Someday, I’ll understand the NFL draft.
It won’t be this year, however.
As the draft prepares to enter the fourth round on Saturday, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook is still undrafted. A guy many believed to be among the top five quarterbacks available this season has watched 98 players selected but hasn’t heard his name.
The likes of Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett and Southern Cal’s Cody Kessler all went on Friday, yet Cook still waits.
Why? Because apparently Cook is a bad guy.
Not bad in the smoke a bong connected to a gas mask, receive illegal benefits while in college sort of way. For Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss, that merely meant a drop to No. 13 overall in the first round.
Cook, it turns out, isn’t exactly the kind of guy that would win many elections. He’s brash, sometimes cocky, but always honest. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, and that can certainly come off the wrong way to some folks.
It might have had something to do with him not being selected a captain before his senior season, something that dogs him to this day.
“Connor Cook I thought might fall a little bit,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “But at this point you’re talking about potentially one of the top three or four best quarterbacks, and what we talked a lot about in the past couple months leading up — the character issues at quarterback. He was not a captain with that Michigan State football team. You wonder how much that’s factoring into the fall for Connor Cook.”
Clearly, it’s factoring quite a bit.
It can’t be his shoulder. He hurt it late last season, missed the Ohio State game and looked far from 100 percent in the win over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game and in the loss to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. He even opted not to play in the Senior Bowl, presumably to not push his shoulder.
But by the combine and MSU’s pro day, Cook was 100 percent, capable of making all the necessary throws.
Which takes us back to one thing — character. And again, apparently in the NFL, the idea of worrying about someone’s character tends to be a pretty subjective thing. Maybe Tunsil is just as nice as can be when admitting he took improper benefits.
Cook, however, has never made any apologies about how he is. Last week, he said he did everything he could to showcase himself during interviews with teams. But he was done worrying about it.
“I’m never gonna change who I am,” Cook said. “With the whole captain thing, with people questioning my character — I’m me whether you like me or not and I think I’m a pretty good dude and I think I showed that to these coaches and I think put myself in good situation entering the draft. I control what I can control, and I was going in there and being myself.”
Who is that? The winningest quarterback in Michigan State history, who led the Spartans to two Big Ten championships, two straight bowl wins (three, really, considering he engineered the winning drive in 2012 against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl), and a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
He was 34-5 in his career as Michigan State’s starter and nearly every one of his teammates wanted him under center. Was he everybody’s best friend? Nope. But every player knew that Cook’s presence meant wins, something that is pretty important in the NFL.
They defended him time and again since last August when he wasn’t named captain and they did again on Friday.
“Really upset to see CC still on the board .. !! Whoever gets this guy , you are getting a Leader, a Great person and most important a WINNER,” former MSU cornerback Darqueze Dennard posted on Twitter.
Tony Lippett, who was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2014 with Cook as his quarterback, was equally surprised, “Y is @Connor_Cook03 still on the board like that guy is a leader, a proven winner and a championship....”
Current MSU wide receiver R.J. Shelton also chimed in, “Connor you are the best qb in the draft... Check the resume.. Winner.. This is unreal.”
Even Michigan center Graham Glasgow, who was taken in the third round by the Lions, supported Cook.
“I thought he was the best quarterback that we played at Michigan,” Glasgow said, “and I think he’ll end up fine.”
Someday, Cook’s fall down the board might make sense. It will if the critics are right, if Cook’s personality proves divisive in an NFL locker room. His Michigan State teammates feel differently.
Time will tell which side had Cook pegged correctly, but on Friday, it was hard to understand.