In a happy coincidence of random awesomeness, new MSU blog "On the Banks of the Red Cedar" wrote about this very topic yesterday, so go check it out.
It feels bold to predict Kirk Cousins success in the NFL, after all, most mocks have Cousins going somewhere between the late second and the early fifth. He finished 30th in overall passing efficiency in 2011 and 13th among players who will be candidates in the 2012 NFL Draft. His best apparent analog really seems to be Ricky Stanzi who was an efficient and careful QB by his Senior Year. Stanzi was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 and didn't take a live snap in the 2011 NFL Season(he did miss chance due to injury though in late November).
Physically, Cousins has most of the traits you need to play the position. At 6'3" and 205 he is tall enough to play the position and injury has never been an issue for him. At 205-210 he's big enough to take a hit and wasn't seriously injured during his time at Michigan State. Is there another way to examine his deep arm than this?
That throw was about 60 yards and while there was a dude about to hit him in the face just before release and I get the sense he has another five to ten yards in his arm. This is adequate but not elite distance. The "Big-Armed" Quarterbacks in the League can throw 70 to 80 yards. I mention arm strength first because it is the most unchangeable asset in a Quarterback's development at 23 years old. So arm strength: Adequate, but not elite.
Cousins has some things he does really well in the passing game. He sells the playaction pass as well as anyone in college football. *Cousins also has a knack for audibling into the right play. He reads coverages really well pre-snap and can make tight throws into tight spaces if he's made the right read on the play. This also exposes one of his shortcomings as a passer, which is of course that he locks onto his pre-snap read and throws to them whether they are open or not. So Student of the Game: Very Good.
*- I found this google Cousins Play Action Pass. Some people have the Dumb real fierce.
In terms of accuracy, this is a number we can actually measure! In 2011, Cousins passer efficiency dropped from 150.7 to 145.1. He had a drop-off in yards per attempt from 8.36 to 7.91 and threw the same number of picks as in 2010 at 10 on the season. So did he get worse? No, not really. His yards per completion dropped from 12.5 in 2010 to 12.41 in 2011 which IMO is negligible and despite having thrown the same number of picks he threw five more TD's. He also threw 81 more times despite having played in only one more game which averages out to an additional four more attempts per game 26 in 2010 to 29.92 in 2011. While it might be foolish to assume that Cousins improved in this arena, it would be fair to say that he did not regress. The argument could easily be made that with MSU's diminished run game in 2011 that Cousins was responsible for being more accurate in better pass coverage. Accuracy: Hard to tell how this will measure up to pro guys, but certainly very good at the collegiate level.
Schematically, Cousins has a huge advantage that only Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have in front of him. Cousins plays and has played in a pro-style offense for three years now. One could even argue that Luck is the only one who has this since Wilson had a disappointing cup of coffee at Wisconsin. While the NFL is finally starting to acknowledge the Spread as a friend, not foe taking snaps from under Center is still a very big deal. Especially for a guy like Cousins who is apt to get happy feet when he feels pass rush pressure.
This familiarity with taking snaps from under center has served Brian Hoyer well in his capacity as back up to King Brady. As an undrafted rookie he beat out a field of QB's to win the sole backup job to Brady. In 2010, the Pats didn't even seriously audition anyone else and in 2011 they brought in Problem Child Ryan Mallett to challenge Hoyer for the job. Hoyer remains the number two even today. This familiarity with throwing the ball from under center will give him an advantage over most of these other QB's who will have to learn to make their reads from under center.
This advantage that only Cousins and Luck have is what will put Cousins in a position to succeed in the pros if he is given time to develop. They've played NFL offense for a couple years already.
So What Would Cause Him To Fail?
- Getting tossed onto a team where he ends up the immediate starter.(Very Unlikely) Teams who would fit such a bill: Redskins, Seahawks, Browns. The odds that a guy drafted as a 3rd rounder or beyond would get a chance to start his rookie year are pretty slim. I wouldn't worry about this a whole lot.
