Connor Cook was a three-year starter at Michigan State and was arguably one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2016 NFL rookie draft class. At one point, Cook was projected as one of the first four quarterbacks off the board. In fact, some even projected him as a first-round selection. The Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns, two teams that everyone assumed were in the market for a quarterback and two teams that I thought were nice landing spots for Cook, passed on him a total of nine times. As it fell, Cleveland opted for Cody Kessler at the end of the 3rd round and Dallas admitted that Cook was their target, but when Oakland jumped them, they selected Dak Prescott one round later.
Ultimately, Cook’s slide stopped at the beginning of the 4th round, where the Oakland Raiders traded up fourteen spots, giving up a fifth-round pick as well, to acquire their future back-up signal-caller.
QB Connor Cook | Oakland Raiders | Formerly of Michigan State | 6’4” 217 lbs.
Cook put together a successful career and an impressive body of work in his 40 starts at Michigan State. He has all of the accolades of a top-flight quarterback. He is Sparty’s all-time leading passer and winningest quarterback. In 2015, he was named the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Big Ten Quarterback of the Year awards. He was the MVP of the 2013 and 2015 Big Ten Championship games and Offensive MVP of the 2014 Rose Bowl. It was quite an impressive on-field resume to say the least.
Cook has prototypical quarterback size at 6’4” and 217 pounds. His college tape showed that he is functionally mobile, while his combine testing proved that he is a capable athlete. His 4.79 time in the forty-yard dash was fourth best for quarterbacks this year. His 33-inch vertical was also fourth best for quarterbacks this year. His broad jump (9’5”) was middling and his 3-cone time of 7.21 seconds was in the lower half of his class. From what I saw, he wasn’t afraid to pick up yards with his feet and he’s tough to bring down. He played in a well-respected, pro-style offense and that experience is highly valued in today’s NFL front offices. As a result, he is comfortable taking snaps under center and he has good footwork in his drop-backs. Additionally, he proved his toughness by playing through an injury to his throwing shoulder in 2015.
Cook’s tape shows that he has a quick release and he’s capable of making NFL caliber throws. Furthering the point, he throws well to the sideline and throws with a nice touch in the end zone. To his credit, he rarely takes ill-advised shots downfield. Cook displays more than adequate anticipation while allowing for windows to develop and times his throws accordingly. Perhaps his biggest strength is how he performs in the face of the blitz. He stands tall, doesn’t get hurried and finds his target before taking the big hit.
Cook isn’t the perfect prospect, however. Like every quarterback, Cook has his flaws. In my view, his biggest flaw isn’t mechanical or even mental. It’s his perplexing personality. Even though he was part of the leadership committee at Michigan State, he was never named a full-time team captain. The rumor is he wasn’t liked in the locker room, however not a single teammate ever said that publicly. During his senior season, he was criticized, by the media, for not being a leader on the field. As a result, his top priority at the combine was to dispel all of these character concerns. Apparently, his interviews were terrible; he made bad impressions and turned teams off. He was out to prove that he wasn’t an arrogant and cocky football player and apparently he didn’t win the day during his one on ones. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my football players to be a little cocky. It seems that he crosses that fine line between cocky and arrogant though.
Cook’s most glaring on-field weakness is his inaccuracy. For proof, look no further than his completion percentage. He never finished a season with a completion percentage higher than 59 percent. The tape shows that a high number of those incompletions came on relatively simple throws, throws that should make for easy completions. More recently, his arm strength was questioned. It’s not noticeable on tape, and maybe it was just lingering effects from the shoulder injury, but he was clocked at just 50 mph at the combine.
Note: No quarterback who threw less than 55 mph at the combine has ever had a successful NFL career. However, Cook did say that his shoulder was 100% going into the combine, but for his sake, let’s hope that wasn’t true. His inaccuracy paired with his lack of velocity puts him at risk for high interception totals at the NFL level.
Connor Cook was overlooked coming out of high school and repeatedly passed over during the NFL draft in April. In the end, he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders to be a back-up quarterback. On the field, he possesses the tools to win games in the event that Derek Carr misses time. However, when it comes to his personality and leadership, he is still a huge question mark. If he can hold his own in the locker room and not get eaten alive, then he could have a successful career. Whether that’s as a career backup or future starter is yet to be determined. Despite all of the rumors, things never fell apart at Michigan State. Maybe he’s not all that bad in the locker room and rumors got inflated. Who knows?
Ultimately, he is going undrafted in nearly every fantasy rookie draft. If you are the type of owner who likes to insure your starters, and the rosters are deep enough, take Cook with your last rookie pick or even wait until after your draft to add him. As for today, Cook doesn’t hold any stand-alone fantasy value in 2016 and would be a mere dynasty stash or super-flex add.
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