Connor Cook isn’t at the top of the list of quarterbacks available in this spring’s NFL draft.
The former Michigan State standout is a likely second- or even third-round pick, behind this year’s class leaders Jared Goff of Cal, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State and Paxton Lynch of Memphis. Cook is among the second tier of prospects that includes Christian Hackenberg of Penn State and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State.
But one report this week indicates Cook is a favorite of 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.
Longtime NFL reporter Jason Cole of Bleacher Report said this week, following the quarterback workouts and interviews at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, that Baalke “has put a priority on Cook.”
Cole noted that Baalke likes Cook despite criticism of the quarterback’s “personality, difficulties” and the fact he “didn’t throw the ball all that well during drills on Saturday (at the Combine).”
“The fact is, Cook had a shoulder injury going into the Combine, and that’s one of the reasons he didn’t throw as well,” Cole said.
Cole noted that Baalke not only likes Cook’s ability, but likes “the value” of being able to draft Cook in the second or third round while not sacrificing his top pick, the seventh overall, on a quarterback because the 49ers have so many needs and the GM isn’t sold on taking Goff, Wentz or Lynch that high.
Cook had a 34-4 record as a starter at Michigan State from 2013-15, but the tail end of his senior season was hampered by a shoulder injury. Cook has said the shoulder is fine now, but the workout in Indianapolis indicates it still may not be 100 percent.
As a junior, Cook completed 58.1 percent of his throws for 3,214 yards, 24 TDs and eight interceptions and a QB rating if 149.4. As a senior he completed 56.1 percent for 3,131 yards, 24 TDs, seven interceptions and a 136.6 rating.
Cook, who is 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, reportedly has been working out this offseason to refine his skills with notable quarterback coach George Whitfield in San Diego.
Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton has called Cook the “most polarizing player” in this year’s draft. He has great physical tools, yet some scouts are concerned he has a personality that won’t translate into a leadership position as an NFL quarterback. He was never voted a team captain in his three seasons as Michigan State starter, and Todd McShay of ESPN wrote recently that “there are multiple people that have some concern about how he carries himself and what kind of teammate he is and those sorts of things. There’s a lot of digging that will go on between now and the draft.”
Cole cited sources for the report that Baalke is focused in on Cook. If that’s the case, Baalke and his scouting staff may already have done a lot of “digging” into Cook’s personality and like what they’ve found.