The Dallas Cowboys closed out their part in the 2020 NFL Draft with Quarterback Ben Dinucci from James Madison University. As only a 7th-Round pick, how good are the rookie’s chances of making the roster this year?
Last year Dallas only kept two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster; Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush. There is a clear top-two again this season with Prescott returning and Andy Dalton replacing Rush.
So there are two major questions for a guy like DiNucci:
- Will the Cowboys keep a third QB at all?
- Can he beat out fellow prospect Clayton Thorson?
That first question is the biggest one as the answer could render the other moot. Dallas may very well elect to roll with just Prescott and Dalton and keep their third QB on the practice squad again.
The Cowboys have vacillated on keeping two or three quarterbacks throughout recent history. They kept Mike White on the roster as the third QB in 2018 as a rookie. But after cutting him last year and adding Clayton Thorson, he was only kept on the practice squad.
We’ve also seen QB prospects such as Matt Moore, Alex Tanney, and Dustin Vaughan pushed to the practice squad despite intriguing preseason performances.
But talking about history with the Cowboys is a dangerous thing in 2020. We’ve watched this team for a long time now through the lens of the Jason Garrett Era, and now Mike McCarthy has come to town.
There are only a couple of seasons in McCarthy’s 13 years with the Packers where they didn’t have three quarterback on the roster. It’s a clear philosophical difference from what Dallas has been doing over the same time span.
If McCarthy’s bringing that same QB development strategy to the Cowboys then Ben DiNucci’s chances of making the roster go up significantly.
So now comes our second question; what sort of competition will there be between DiNucci and Thorson?
While DiNucci is the shiny new toy in our QB conversation, Thorson is only in his second season and was a 5th-Round pick last year by the Eagles. Getting drafted two rounds earlier may not mean much, especially by another team, but it’s not immaterial.
Even if the raw potential is the same, Clayton now has a year of NFL experience to add to his upside. While you’re more focused on potential with a third QB, that edge in experience could help Thorson perform better in practices and preseason games.
It’s also worth noting that the team which drafted him, Philadelphia, employs the same West Coast Offense principles as Mike McCarthy. So things they would’ve liked in Clayton when they drafted are likely to be thing that McCarthy will appreciate as well.
However, McCarthy also liked things in Ben DiNucci. And then there’s the added edge for DiNucci of being McCarthy’s first handpicked developmental QB with the Cowboys.
Not only that, but DiNucci has a fresh 4-year rookie contract. Because he was released by the Eagles, Thorson’s rookie deal was nullified and he will start hitting free agency in 2022.
Of course, these are all factors which will only come into play if there’s a slim margin between DiNucci and Thorson on the field. If one is clearly outperforming the other in practice and the preseason then the Cowboys will figure the contract stuff out later.
Remember, Andy Dalton is only here on a 1-year deal. The Cowboys would love for one of these prospects to show enough in 2020 to take over the backup job at a big discount next season.
So yes, Ben DiNucci has a very solid chance of making Dallas’ 53-man roster this season. With the rest of his fellow drafted rookies projected to do the same, it would only add to the hype that this class of 2020 is already generating.