Kiper: Cook’s play, not character, hurts draft stock

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Connor Cook

Former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook will have to address leadership questions at the NFL combine this week, but one draft analyst said Cook’s play is the biggest reason his stock is falling.

“First of all, I go back and watch him,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said on a teleconference Monday. “There’s some passes that needed to be precise at times that weren’t.”

Kiper didn’t list Cook in either of his mock drafts so far this year, neither the one in January nor last week’s, and he thinks the former Spartans star is a second-round pick.

Entering his senior year, Cook looked like a potential first-round pick, but his completion percentage decreased for the second straight year, down from 58.7 percent as a sophomore to 58.1 percent as a junior and 56.1 percent in 2015.

Then, of course, there’s the never-ending question about why Cook wasn’t voted as a captain this year.

“I think in terms of that part of it, the great leadership qualities that you need to galvanize a team, the interviews for Connor Cook are going to be important because there’s going to be questions about that,” Kiper said.

In his most recent mock draft, Kiper has just two quarterbacks in the first round, North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz going No. 2 to Cleveland and California’s Jared Goff going No. 4 to Dallas. Most analysts have Paxton Lynch from Memphis ahead of Cook, too.

One issue for Cook, Kiper said, is that he puts more pressure on his offensive line because he’s not as mobile as some of the other prospects.

Kiper also thinks Cook missed a chance to help himself by declining an invitation to the Senior Bowl last month, noting that former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron fell to the fifth round after missing the all-star game in 2014. Cook told FOX Sports last week that he passed on the Senior Bowl to recover from a shoulder sprain, but Kiper thinks it would’ve been good for Cook to compete against other quarterbacks that participated, such as Wentz.

“If he felt like he could go, I think he should’ve gone,” Kiper said. “Just if physically he was even 80, 90 percent, go and then compete. But he didn’t and I think that affected it, as well.”