Around this time every year, teams across the NFL begin making their final preparations for the NFL Draft. The Combine is finished, individual pro days are wrapped up, and the interviewing process is nearing its end. General Managers and Coaches are sitting down and evaluating the best talent available and how that talent meets the needs of the team, hoping to strike gold with a pick in the later rounds of the draft. Everyone is hoping to find a 7th round wonder, like the New England Patriots did with Tom Brady.
This year the gold will be found much earlier than the 7th round. It will be found whenever some lucky team decides to take a chance on Kirk Cousins, the former quarterback at Michigan State. This is a strong statement to make about a quarterback that is not even in Mel Kiper’s top 5, but it is doubtful that Brady was either and everyone knows how that turned out.
While Cousin’s style of play is more reminiscent of Matt Ryan than Brady, it is important to remember that Brady was not a polished jewel right out of the box, it took some time for him to evolve into the strong candidate for greatest quarterback ever, that he is now. Whoever takes Cousins will need to give him the time to develop, but it is a safe bet that it would be worth their while.
Anybody who has watched Cousins’ college career could agree. In the 4 years that he was at Michigan State, Cousins showed continued improvement, leading the Spartans to back to back 11 win seasons, a share of this year’s Big Ten title, along with a bowl win over the # 10 Georgia Bulldogs. He has great arm strength and can deliver the ball through traffic in tight windows. He is flawless at throwing the out route, can make plays 25 yards down the sideline, can manipulate the pocket, and is not afraid of the middle of the field. When he sets his feet, there is no throw that he cannot make.
At 6’3” and 205 lbs. Cousins could stand to put on a little more muscle mass to make him a more durable player. He often focuses on his first read and telegraphs his throws. He may have been able to get away with this at the college level, but if he does not learn to look off his target, NFL defenses will eat him alive. He also needs to be able to work deeper into his progressions. In college he would rarely go past his second read, often forcing a throw into coverage. On a recent airing of ESPN analyst John Gruden’s Quarterback Camp, the former head coach focused in on an interception Cousins threw, on a fade route, against Ohio State. Cousins had another interception in that game that looked like the pass was intended for the defensive back, and he had two other balls that were delivered in exactly the same fashion, but were dropped by the surprised Ohio State players. This habit of staying with his main read, regardless of the coverage, could be seen as Cousins’ biggest flaw. Fortunately, it is a flaw that can be corrected given the proper amount of time and training.
There is no doubt that Cousins showed a great amount of growth during his college career. He is a natural leader who accepts responsibility for his team, win or lose. He only managed a 1-3 record in BCS bowl games, but he was a perfect 4-0 against in-state rival, the University of Michigan, alma mater of the aforementioned, Tom Brady. The bowl record is important, of course, but ask anyone who has an in-state rivalry as big as Michigan-Michigan State, and they will tell you how big of a deal a career sweep is.
All of the hype may be surrounding some of the other potential draft picks at quarterback this year, but Cousins’ potential is through the roof. He will likely get picked up in the 2nd round; though it is possible he could drop to the 3rd. Whenever he is taken, if the team that secures him gives the proper time and tutelage, the former Michigan State signal caller could easily turn out to be this year’s diamond in the rough.
Jeff Everette is the featured columnist for the Miami Dolphins on Rant Sports. You can follow him on twitter @jeverettesports, or like his facebook page: Jeff Everette- Rant Sports for all of his latest articles.