October 29, 2015 - Greg Gabriel
Breaking Down Michigan State's Connor Cook
Going into the 2015 college football season, the odds on favorite to be the first quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL Draft was Michigan State’s Connor Cook. While that may no longer be the case right now, Cook is still going to be drafted early and he has the physical tools to be a successful NFL quarterback. Cook is a fifth-year senior and a three-year starter for Michigan State. Over the course of his career, he has attempted 1016 passes, with 590 completions and a completion percentage of just over 58%. He has thrown 64 touchdown passes to just 17 interceptions and this season has thrown 17 TD’s to only two interceptions in 254 passing attempts, which is excellent. Looking at his numbers, you might not think they are that impressive when you compare them to quarterbacks in spread schemes. You can’t think that way, because Michigan State plays from a run-first NFL style scheme. Since he has been at Michigan State, Cook has never played in those high percentage spread schemes. Cook will measure at about 6'4" – 222 with good overall athleticism. While he is not considered a running quarterback, he has good overall athleticism with quick feet. He is not a burner by any means but should run in the high 4.7’s to low 4.8’s at the Combine. Looking at his mechanics, you can’t find much fault in Cook. He has a tight overhand delivery with a quick release. He plays from both under center and from the shotgun and when under center, he shows a quick setup. Cook shows poise in the pocket and is able to go through a progression to find the open receiver. He shows the ability to look off a receiver and come back to him after he has gone through his reads. He has a good feel for pass rushers and enough mobility to extend a play if he has to. Cook does a good job reading defenses and for the most part he is a very solid decision maker. He throws a tight ball and he has very good arm strength. He shows good but not great overall accuracy and ball placement. He is not what I would call a pinpoint passer, but he is way above the “enough” level. While he will force some throws, he is usually very careful and that leads to his low number of interceptions. Some evaluators don’t like to look at a quarterbacks winning record as being important. That is ludicrous! It is one of the most important stats for a quarterback. How a QB plays and wether or not he wins in big games is huge in the evaluation process. In the last three seasons at Michigan State, Cook has a won/lost record of 32 – 3. That includes a win over Baylor in last year’s Cotton Bowl and a win over Stanford in the Rose Bowl following the 2013 season. In big games, Cook usually plays good football. When evaluating quarterbacks, the physical aspect is only part of the evaluation process. For a quarterback, the intangibles are at least 50% of the evaluation process. Is the player smart and instinctive? How well does he know and understand the offense? Does he love the game and does he want to become a great player? Is he liked and respected by both his teammates and coaches and is he a leader? Without making a school call and talking to people around the program, I can’t answer those questions. One thing is fact, he is a fifth-year senior and a three-year starter and he wasn’t elected by his teammates a captain. For a quarterback, that is a red flag! There have also been unsubstantiated reports about his personality and ability to get along with coaches and teammates. Again, I don’t know if they are true or false. Because those questions are out there, team scouts and decision makers will do their due diligence in finding out the right answers. What they find out, will have a big effect as to how high he gets drafted as will the interview process. On talent alone, Cook has the tools to be drafted high and be a solid NFL quarterback. He has multiple years in a pro- style offense and this will give him a jump on most of the competition. He is much more ready to come in and play than any of the spread quarterbacks.