Ultimately, Cousins is a guy who could get drafted based on his experience and intangibles, and will need to put on size and fine-tune certain throwing deficiencies to catch on at the next level. Based on the production and leadership at Michigan State, Cousins has late-round value to a team looking for someone to compete for a backup role.
He hasn't been challenged as a leader on and off the field ever since. Cousins gave his coaches something to look forward to during his redshirt season when he was named scout player of the week five times.
The following year he played in five games (completing 32 of 43 passes for 310 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) as a back-up to Brian Hoyer.
Big Ten media named him to their honorable-mention Big 10 squad in that 2009 season (60.4 comp. pct, 2,680 yds, 19 TD, 9 INT), then in 2010 he earned honorable-mention all-conference selection by league coaches after leading the Spartans to a school-record 11 wins and share of the Big Ten title (66.9 comp. pct., 2,825 yards, 20 TD, 10 INT).
Scouts appreciate Cousins' intelligence, character, and toughness, which he showed against Purdue in 2010 when he led a comeback win after going out with shoulder and ankle injuries earlier in the game. He does not possess elite athleticism or arm strength, but has enough of both to move his team down the field.
Eliminating some poor decisions and improving his footwork and delivery issues through coaching would allow NFL teams to project him as a serviceable starter at the next level.
Accuracy: Generally accurate on intermediate and short throws, flashes anticipation and placement on intermediate outs and the ability to lead receivers on deeper throws. Not deadly accurate, though, too often failing to give receivers a chance to make a play after the catch. High completion percentage padded by many quick screens. Does not show touch/trajectory to hit throws between linebackers and safeties. Accuracy drops significantly without his set feet underneath him, has been lucky to throw relatively few interceptions.
Arm Strength: Very ordinary arm, though there is room for improvement with better technique. Moves his team by working short patterns and the middle of the field but lacks strength to stretch field horizontally or vertically. Throws to beat cover-two often come inside and lack necessary speed. Spiral is not consistently tight, which hurts his velocity. Floats deep passes, often from play action. Needs to get more air under fade throws.
Setup/Release: Runs pro-style system, takes snaps under center and from the shotgun. Good height and growing build to stand in the pocket. Carries the ball well. Throws too many passes flat-footed or without his feet being set, though, and lacks arm to compensate. Winds up when trying to zip a throw in a tight window. Gets happy feet if sitting in the pocket for too long, but also stands in to unload passes despite knowing he will take a shot. Double-clutches at times, leading defenders to the ball. Solid on ball fakes, but could come out from under center with more authority.
Reading Defenses: Possesses a solid knowledge of his offense and seems to know where defenses are vulnerable. Looks off safeties to open vertical routes and will come off one receiver if covered to find second option (though still typically working one half of the field). Identifies blitzers on most plays, occasionally missing a late blind-side rusher and paying the price by taking a big hit. Loses sense of the clock at times, resulting in penalties or failing to get a play off before the end of the quarter.
On the Move: Not an elite athlete, but shows some mobility within and outside the pocket. Can be effective on bootlegs, has enough foot speed to pick up yardage if the field opens up in front of him. Better completing passes to his right, able to hit receivers on the sideline or throw across his body over the middle. Steps up to avoid pressure, though he does not reset his feet consistently. Inconsistent decision maker on the run, will force throws instead of unloading out of bounds when pressured.
Intangibles: Coaches consider him a hard-working team leader. Tough competitor who plays through injuries. Three-year team captain (first sophomore Spartan to receive the honor since 1949). Active in community service, was finalist for Wuerffel Trophy and named to Allstate AFCA All-Good Works Team in 2010. Academic All-Big Ten selection each season."
Has experience working in more of a pro style offense, looks comfortable/balanced taking snaps from center, settling his feet well in his drop, and spins a really clean football. Lacks “plus” arm strength, but throws a very catchable football and has some upside in that area. As he adds more weight to his thinner frame, his arm strength should improve.
Nevertheless, he has the ability to make all the throws as long as he’s in rhythm. Looks natural working off the play action game, sells the play fake well, snaps his head around quickly, and displays nice touch when asked to drop bucket throws into his receiver's arms down the field.
Ball placement/accuracy are both very good when he can stride into his target. He anticipates routes well, lets go of the ball on time, and you can tell he has a natural mental clock of when the ball is supposed to come out. Displays a quick release as well, and fundamentally he’s very solid.
Deciphers information well, will step up into the pocket when he feels an outside rush, keeping his eyes down the field, and can locate secondary receivers. However, too often his mind is already made up at the line of scrimmage. Gets caught with blinders on, staring down his man, and fails to routinely see underneath defenders in zone coverage.
The majority of his picks aren’t vs. the corner he’s throwing at in man, but because he fails to see the coverage around him.
Also, isn’t real impressive when he feels pressure. Gets a bit fidgety in the pocket, waiting for receivers to uncover, and routinely falls off throws, causing his arm strength and accuracy to suffer. Needs to do a better job locating his hot man and living to fight another down.
