For the best NFL prospects, this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine was all about showcasing their physical talents and athleticism. For others, they needed to address the media with some off-the-field questions, whatever those may be.
For now former Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook, his biggest task, strange to many, was answering a barrage of questions regarding his leadership and attitude, and why he was not elected a captain prior to the 2015-16 season.
According to many, his confidence and poise he often displayed on the field was felt by the media and scouts in Indianapolis, even though questions about his character were considered a red flag coming into the weekend.
It's pretty humorous that Connor Cook's primary goal before the draft is convincing team's he's not a douche bag.
— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) February 25, 2016
Humorous? Yes. But also fair, as being deemed a ‘leader’ for the most important position in all of professional sports is a big component.
There were a number of football personalities in attendance and asked to critique MSU’s winningest quarterback. Among those was Ohio State’s head coach Urban Meyer.
“I think the number one evaluation of any quarterback, where you’re the leader, is your competitiveness and your won-loss record, and he’s something ridiculous, 34-5,” Meyer said.
“I don’t know Connor, I know his coach (Mark Dantonio) very well, and I’m sure they love him there, so I’m certainly not judging,” said Meyer, who had 14 Ohio State players at the combine this year. “But I think that (captaincy question) is something you need to ask in that discussion at that position.”
NFL Network analyst and scouting expert Mike Mayock has Cook listed among his top five quarterback prospects and believes he’s as ready as anyone.
“I’ve watched five of his tapes, and I think I’ve got a good feel for the kid, and I think he can make every throw,” Mayock said. “If you watch the second half of that Michigan game, he was only 18 of 39 against Michigan, but in the second half of that game he took a beating and made throw after throw after throw.
“And Michigan is a press-man team, you got to see (Cook) throw against a bunch of NFL stuff, he threw back-shoulder, big box fades that I thought was NFL style throws.”
Former NFL quarterback and 2016 Hall of Fame candidate Kurt Warner likes Connor, but still thinks he’s lacking something.
“I just didn’t see that extra something that you want at the quarterback position, that it factor,” Warner said, “and you wonder if that correlates to the captain idea and having that something when you walk into the locker room or into the huddle that’s a difference maker for your team.”
Former Spartans quarterback and current radio analyst Jim Miller is also raving of Cook’s potential, saying he’s one of the more mechanically-sound quarterbacks in this draft class.
“Out routes were money,” said SiriusXM host and MSU radio analyst Jim Miller, who watched Cook’s workout as part of a select group of reporters. “He missed one in cut. I thought he underthrew one go route. But I’ve seen him put it out there and launch.
“He can make all the throws that are necessary, but for him, just knowing him, he was probably disappointed in how he threw. But it was just fine for what the coaches needed to see.”
If one were to ask any of Cook’s Spartan teammates, you’d hear nothing but positive feedback and even question the media as to why concerns of Cook’s leadership ability has been the headline of his draft stock. Former MSU offensive tackle and likely first-round pick Jack Conklin would lead that charge.
Even the man himself is confident with himself and who he is and certainly has a lot of supporters in his corner. Every player is asked who they believe they resemble, or at least try to, and Cook had a very big and bold name drop.
“I think I’d have to say Tom Brady,” Cook said about the quarterback who is considered one of the greatest leaders in NFL history. “Obviously he has great stats, and he throws for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns, but I think my game (compares) to his because he’s a winner. I go out there and try to put my team in the best situation to win each and every week, just like him. There (have) been times where … he’s made a mistake and put it behind him, goes out there, throws a touchdown and leads his team to victory. In that way, I’d say my game kind of reflects Tom Brady‘s, the competiveness, love for the game and his will and drive to win.”
“Some teams went right to the captain deal and asked that,” he said. “And some teams said, ‘Hey, we know you’ve been asked that question a thousand times and we just want to talk football. Just jump straight to it, and jump on the (play-diagramming) board.’ It’s a great question; a lot of people want to know why and I understand.”
As for the on-field workouts, Cook impressed in a number of areas and answered any questions about his athleticism. His 4.79 40-yard dash was tied for sixth among all quarterbacks, and his 33-inch vertical jump ranked in the top half at his position.
He was able to drop back and make some impressive throws as well.
"Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!"
— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2016
A lot of ‘experts’ who compile mock drafts currently have Cook slotted somewhere in day two of the draft with still plenty to add and potentially make him a first-round pick.