Cowboys Close 2020 Draft by Adding Former Pitt Starting Quarterback

Getty Ben Dinucci

The Dallas Cowboys did not spend a high-round draft choice on a quarterback, as previously projected. From the sound of things, they never even considered it.

But Dallas did come away with a rookie signal-caller: former Pittsburgh and James Madison product Ben DiNucci, selected in the seventh round (No. 231 overall) of the 2020 NFL draft — the Cowboys’ final choice of the annual offseason spectacle.

DiNucci began his collegiate career with the Panthers, throwing for 1,107 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions on 91-of-167 passing (54.5 percent) across 11 games from 2015-17.

He transferred to JMU in 2018 and saw his numbers improve as his years wore on. DiNucci finished with 5,716 yards, 46 TDs, and 18 INTs over 29 appearances. He saved his best for last, completing 70-percent of his attempts in 2019 for 3,441 yards, 29 scores, and only six picks, earning AFCA First Team All-American honors.

A strict-ish pocket-thrower at 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, though he’s not the strongest or tallest, DiNucci prides himself on his ball placement and (perceived) dual-threat ability.

“I’m an accurate quarterback,” he said in a post-draft conference call with Cowboys media, via The Athletic. “If the pocket breaks down I can use my legs and use some athleticism to do some things that might present challenges for defenses. I’m gonna put my head down and go to work.”

DiNucci is one of just three offensive players among Dallas’ draft class, joining first-round wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and fourth-round center Tyler Biadasz.

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Role with Cowboys

No, Dak Prescott has nothing to worry about. He’s safe and solidified as the club’s incumbent for 2020 and likely well beyond, assuming a long-term contract — negotiations for which remain ongoing — comes to fruition.

This addition does, however, put pressure on resident No. 2 Cooper Rush, who returned to the Cowboys by way of a one-year restricted free-agent tender. The club carried only two QBs on the 53-man roster last season, with Rush claiming the backup spot over Mike White. Let the clipboard battle commence.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible Dallas redshirts DiNucci for his rookie campaign, perhaps stationing him on the practice squad where he’ll be able to work with his new teammates.

No matter how you dice it, though, the 23-year-old (24 in November) epitomizes “project” for offensive-minded Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and coordinator Kellen Moore. You never know what you may have in these late-round fliers …

“He reminds me of a young Marc Bulger,” McCarthy said in his post-draft conference call, per The Athletic.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL