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Everything about Connor Cook is NFL ready except his decision making

The Michigan State quarterback will be a first rounder in April, but his flaws are magnified.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Cook possesses the size (6'4", 218 lbs), the arm strength and the ability to read defenses that have NFL scouts labeling the Michigan State signal caller as a first round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Truthfully, he is a very frustrating player to examine, as he leaves many throws on the field which makes one shake their head. He throws one of the prettiest back shoulder balls in college football, but then when he feels pressure his decision making and accuracy disappear.

CBS' Dane Brugler had this to say about Cook, "His tape shows NFL throw after NFL throw, but he also continues to make a handful of poor decisions each game, which represents his 59-percent completions."

For the Buckeyes to defeat the Spartans on Saturday, Ohio State's terrorizing defensive line will have to continue their ways against Michigan State's solid offensive line. When the Buckeye staff pops in the Oregon tape, they will see an effort that has symbolized his career at Michigan State; he started off the game as a marksman, then struggled mightily in the second half with multiple inaccurate and puzzling throws.

Look for the Buckeyes to bring pressure from their linebackers and engage in line stunts to take Cook off of his game. Balls will start sailing on him once he is unable to set his feet. Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and the rest of the front seven will win this game for Ohio State if they can keep Cook uncomfortable and out of the pocket.

Cook vs. Oregon

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions TD pass Scramble Overthrow Underthrow Throwaway
2 32 20 12 2 0 3 2 1
Pressured Sacked Hit during throw Pass break-up Batted at LOS Drops Turnovers TD run Defensive PI
3 0 2 3 0 1 1 0 1

Notes

  • Cook started off hot; completing 17 of his first 21 pass attempts.
  • He possesses a very quick release, reminiscent of Philip Rivers.
  • Cook's wide receivers, especially Aaron Burbridge, bailed him out on numerous occasions on errant throws.
  • His accuracy and mechanics are non-existent when he is senses pressure, is flushed out of the pocket and when has to make throws on the run.
  • Cook does not like to step up into the pocket to avoid edge rushers.
  • After his hot start, he completed only three of his final 11 pass attempts.
  • The Michigan State offensive line played very well against a solid Oregon front. Cook was only pressured three times on 32 dropbacks.

The good

When the Spartan quarterback is in a groove and has time to set his feet, he makes quality throws and decisions. Below, Cook did a good job of looking off the linebacker, which opened up a passing lane to convert the first down.

Below, Cook showed why NFL scouts believe that he could be a 2016 first round pick. With the game tied in the third quarter and Michigan State going for it on 4th-and-6, this is a big time throw by Cook. He lofted it accurately over the cornerback, but with enough velocity to complete it in front of the pursuing safety.

The bad

Cook has the NFL prototype size, the arm and the brains to live up to the hype, but if there is one major weakness, it is his inability to throw accurately when under pressure or make throws out of his comfort zone, when on the run.

Below, the Spartans are up a touchdown and the ball is in the redzone. Cook has the tight end in man coverage with no safety over the top. Slight pressure came off the left edge, which threw him out of his comfort zone and rattled his mechanics. All he had to do was step up in the pocket and loft the ball over the defender. Instead, it almost gets picked off and Michigan State has to settle for three.

On another big third down play, they decided to roll Cook out of the pocket to ice the game. Bad decision. Cook has a wide open receiver who sat down on a spot route in a soft spot in Oregon's zone, but his accuracy is thrown out of the window when he ventures out of the pocket.

Below, Michigan State runs play-action and an Oregon defender gets through the line. Cook throws up an underthrown prayer into double coverage, which should have been picked off. The football gods rewarded the Ducks on the next play, when they picked off Cook on a miscommunication between him and his wideout.