Experts say Cook is poised for NFL success

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

With all the talk over the last couple of months about Connor Cook and supposed leadership issues, one thing seems clear coming out of last week’s NFL Scouting Combine: The winningest quarterback in Michigan State history is in prime position to succeed in the NFL.

Where Cook ends up in the draft remains up for debate — any later than the second round would be a surprise — but according to NFL analysts, Cook has the makeup teams are looking for in a quarterback.

“I think the best decision he made was to come back to school for another year,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay told msuspartans.com. “He became more of a student of the game, you could tell just watching his eyes and progressions, he was seeing things faster. He was throwing to spots and anticipating throws. I thought he made a significant improvement from his junior year to his senior year.

“I think he and Kevin Hogan from Stanford are the only two guys that if forced into playing in the NFL next year would be mentally ready to do so. So it speaks to the development that he went through. I thought he was inconsistent in his junior year; (he) showed flashes, but a lot more consistent this past year. I just think this one last year in college really helped him and prepared him, whether he’s forced to start a game or two his rookie year, or just serve as a backup. But I think he’ll be more prepared.”

Cook finished 34-5 in his career, including 23-2 against Big Ten opponents. He is also the program’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (71), passing yards (9,194) and total offense (9,403 yards).

He threw at the Combine on Saturday to mixed reviews, while faring well in some of the other drills. Cook recorded the fourth-best vertical jump (33 inches), tied for the sixth-fastest 40 (4.79 seconds) and tied for the ninth-longest broad jump (113 inches). He also was 12th in the three-cone drill with a time of 7.21 seconds.

But most of the attention since the end of the season has been on character after Cook was not named a captain before the season, and he was questioned for how he handled the postgame ceremony at the Big Ten Championship game.

Cook was grilled at the Combine and handled himself well enough, so it seems, that teams will be focusing on his play.

“I know there’s all this stuff swirling around, he wasn’t elected captain,” said NFL Network analyst Charles Davis, “but 34-5 speaks volumes about what a guy can do, what his capabilities are, and he’s a guy that’s firmly in the conversation of being a first-round quarterback. It’s a big week for him to talk to the scouts and to the coaches and the teams, but all in all his talent speaks for himself.”

Former Michigan State quarterback Jim Miller, an analyst with SiriusXM NFL, thinks Cook will eventually land in the first round. And much of that is because of the way Cook performed late in the season with an injured shoulder.

The injury forced him to miss the Ohio State game, but he led the Spartans to a win over Iowa in the Big Ten title game and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

“He’s a big, strong-armed quarterback, comes with a pro-style offense, well-coached at Michigan State,” Miller said. “He can get in and out of plays in terms of checks. And he grows. He comes with a lot of wins, a lot of experience, and for me, he’s even played hurt. So I think coaches do look to see if guys are tough guys, and I think Connor Cook is one of those guys.

“To me, with all the other quarterbacks, there’s probably potentially three to four quarterbacks that could go in the first round, and I think Connor Cook is one of them.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau