Note: This fanpost was just promoted from a comment by request, so I apologize for the density, spelling, grammar, and the lack of media. I do not claim to be some amazing scout or professional columnist, I'm just an fan that has an opinion. Hopefully this will bring Connor Cook into a better perspective for those that only feed off of DraftTwitter.
A 3-year starter at Michigan State University. Commanded a pro-style offense to a 32-5 record, with losses coming to Notre Dame (2013), a Mariota led Oregon (2014), future National Champion Ohio State (2014), a last minute drive versus Nebraska (2015), and defensive powerhouse Alabama (2016). He came in to help the Spartans win the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in 2012. Cook took over the starting job in 2013 and led the Spartans to 2 Big Ten Championships (MVP for both), a Rose Bowl Championship (MVP), and Cotton Bowl championship. While the stat lines may not have looked amazing, Cook played really good in his games against conference rivals Ohio State (1-1) and Michigan (3-0).
What To Like About Connor Cook
Whenever you read a report on a prospect, the evaluator will always mention if a guy checks all the boxes. Connor Cook, checks almost all of them. Scouts typically want a quarterback in the 6030-50 range (6040), a frame that can take the punishment of being an NFL quarterback (220 pounds), and the hand size to control and manipulate the football (9.75"). Cook meets those requirements. He doesn’t have the mobility of Wilson or Kaepernick, but he isn’t a slouch. He's shown a willingness to tuck the football and pick up the required yardage with his feet. While he doesn't have elite arm strength, he has just enough to remain an aggressive gunslinging passer. Early on you would see some really bad throws mixed with some really great throws. In his junior and senior years, he kept slinging it but you saw the improvements in decision making, anticipation, reaction time, throwing motion/release, and ball placement.
Mechanically, Cook is great above the waist. When he throws with the proper mechanics and is able to transfer the torque from his body into his hips, you'll see him deliver on the big boy passes scouts like to see (Post/Nine/Corner/Out/Comeback). His throwing motion looks effortless and he shows confidence passing at all levels of the field. The deep touch passes, threading between defenders, strikes along the sideline, or heaters under coverages. He's shown he can throw them all.
Mentally, he's tough and polished. He has his facepalm moments (2nd Int of Cotton Bowl v Baylor), but he shrugs it off and looks onto the next play. He spent a lot of time behind a clean pocket and hasn't had many opportunities to show his poise under pressure. He is very aware of his faults and has shown that he's willing to put in the time and effort to improve himself. This postseason had talks surrounding his accuracy and footwork. At the combine, he focused on displaying his improvements and succeeded.
He's remained healthy most of his collegiate career, with his only injury coming late in his senior year. Although he left the Maryland game, he came back and finished the season, showing off more of his decision-making improvements and big-game throws through the pain. In an interview in mid-February, Cook confirmed his shoulder no longer required a brace and that he was 100% with a full range of motion with no pain.
Some have critiqued him as a game manager, and I agree, there is some of that style in his game. He places a priority on taking care of the football. Of his 37 games started, only 2 games occurred where he had more picks than touchdowns, the Cotton Bowl vs Alabama (0/2) and the Maryland game in which he injured his shoulder (0/1). When you look back at his interceptions, you begin to notice most are miscommunication between Cook and the receiver. As for Fumbles (4/7 lost), neither the Center-Quarterback exchange nor carrying the football is a concern.
On-field Issue Awareness
Like any young quarterback, he wants to hit the first receiver. He likes to track his guy with his eyes rather than controlling defenders, which draws extra attention and results in risky throws/lost opportunities. Other times his aggression gets in the way and he won't give his guy a chance to get open. Those plays result in Cook bailing on a play and throwing the ball away.
When the pocket begins to get muddy and he's pushed off his marks, Cook tends to abandon the base footwork mechanics and tries to strongarm balls off his back foot and falling away. In the pocket, there are occasions where he doesn't transfer power to his front foot when throwing. Cook will need an adjustment period to get used to the increased game speed and his new system. While learning the MSU offense, balls would be thrown late and behind targets. I expect the same to happen at the next level, but he'll get through it. Pre-snap blitz recognition will need some work. If you have a porous offensive line, I'd suggest addressing that before you throw him out there.
The Elephant In The Room
Does his team actually like him? Yes. His teammates like him. At least two have publicly come out in support of him. There were more reports of teammates/coaches being rubbed the wrong way by Drew Stanton and his religious stances.
Cook wasn’t a team captain, this must be a problem, right? Nobody cared once the season began. Overly sensitive people in the media started making it an issue after the Archie Griffin incident. Ultimately, team captain titles mean nothing. On-field leadership is what matters. Cook delivered on that and led his team to wins. Andrew Maxwell was a team captain, where is he now? If you really need a title to justify his leadership, he was still a member of the MSU leadership council and was named a game day team captain in the four biggest games of the season in 2015: Oregon, Ohio State, Iowa, and Alabama.
At the combine, he compared himself to Tom Brady. Cook is full of himself. I’ve read some dumb things this offseason regarding Cook. The negative reactions to his response was quite possibly the dumbest. Cook wins games. That's all that matters to him. Same with Brady. When he makes that comparison, it all sounds great to me and it makes sense. If Cook (or any other prospect) had said his pro comp wasn't one of the best players at that position, you'd start to question their confidence in themselves and eventually remove them from your board. Stop being overly sensitive and looking for every reason to hate on a guy because he isn't "your guy".
Cook isn't a once in a generation talent and his stat lines are not going to "Wow!" you. While he has his correctable issues, he comes into the NFL meeting the physical and mental requirements for the position and shown growth over his collegiate career. He is going to be a quality starting NFL quarterback. Personality issues aside, I had him graded as a late-first round QB prospect, the 2nd behind Goff (also a late first). If you can get him in the 2nd round and stash him for a year to prep, I’d consider that a steal. Build an offense around him. Don’t skimp on offensive linemrn (Devey/Pears…), get a couple playmakers, and treat him right. Because people like their pro comps, I think his floor is that of Alex Smith, but his potential could be that of Eli Manning and Jay Cutler.