pick.
That decision to stay thrifty cost the Cowboys their quarterback of choice and led to some draft room heartbreak for Jones. Via King:
But at 9:56 p.m. Central Time Thursday, after 67 minutes talking to nine teams trying to deal for a Lynch-enabling pick, reality bit. Word filtered into the room that Denver had traded up with Seattle to pick Lynch. Pall over the room. Observers say owner Jerry Jones, who'd been standing next to the draft board trying to figure the math it might take to move up, looked and sounded crestfallen.
"Well," Jones said wearily to no one, "guess I'll sit down now."
Jones could've offered the Cowboys' third-round pick, the No. 67 overall selection, which would've easily made for a better offer than the one made by Denver. But Cowboys director of player personnel Stephen Jones, son of Jerry, pumped the brakes.
"No way with Seattle," Stephen Jones told Jerry Jones in the draft room, according to King. "Too much. They want our two and three."
Stephen Jones has reportedly saved his dad from overzealous draft decisions in the past. One book said Jerry Jones desperately wanted Johnny Manziel during the 2014 NFL Draft, but Stephen Jones "snatched the Manziel card straight out of his dad's hand." While Jerry Jones denied that report, he said "it got close to that" point in the draft room and didn't deny that he wanted to pull the trigger on Manziel.
Instead, the Cowboys didn't make any trades during the 2016 NFL Draft. The second-, third- and fourth-round picks that were put on the table landed Dallas linebacker Jaylon Smith, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and defensive end Charles Tapper.
But Jones still wishes he could've sent two of those picks away if it guaranteed landing Lynch, a 6'7 quarterback who is now set to be the Broncos' quarterback of the future.
More than 100 picks later, Dallas drafted Prescott after missing out on Connor Cook, who they also attempted to trade up for, according to the Star-Telegram. And while Jones insists he's happy with the selection of Prescott, the knowledge that the Mississippi State quarterback was no better than the third choice for the Cowboys isn't the most ringing endorsement.
* * *