- Getting put on a team where he is going to sit behind a young well-paid or franchise QB. (Packers, Colts with either Luck or Manning, Saints, Eagles, Chargers, Falcons, Giants, Rams, Lions, Jaguars, Vikings, Carolina,Titans) In either of these scenarios playing time would really be an issue for him.
Where should I root for him to land?
In no particular order:
Chargers - I know I said above that he doesn't want to land with the Chargers, but, the Bolts gave Rivers the keys to the team when they sent LT over to the Jets. Rivers has pretty much gone on to not lead his team to victory and he can be kind of a jerk. Coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith are on their last legs in SD. Cousins could be uniquely positioned in a 2012-2013 regime change. I don't like his odds here, but it's better than somewhere like Carolina.
Steelers - Big Ben has always seemed kind of, eh, as a QB, but he finds a way to win. Great out of the pocket, big arm. Charlie Batch is the backup there, but he's like 600 now, so it'd be a good place for Cousins to win a back-up job and proceed from there.
Cowboys - Romo is a great QB on paper and not so good at closing the deal in games. The patience for him is running thin. He needs to start winning or else. Drafting the best QB has not really been a high priority for Jerry Jones since Aikman. He pretty much goes out and buys someone in free agency or he drafts a mid round QB like Cousins and promotes from within.
Jets - The depth chart is favorable. Sanchez obviously isn't going to be Sanchize. So there's a crack at PT in a year or two. But God, I wouldn't wish being drafted to the Jets on someone I don't like.
Broncos - Yep, I said it. The Broncos. Tebow caught everyone napping this year and I do not think the Broncos continue their success in 2012. It would be a ripe situation for a young QB to take over in 2013. Cousins needs to impress Elway to pull this off.
Dolphins - I think the Dolphins go QB before they get to Cousins, but if they haven't I could see him getting snatched up. The Fins just hired the Broncos OC so this too would not be a bad spot for Cousins. He'd get a developmental year because with an all-new staff the Fins won't be in a huge yank to win games this year.
Notice a trend here? For an optimal crack at success, Cousins needs to land somewhere that wouldn't ask him to start his first year and that he also wouldn't be expected to sit behind an entrenched starter for the next five years.
Cousins Will Succeed Regardless of Who Takes Him
Cousins couldn't be landing in a more optimal situation for him as a mid-round QB. He's not Captain Swaggerballs, so I don't know that a first round NFL Game 1 Starting Job would be best for him anyway. He'll get a year or two to learn the offense whereever he goes. He has the physical tools to succeed at the next level, but they are not so plentiful that he can skate by on them. He has the added advantage of having taken many snaps under center which puts him ahead of many rookie QBs. He's never been short on right attitude or smarts, the only thing I see jeopardizing his career would ending up on a team full of "me first" asswipes like the Jets or Redskins.
Couple of Weekend Game Highlights First
- B.J. Cunningham had two catches for 26 yards including a nice TD grab on a 17 yard hitch in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday.
- Keith Nichol had one reception for 37 yards in the NFLPA Bowl. Here are some highlights below, I'm pretty sure Nichol's catch is in the middle, but, it's a pretty craptastic video so I'm not really sure.
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Confirmed Visitors from This Weekend
- Kyle Dodson, Aaron Burbridge, Tyler O'Connor, Monty Madaris, Jamal Lyles, Riley Bullough, MacGarrett Kings, Kodi Kieler, Mark Meyers. More about this on Wednesday.
- Mark Meyers and David Fennell committed to Michigan State on Sunday Afternoon. Leonidas over at what is your profession has the goods on Meyers and Fennell. Either of these guys fits the bill of a Dantonio "late in the recruiting process" guy like Le'Veon Bell or Keshawn Martin. Fennell had zero offers prior to his MSU offer, but read Leonidas article on him. No one thought Meyers would qualify, but he has and you should peep his film too. I'm going to skip doing a write-up on both guys for the time being in favor of doing an en masse write up around Signing Day.