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Broncos targeted Paxton Lynch in 2016 NFL draft but liked Dak Prescott

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Broncos regretting Lynch pick? (1:50)

Bill Polian says it's too early to regret drafting Paxton Lynch because a quarterback's second season is a key one in their development. (1:50)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For some of the Broncos faithful who take in Sunday's proceedings between Denver and the Cowboys, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott will be 6-foot-2, 238 pounds worth of hindsight.

Ever since injuries (most notably to Tony Romo) forced Prescott into the Cowboys' lineup as a rookie before last season, and he went on to throw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions while leading Dallas to a 13-3 regular season, his name will occasionally be spoken on the Denver airwaves in a what-might-have-been scenario.

That has been the case this week as the Cowboys prepare to make their first visit to Denver since 2009. And Prescott has every bit of the Broncos' attention.

"When you watch him play, he doesn't waste plays," said Broncos coach Vance Joseph. "Obviously, it's a run-first offense, but in the pass game he doesn't miss very many throws. He's very poised, very smart. ... If you get there, you have to wrap him up. ... He's a tough sack guy. ... He presents a lot of issues."

Prescott was one of a rather substantial number of quarterbacks the Broncos had in mind in their quest to replace Peyton Manning after their 2015 Super Bowl-winning season. The story of the 2016 draft is fairly well-worn in that both the Cowboys and Broncos wanted to select Paxton Lynch in the first round.

The Cowboys tried to swing a deal to move into position to take Lynch in the first round, but the Broncos who sent first- and third-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks to move up to No. 26 and get Lynch instead. At the time, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lamented hesitating at the price to trade up to select Lynch, offering, "I probably should have overpaid here."

The Cowboys eventually selected Prescott in the fourth round -- 135th overall, a compensatory pick, no less. And the rest is recent history, as Prescott is in his second season as a starter while Lynch, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, has seen Trevor Siemian win the team's starting quarterback job in back-to-back years.

A look back, however, reveals the Broncos had several quarterbacks in for visits to their suburban Denver complex before that draft, including Prescott, Lynch and Louisiana Tech's Jeff Driskel. Prescott did publicly reveal Wednesday that he missed a flight from Orlando, Florida, to Denver for that pre-draft visit, and arrived in Denver too late for a scheduled dinner with Broncos officials, including president of football operations/general manager John Elway.

Prescott told reporters in Dallas on Wednesday: "I'm sure the quarterback not making the flight doesn't look too good." Those travel troubles never publicly came up before the draft, but the team did examine the circumstances around Prescott's DUI arrest in March 2016 and discussed it with Prescott during his visit.

On the football side, Elway has often talked about the potential of quarterback prospects who are big-framed passers with mobility.

So much so that Elway has drafted two of the tallest players at the position in recent drafts: Lynch and Brock Osweiler, both 6-7.

In the months leading up to the 2016 draft, many league scouts were concerned that Prescott's mechanics had eroded between his junior and senior seasons at Mississippi State. As a junior, he played behind an experienced offensive line. Some of those linemen, though, were gone by his senior season, including Dillon Day, who is currently on the Broncos' practice squad.

Prescott's statistics were better as a senior, but from a technical perspective there were some concerns about his footwork and his ability to make the transition to a dropback passing game. Prescott did have the advantage of having played in the Southeastern Conference, so talent evaluators had seen him as a three-year starter against the best that college football had to offer.

Lynch, who played in a spread offense at Memphis, also carried concerns about his footwork and transition into a pro-style offense. But his size, arm strength and mobility, rare for a player of his height at the position, were what inspired former Denver coach Gary Kubiak to say, "We love his energy. He has a passion for the game ... and I think this growth is going to take place quickly."

The Broncos had spent time that offseason considering a trade for then-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, including a face-to-face sit-down between Kaepernick and Elway at Elway's house. When the Broncos and Kaepernick couldn't come to terms on a potential pay cut, the trade talks went "dormant," Elway said at the time.

The Broncos also signed veteran Mark Sanchez just before the draft and had Brian Hoyer, an unrestricted free agent, in for a visit. But as draft weekend arrived, Denver settled on Lynch as its top target after quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went 1-2 to open the first round.

The Broncos believed Dallas also wanted Lynch, and after the Cowboys took running back Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4, they tried to trade back into the first round to take the QB. Elway has since said he believed the Broncos had to get to the Seahawks' pick at No. 26 to get Lynch.

At the time, Elway said, "We felt like we had a pretty good idea [the Cowboys] were trying to get in there, too. We made the move we thought we needed to make to get Paxton."