NFL Draft 2012: Scouting Kirk Cousins, QB Michigan State

We've actually not talked a whole lot about Kirk Cousins around here. I mean, we've talked about him a little bit, but considering there's actually a decent chance he'll be drafted by the Seahawks this year, I've mostly remained silent on it. Truth of the matter is, I haven't done enough scouting on Cousins at this point. I see Cousins in the same vein I saw Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Blaine Gabbert last season - that is to say, fairly uninteresting.

Not a ton of upside, not flashy, not overly exciting. Well, ironically enough, the two first-round picks in Ponder and Gabbert had pretty awful years while the 2nd round pick, Andy Dalton, the overshadowed one, went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Similarly, Kirk Cousins isn't likely to go in the first round this year and guys like Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, and probably Brock Osweiler will overshadow him. You might see Nick Foles or even a guy like Ryan Lindley, (who Greg Cosell was luke-warmly raving about on Twitter the other day, interestingly) leap frog him in the second or early third round. That said, I could see Cousins being pretty solid as a pro, in the way that Matt Cassell is 'solid,' or that even Mark Sanchez is 'solid.' Cousins isn't my first choice, obviously, but at the same time I wouldn't be sad to see the Seahawks choose him in the 2nd or 3rd with an eye towards development and/or as a long-term backup with a chance to be a decent starter.

Importantly, Scott Enyeart has noted on Twitter that the Seahawks have had their eye on Cousins for nearly a year, as he took part in the Pete Carroll-attended and Nike-run Elite 11 QB camp down in California last summer. This doesn't mean they'll choose him, but it does imply they're interested.

I think that Rob Staton has sort of a similar opinion of Cousins that I do - he wrote recently, "Kirk Cousins has a lot of the natural qualities the Seahawks are looking for in a quarterback. They want to run the ball and use play action - a major strength for Cousins having played in MSU's heavy ground attack. He's mobile enough to run bootlegs and roll outs, while he also has the kind of arm strength the front office have looked for so far in acquiring Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Portis."

Rob continued...

"He's the kind of individual teams want fronting their offense and with his technical experience in something akin to a pro-style concept, Cousins could even have a fairly reasonable impact early in his career. There are also limitations and areas for drastic improvement, particularly with decision making on shorter routes, learning to cope with inside pressure and trying to avoid throwing off the back-foot too often."

Watch the tape below for yourself and make a judgement, but first I'll let you know what some of the experts are saying. Here's a hint, it's a lot of good stuff. Cousins is rising in a lot of people's eyes, so he's certainly one player that I'm going to keep my eye on for the next month or so.

Doug Farrar:

The logjam of quarterbacks below Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Ryan Tannehill just got a little lighter, as Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins took offseason work with QB guru Chris Weinke and turned it into a very impressive set of throwing drills on Sunday morning. Cousins showed great touch and release -- for a guy with a supposed smaller arm, he really zipped the ball, and had no notable issues with deeper routes.

On the five-yard in routes, Cousins displayed a minimum of mechanical extras -- you can tell that he's been working on making everything as efficient as possible. On the longer sideline routes, his throws didn't sail, receivers didn't have to slow down to catch them, and he appeared to have a very good understanding of timing it up with guys he'd never thrown to before. After a very solid Senior Bowl performance, Cousins is slowly but surely putting his reputation as a player who makes too many mistakes behind him -- at least, for now.

"When I look at the quarterbacks who have success year in and year out [in the NFL], I see quarterbacks who are great leaders, very accurate and are great decision-makers. I think those things are my three greatest strengths. I think across the board, those are the things that make a quarterback successful in the NFL over a long period of time."

Tony Pauline, on Cousins at the Combine:

Cousins stood out in all the passing drills and was the best quarterback on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. His passes were crisp, accurate and Cousins was on the money all day. He hit receivers in stride on underneath routes as well as down the field. Cousins nicely placed the ball into receivers' hands and displayed the ability to put touch on throws when necessary.

Russ Lande, from the Senior Bowl:

After a senior season in which he flashed elite play but made too many mistakes, Cousins stepped up this week and drastically improved his draft stock. While he no doubt looks very thin at 209 pounds, he displayed very good arm strength to make every NFL throw with excellent zip. He got rid of the ball quickly and decisively and was able to fit passes between defenders into tight spots. Many had serious questions about him before this week, but he answered them in a big way and has begun what SN, along with many NFL scouts, believe will be a fast rise up draft boards, similar to what Andy Dalton did a season ago.

More Lande, after the Combine:

Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State, 6-3 1/2 214; new likely draft position: High second round. Cousins has really helped himself since the end of the 2011 season. He had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl followed by an outstanding performance in Indianapolis. Cousins was the best of the quarterbacks who threw at the Combine; he displayed ideal footwork and passing mechanics to get rid of the ball quickly. Those mechanics helped him show off his NFL-caliber arm strength, and he was accurate on every pass. Cousins still needs to answer questions about his interceptions at Michigan State.

Rob Rang, on Cousins at the Senior Bowl:

"Cousins outshined (Russell Wilson and Kellen Moore) by attacking all levels of a talented North defense," Rang wrote this week. "His experience in a pro-style offense was obvious as he made quick decisions, showed accuracy short, middle and deep and thread the needle through tight spaces. Whereas his teammates struggled to find a rhythm with their new receiving corps, Cousins was hitting on all cylinders, spreading the ball all over the field and hitting his backs, tight ends and receivers on a variety of routes."

Brock Huard, watching the Combine:

Kirk Cousins passed the eye test Sunday. Unlike Christian Ponder, who used the Senior Bowl last season as the launching pad for his draft stock, Cousins was pretty flat at the Senior Bowl practices three weeks ago. However, he was sharp, accurate, poised and quite possibly the most fundamentally sound of any of the quarterbacks participating over the weekend. The three-time captain at Michigan State displayed the kind of confidence executives love to see in a competitive setting like the combine, and don't be surprised if he starts to move up into lists of the top five quarterbacks. In some ways there are some strong comparisons to be made with Andy Dalton from a year ago: mature, experienced, durable and tough. The stats over his career weren't as efficient as Dalton's but the level of competition and expectation were higher. Keep an eye on Cousins; his stock should rise.

Adam Caplan, at the Combine:

The throwing exhibition by Michigan St. QB Kirk Cousins on Sunday could lead credence to the thought that he could wind up being a second-round pick during April's NFL Draft. Cousins, who was also terrific earlier this year during Senior Bowl week, was poised, accurate and threw with power during Sunday's first throwing session.

During his time in Mobile, Cousins threw the ball almost with anger and conviction during practice-almost as though he thought he had something to prove. The knock on Cousins, according to personnel sources, is that he tends to break down mentally at times and forces some throws. But Cousins only had 7 interceptions during the regular season and threw for 24 touchdowns.

The bottom line is that Cousins, who seems to have put together the best two-month stretch of any quarterback of this year's class, could be on the same path as former TCU QB Andy Dalton, who was strong from January to February last year. Dalton was thought to be destined to be a fourth-round pick coming into Senior Bowl week, but a strong pre-draft period pushed him all the way to the second round.

Big thanks to DraftBreakdown for the excellent scouting videos they put together, JMPasq, MARI0clp, Aaron Aloysius, and the whole DraftBreakdown crew.

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