Raiders take Calhoun; Cook undrafted after three rounds
Michigan State expected to see Shilique Calhoun selected in the NFL draft on Friday night, it just didn’t seem likely he’d go before quarterback Connor Cook.
However, that’s exactly what happened as the Spartans defensive end was selected with the 12th pick of the third round, 75th overall, by the Oakland Raiders.
Cook, meanwhile, has not been drafted through three rounds after being projected as a late first-round or early second-round selection. The final day of the draft is Saturday with rounds 4-7.
The Lions had the 95th overall pick, but didn’t think about ending Cook’s slide late in the third round.
“I did not consider Connor Cook for this pick,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn said. “I think at the quarterback position we’re in pretty good shape.”
The Lions are looking for a backup quarterback this weekend, but ultimately, there were several players who could contribute more than someone who’d be behind quarterback Matthew Stafford.
With their third-round pick, the Lions instead picked a player from a rival school, taking former Michigan center Graham Glasgow.
Quinn said he didn’t have any perspective as to why Cook didn’t go in the first three rounds of the draft and said there were no medical issues.
“We scouted Connor,” Quinn said. “I’m not going to tell you what kind of grade we had on him, but we had no issues with him in terms of the player, as a person.”
Glasgow was surprised by Cook’s fall in the draft.
“I thought he was the best quarterback that we played at Michigan, and I think he’ll end up fine,” he said.
Calhoun earned second-team All-American honors three straight seasons while also being named to the All-Big Ten first team in 2013, 2014 and 2015. As a sophomore in 2013, Calhoun was named the conference’s defensive lineman of the year.
“He was an impact player and his teammates fed off his energy,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Shilique is a fast learner, who won’t need a lot of reps regardless of the defensive system. He’ll be equally productive in a 3-4 or 4-3 system. Shilique brings it in practice every day, and he plays with an attitude. He had a breakout sophomore year, and he took his game to another level the next three years.”
Calhoun was a defensive end in a 4-3 system at Michigan State and the Raiders feel like they can use him in a number of different ways.
“He has versatility, can play the SAM linebacker for us or defense end,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “A very productive young man. He understands how to rush the quarterback and he’s been an All-American, a very productive guy at a good college program.”
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound native off Middletown, N.J., is second in Michigan State history with 27 sacks and the all-time leader in tackles for loss yardage with 268.
One of only four players in the Dantonio era to be named a captain twice, Calhoun finished his career tied for most games played at 54.
“He can rush the passer, that’s what he does,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “He’s got to get bigger and stronger against the run and at times he could have done a better job setting the edge, but some guys just have an instinct and knack for getting to the quarterback and finishing and Calhoun is one of those guys.
“He played against some good offensive lineman in the Big Ten and I feel like he always showed up. He’s a two-time captain and had 40 consecutive starts over his final three seasons. … This guy will get home as a pass rusher.”
Calhoun had a breakout season in 2013, finishing tied for second in the FBS with four fumble recoveries, including two returns for touchdowns (16 yards vs. Western Michigan; 4 yards vs. South Florida). He also tied for the FBS lead with three defensive TDs, as he also had a 56-yard interception return vs. South Florida.
His three defensive touchdowns tied a modern-day Michigan State single-season record (games dating back to 1946), and he was the first Spartan to accomplish the feat in the first two games of the season.
He followed that with eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2014 and had 15 tackles for loss, including 10.5 sacks, as a senior in 2015, helping Michigan State win the Big Ten championship and reach the College Football Playoff.
“You could see his teammates really fed off of his infectious energy,” Michigan State defensive line coach Ron Burton said. “That was the storyline all last season. As a fifth-year senior, he really set the bar high for himself. Shilique consistently raised his level of play game after game, and he became a great role model for all of our younger players.
“He’s a natural pass-rusher and a coach on the field. Shilique is a winner and a leader.”
Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News contributed to this report.