Michigan State redshirt senior quarterback Connor Cook is a talented, but inconsistent prospect. At 6’4”, 217 lbs. with 9 ¾” hands, he possesses prototypical size for the position. Cook will be 23 years old during his rookie season.
The first thing that stands out about Connor Cook is his extremely quick, fluid throwing motion. When Cook is in rhythm, he gets the ball out very quickly with very little wasted movement. Unlike many quarterbacks to come out of college recently, Cook has experience playing under center and turning his back to the defense in the play action game.
He displays impressive touch, timing, and accuracy when throwing down the field and he throws with good velocity when in rhythm. Cook has experience reading the full field, but must do a better job of checking off his primary receiver and surveying the field for better options.
There are times when he does a very good job of manipulating defenders with his eyes to create larger throwing windows. Cook must become more consistent in not giving tells to the defense on where he is going with the ball. There were too many times when he looked to the side he was going to just before receiving the snap. This combined with staring down targets led to an inordinate amount of batted passes by defensive linemen.
Cook is a good enough athlete to make the defense pay with a first down run from time to time, but his passing mechanics and accuracy are very inconsistent on sprint outs and when forced to scramble to either side.
Cook has a “gunslinger mentality” as he is very confident in his ability to make difficult throws to covered receivers at all levels of the field. He displays comfort throwing to covered receivers and trusts his guys to consistently come down with contested catches. He throws a lot of 50/50 balls down the field.
Inconsistent lower body mechanics lead Cook to throwing with all arm much too often. This leads to very inconsistent ball placement to the short to intermediate levels of the field and many high misses. If this continues at the next level, turnovers and inaccuracy will be major issues for him.
Much work should be spent on keeping his eyes and feet in tandem as he gets caught in poor throwing positions too often. This occurs because Cook’s feet do not always move with his eyes. Inconsistent accuracy and a loss of throwing velocity show up as a result. He has experience throwing from multiple platforms partially due to this issue. Run after catch opportunities were minimized in the Michigan State offense due to Cook’s inaccurate throws and decision-making. He often made receivers work hard to catch the ball in tight quarters.
Cook’s decision making under pressure must improve. He must learn not to make a bad play worse by throwing the ball to the other team. Learning to take sacks, throwing the ball away, and living to play another down should be drilled into his head from day one by his position coach.
Cook predetermines throws at times and does not consistently do a good job of transitioning from pre-snap to post-snap reads. He also stares down receivers and forces the ball into tight coverage with regularity. This leads to dangerous throws into traffic while easier completions are left on the field.
Cook plays with heavy feet in the pocket. His lower body mechanics break down and accuracy plummets when forced to speed up his process due to the pass rush, being forced to move off his spot, and when he sees a receiver come open earlier than expected.
He is a very rhythm-oriented passer who is at his best taking the snap and throwing to his primary receiver in rhythm. When rushed or blitzed, Cook’s first instinct is to throw downfield rather than taking what the defense gives him underneath.
With all of this being said, credit must be given to Cook for being tough in the pocket and showing a willingness to stand in and take big hits while delivering the ball.
Overall, Connor Cook is an extremely confident passer who takes and makes difficult throws into tight windows, but the overall inconsistency in his game is alarming. If one were to make a highlight reel of his best plays, many of them would be to covered receivers coming down with 50/50 balls. Improving on the nuances of the position such as eye discipline, showing patience in the pocket, and taking what the defense gives him would help Cook improve on becoming a more consistent game manager. Improvement on lower body mechanics and speeding up his foot quickness in the pocket would greatly benefit Cook as well.
At this point, Connor Cook is a quarterback with a high ceiling and low floor from play to play. Landing with a patient organization and good quarterback coach will be key for his development. If he can become a more consistent all-around player, Cook has a chance to develop into a solid NFL starter.
In regard to the Cleveland Browns, Connor Cook should only be considered if they choose against taking a quarterback in the first two rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft. Hue Jackson’s track record as a quarterback developer could greatly benefit a player like Cook, but better options are likely to be available with their earlier selections.