The New York Jets continue to do pre-draft work on quarterbacks, and one prospect surprisingly receiving little attention is Michigan State’s Connor Cook. Here’s the breakdown of Cook the prospect, and how he may fit with the Jets. Check out more of our scouting reports right here…
2015 Statistics: 13 Starts, 3131 Passing Yards (7.7 Y/A), 56.1% completion rate, 24 Touchdowns, 7 Interceptions, 93.3 NFL Passer Rating
Combine Measurements: 6’4″, 217 pounds, 9 3/4 inch hands.
40 Yard Dash: 4.79 seconds
Vertical Jump: 33 inches
Broad Jump: 113 inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.21 seconds
Strengths: Teams that value pro style system experience and having “a winner” at quarterback will be making note of Cook. Teams like the Jets specifically that will be concerned about “all-weather” ability will also be interested. He’s a three-year starter with 40 total starts under his belt in a pro style offense. He displayed toughness playing through a shoulder injury late in the 2015 season, and had a signature moment leading his team down the field against Iowa late in the fourth quarter to win the Big Ten championship. Michigan State has developed a bit of a reputation for starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and Cook is by far the most decorated collegiately of the recent names (Cousins, Hoyer, Stanton). The physical tools are all there too – prototypical size, a more than adequate arm and a good athlete for the position. While not exactly a duel threat, Cook can move around comfortably enough and he was good enough athletically for Michigan State to occasionally use him as an option quarterback. Cook also has a quick release.
In a collegiate landscape where quarterback evaluation is often about projecting skill sets into NFL offenses rather than seeing translatable skills, Cook does a lot of things that will make NFL scouts salivate. He sees the whole field and works through progressions, showing the ability to move defenders with his eyes. He’s a confident, aggressive passer that has no problem testing tight coverage and windows. Puts good touch on his deep throws. He’s streaky and a rhythm passer, but when in that rhythm looks as good as any quarterback available in this draft.
Weaknesses: There have been noted concerns about him not being named a permanent team captain as a senior and questions over his personality. Teams doing their pre-draft work on him will have a lot better feel for these issues than anybody on the outside will, but I suspect it’s getting a little overblown. Typically if a prospect as high profile as Cook is bombing combine interviews and pre-draft visits, there would be more buzz about it. Jason La Canfora alluded to this in a piece earlier today, and mentioned he’s heard just as many positive things from teams. If concerns about leadership ability and attitude are confirmed internally by teams though, it will be a major red flag.
That’s not to say Cook is a clean prospect strictly on the field, far from it in fact. A major concern with Cook is his accuracy. I mentioned in strengths that he goes hot-and-cold, and that cold features a worrying inability to make short throws consistently and being inconsistent with ball placement on intermediate routes. At the heart of this issue is Cook’s inability to handle pressure well, and particularly an inability to be fundamentally sound when around pressure. Cook often throws from his back foot with pressure in his face, leading to balls sailing over receiver’s heads or giving defenders ample time to make a play. This mechanical issue sometimes carries into moving to secondary reads where Cook does not properly reset his feet. Cook’s aggressiveness also gets him in trouble when under pressure – he has a hard time admitting defeat on a play and throwing it away, too often willing to take a chance downfield.
Overall: There is a lot to like with Cook, but there are two worrying (evident) concerns. As much as a coaching staff may think they can work with Cook, the fact is accuracy is something that rarely sees significant improvement from college to pros. Cook never posted a 60% completion rate over a season in any of his three years as a starter. There are also real questions over whether he has leveled off. A prospect like Paxton Lynch for example has steadily improved each year. Cook’s improvement from sophomore to senior season was minimal. That’s fine for a Luck-level prospect, but not a player like Cook who still has key flaws.
Jets Fit: The Jets are QB needy with or without Fitzpatrick returning. Cook is more ready to come in and play immediately than given credit for, and he is the type of passer who would give Marshall and Decker a lot of opportunities to make plays in the event the Jets and Fitzpatrick don’t come to some agreement. The ideal scenario however would be for Cook to ride the pine, improve mechanically and hopefully be a better rounded player a year or two down the line. He’s unlikely to be an option at pick 20, and he’ll probably be gone by pick 51. If Cook’s the man for Maccagnan, look out either for a trade back in round one or a trade up in round two. The Jets have a visit lined up with Cook, according to Jason La Canfora.
Projection: Top 50 pick. I’ll take the projection a step further and predict Cook going late in the first round. It only takes one team to fall in love with you to be taken higher than the consensus, and my feeling is it’s going to happen with Cook. If a Kaepernick trade does not happen by the draft, look for Denver at 31 to be an option. Don’t rule out Kansas City or Arizona either as a long-term replacement for their veteran signal callers.
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