Earlier in the season; I wrote up Jared Goff, highlighting the importance of arm strength for NFL quarterbacks and what it takes to overcome a middling or below average arm. Goff does not break the arm threshold and, in my opinion, does not have the instincts to consistently compensate for his lack of physical ability. The truth is that the level of instincts needed to outplay physical ability is rare, which is why NFL teams consistently look for strong armed quarterbacks and are more cautious investing premium into a signal caller whose arm may just be borderline.
Of course, Connor Cook can change that.
I was skeptical of the Michigan State signal caller coming into the season, because his style did not fit his arm strength. Usually weaker armed quarterbacks play more conservatively, but Cook has always been an incredibly aggressive passer. I thought that Cook's gunslinging style combined with his arm strength would make him an Andy Dalton of old type; a player who would string together a host of impressive throws before stringing together mind numbing turnovers and misfires. Cook was erratic in his previous years leading up to his senior season, and that worried me.
The play he has put on of late has really changed my perspective on him. He remains a gunslinger, never backing away from the big play, but he has tightened up his reaction time and his accuracy, allowing him to be much more efficient while still taking chances. My favorite of his traits is how he trusts his top target, Aaron Burbridge (who is an outstanding player in his own right), with the ball in the air. This is a trait you see across the league with top tier quarterbacks and their number one targets and it is an incredibly important trait to possess. Cook also plays with excellent resolve and toughness, not shying away from tight coverage and rarely crumbling when the pocket gets muddy. When watching games, one never feels like Michigan State is out of a game because of Cook's ability to bounce back from mistakes and stay level headed throughout the game.
For all there is to like about Cook, there are definitely some red flags, especially when projecting him to the Eagles. For one, as a "gun slinging quarterback" for as valuable as I believe that type is, Cook does make a lot of mistakes and the high variance nature of his play does not lend itself to consistently moving the ball. He is just OK when going towards the middle of the field, where his accuracy could be a little more consistent. In the pocket, while Cook rarely crumbles under pressure, he still has difficulty moving around under pressure and manipulating the pocket. He has flashed ability in these areas, but there is little consistency. On top of all of that, it is worth noting that Cook was not voted team captain before the season and there are rumors swirling that his teammates hold some ill will towards him.
NFL Comparison: The Andy Dalton comparison seems very apt, but I want to stress that I am comparing this year's Cook to this year's Andy Dalton. Both of whom play with similar strengths and weaknesses, yet both have become more poised and efficient this season. I do think that, at his best, Cook looks like a much better quarterback than Dalton is. When everything is clicking, there is a lot of Tony Romo to Cooks game in the way that he can create plays down the field and stay poised in any situation.
At this moment, I question how good Cook is at "small ball". He is not consistent throwing anticipation throws over the middle and making the easy plays to move the chains. His dynamic is not far off from what I talked about with Jacoby Brissett and how much better he is at stretching the field and "creating" offense than functioning within a system and taking the plays that are already there. Because of this, I think that Cook would not be a good fit in the current offense. He has the skills to work in any offense, but it would take some tempering of his style before he could make this offense move the way Kelly would want. I like Cook and think he will end up being a good player, but he needs the right type of offense around him to succeed. He would be an excellent fit in Houston with Bill O'Brien and DeAndre Hopkins. If Cook is going to an offense that functions off of a vertical passing game rather than consistently asking quarterbacks to work the shallow middle, Cook should be a first round pick. I am just not sure how much Kelly would value Cook in this current offense. However, Cook would absolutely bring a game breaking skill set that the Eagles have not had at quarterback in this offense.