*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available. 

At the start of the 2015 college season, Connor Cook was arguably the top-choice/ranked quarterback prospect for most college football and NFL Draft analysts. Cook was clinging to that reputation, that label, for dear life, until his late 2015 season flops in big games cost him his top rating…slipping behind Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff, as well as a few others. Once considered a top 10 overall pick, Cook is falling out of first-round mocks to start the NFL Draft process in January.

What’s irritated me doing my studies of Cook’s 2015 season—is how fawning the analysts are on him during televised national games. Cook has that ‘thing’, I don’t know how to describe it…that ‘thing’ where analysts and coaches love him, so he’s ‘in’, and it is hard to break it—hard to get any objective analysis. The better NFL Draft analysts are going to eventually chop his draft legs out from under him, but right now Cook is enjoying the wave of national media acceptance he’s ridden for two seasons. I predict Cook will slide from #30–50 overall mock draft projections, to ‘will he fall to day three?’ debates by March–April.

Connor Cook just isn’t that talented of a quarterback…not on the ‘elite’ or top-rated quarterback level that some portrayed him most of 2014 and 2015. His numbers scream, “Problem!” His tape is deceptive. 

When I watch Cook on tape, I can see why people would love him. On an initial look at his highlight reel, Cook has a very quick release on his throws. The ball jumps out of his hand and moves with nice velocity. At a glance, he looks like a legit NFL quarterback. The problems start to appear when you look at his activity deeper. When I watch I Cook play-by-play, against stiffer competition, I see a quarterback who is making a decision to throw before the snap/at the snap. Where his head fixates/his eyes focus to begin a play/drop-back—that’s where he is going to throw 90%+ of the time. He’s a nervous, uncomfortable-looking quarterback prospect, to my eyes. You can get away with that in college with a great team/surrounding cast, and a quick release arm—he can get it to receivers in a hurry. The problem is, when the defenses are better, and the receivers get covered tighter—Cook is still likely to try to force that one-read/no-read throw.

My summary of watching Cook is that I just don’t see anything special. I don’t see it in the numbers or on tape. I see that he is solid, and that he can hang in the NFL, but I just don’t see a ‘must have’ prospect or a ‘franchise QB’ here.

Cook has the arm and attitude to get an NFL shot. He’s more NFL backup or emergency starter than a legit starter who will carry a team.


Connor Cook, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:

I look at Cook’s four best ‘tests’ in 2015, his toughest opponents—Oregon, Michigan, Iowa, and Alabama. In those four games, Cook produced a 2–2 record, really should have been 1–3, lucky to not be 0–4, with 3 TDs/4 INTs in the four games. In his three career bowl games, Cook has produced 4 TDs/5 INTs. Against the best competition, Cook doesn’t really electrify as a passer—he gets exposed.

In his two critical games to finish the 2015 season, versus Iowa and Alabama, Cook posted 0 TD/3 INT with less than 50% completion percentage, and just 200.5 yards passing per game.

In 2015, against the MAC conference’s Western Michigan and Central Michigan, Cook completed just 51.0% of his passes with 199.5 yards passing and 1.5 TDs/0.0 INTs per game.

There is nothing for anyone to sink their teeth into with Cook in his performance numbers. He was pretty good against bad opponents, and solid/decent against so-so foes, and struggled with the high-end bowl teams. That’s the story of most ‘nice’ college QBs who fail in the NFL.

The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Connor Cook Most Compares Within Our System:

Our computer models see a lot of NFL backup talent/spot starters as matches for Connor Cook. I added Kirk Cousins at the end of the list, for more comparison—the computer did not see much match between Cousins and Cook.

Cousins was also highly lauded for his college play and leadership at Michigan State. He was initially thought to be a top 50 player to be drafted, but he fell to the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Cook is not as good a QB prospect as Cousins, because while Cousins lacked some of the physical tools/arm of Cook…Cousins was a smarter, more accurate quarterback. Our scouting models were not fans of Cousins, and most of his NFL career has been a mess to-date…with a hot streak in late 2015 against losing record teams late in the season in a bad division. I bring up Cousins because Cook is going to benefit in the NFL Draft from Cousins.

We will all hear a thousand times during the draft process that Kirk Cousins is now an NFL star/a franchise QB (I vehemently disagree) and see how he was overlooked in the draft. There will be a lot of Cook-Cousins Michigan State ‘winners’ equivocation, and I can see some silly NFL team making the reach for Cook based on it—taking him as high as the early second round. Cousins will be to blame.

Cousins, and everyone else on this list are NFL fringe starters/more suitable NFL backups—I think those labels peg Cook’s likely NFL trajectory.

QB Grade






Adj. Comp. Pct.

Adj. Yds per Comp

Adj. Pass per TD

Adj. Pass per INT


Cook, Connor


Mich State








Henne, Chad










Orton, Kyle










Flynn, Matt










Lindley, Ryan


San Diego St








Quinn, Brady


Notre Dame








Cousins, Kirk


Mich State







*“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.

**A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going onto become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite.

QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys.

2016 NFL Draft Outlook:

Cook is drawing mostly 2nd-round grades and in mock draft spots right now. He’s likely to stay there for a while. He has a ton of positive credibility with the football media, he’ll have the Kirk Cousins thing working for him. If I had bet, I’d say 2nd round with some chance that he falls to the 3rd round. The tug of war will be: Does the late 2015 season collapse versus Iowa and Alabama represent the ‘true’ Connor Cook…or was it his shoulder injury? I think there are issues before you get to the Iowa-Alabama or shoulder debate. In the end, I think the media will push him positive enough to get him into the 2nd round.

If I were an NFL GM, I would have Cook on my draft board—but not with any priority. I think I could find average QB prospects, with minor upside, like him much later in a draft without chasing up into the 2nd or 3rd round to find it/waste time on it.

NFL Outlook:   

Cook will not be drafted to start right away, and if for some reason he is pushed into the lineup immediately—he will get ripped apart. Perhaps, with time/experience and the loving support of his NFL team and the football masses (which he will get, whereas many other quality non–top 50 drafted QBs don’t) he may start someday…and perhaps get on a temporary roll like Kirk Cousins has in late 2015. However, with enough games logged, Cook will be exposed as all arm and poor QB instincts—he’ll be ‘OK’ at best…with more likelihood of busting than succeeding for any stretch.