Is a solid athlete, can create with his legs, and move the chains outside the pocket. Throws accurately on the run, and seems to decipher info better when improvising on the move, then from the pocket. Keeps a level head, gets his team in and out of plays quickly, and always seems to be in control of the game.
Impression: A solid athlete who isn’t overly impressive physically, but he has enough to make it in the NFL. Needs to take that next step in his understanding of the offense this year and cut down on the mental errors. However, he’s a good kid, a hard worker, and has some real similar qualities to some of the senior quarterbacks who came off the board this year (Ponder/Dalton). Nevertheless, his struggles with pressure could hold him back from ever becoming an NFL starter."
Weaknesses: Cousins struggles and tends to make poor decisions when faced with pressure. He runs a little hot and cold during games and is reliant on play-action too much at MSU. He has tendency to lock into his first or second read without going through his progression. He telegraphs his passes with his eyes and doesn’t do a good enough job of moving safeties to creat window to throw down the seam. He will need to add to weight to his slender frame to withstand the week in, week out beating in the NFL.
Bottom Line: Cousins could be a nice option as a backup in the league in the 5th round range. He does possess the skills to play at the next level but needs to work on throwing in the face of pressure. As a prospect, he doesn’t grade out as high as previous MSU quarterback, Brian Hoyer. Hoyer went undrafted.
Draft Projection: Cousins should go in the 5th to 6th round range but may go higher with the lack of depth at the position."
Is efficient dinking and dunking and working the short-to-intermediate passing game with touch and precision.
Is extremely mature and articulate and will represent a franchise with class.
Has perfectionist tendencies and strong on-field leadership traits, but football-playing instincts are still developing — is not a decisive triggerman.
Injury history, average arm strength and frequent misfirings are all causes for concern.
Resembles Niners 2005 first overall pick Alex Smith, who has toiled in mediocrity because of injuries, coaching turnover, happy feet and a very inconsistent trigger. Is a candidate to be strongly overdrafted on leadership traits."
There is a lot to like about Cousins from his good arm strength to his on field leadership. The ball jumps out of his hand and arrives to his target with zip. There is no doubt that he can make all the necessary NFL throws. His ball placement and accuracy is good on all levels. He can read a defense and is able to locate secondary targets. Cousins has good anticipation which allows him to avoid turnovers and batted balls.
While Cousins has a lot of positives there are still some significant concerns. His technique is less than ideal which impacts the delivery of the football. Cousins doesn't step into his throws often throwing off of his back foot resulting in less power.
He can get away with this in college but in the NFL with tighter passing windows he could struggle to complete passes. Cousins also doesn't set his body and feet towards his target impacting his accuracy. While he is accurate improved footwork will only make him better.
Overall, Cousins has enough talent and potential to warrant the attention he is receiving. He needs a productive season while leading Michigan State to a few more wins. Improving his technique and footwork will only help his draft stock.
Bold Statement: Kirk Cousins will be a 2nd round pick in 2012
Games Viewed: Wisconsin ('10), Iowa ('10), Michigan ('10), Penn State ('10)
- Cousins is a decent athlete with the ability to escape the rush
- Michigan State has a pro style offense that likes to feature play action
- His experience and success in the Michigan State offense is a positive
- He possesses a strong arm generating good zip on passes to all levels
- Cousins keeps his eyes down the field when faced with pressure
- As he drops back he keeps the ball above his breast plate avoiding wasted motions
- He has a quick release that allows him to get the ball out on time
- His accuracy is good on all levels as he leads his targets and also has the touch to drop in a bucket pass
- The ball jumps out of his hands and arrives to his target on a line
- He is able to go through his progressions and find the open man and secondary targets
- Cousins needs to improve his technique as he often throws off his back foot and doesn't align his feet and body towards the target
- He struggles to get rid of the football as he holds the ball to long and often takes sacks
- Cousins has a tendency to force the ball when faced with pressure resulting in turnovers"
Can step away from the rush, but is not all that mobile and isn’t going to take off for any big yards;
Usually good in the clutch, but will also lose focus at times and needs to limit mistakes; has excellent leadership intangibles and has been a team captain since he was a sophomore."
Steady contributor on a good Michigan State team, was a three year starter and improved his yardage and touchdown totals in each season... Put up his best season to date as a senior...
Mechanically fine, doesn't have the quickest release, but it will not be a hindrance... Strong intangibles, a leader on the field and was voted a three-year team captain... Has played well in clutch situations....
Michigan State quarterbacks have found a place in the NFL in recent years... Plays in a pro-style offense that has given him the opportunity to work under center and in the shotgun, should have a small learning curve in the NFL... Experience against Big Ten competition will bode well for him heading to the next level.
Negatives -- Has a below-average arm, lacks velocity on his intermediate and deep throws, gives defenders too much time to react... Gets too much loft on his deep throws... Doesn't always set his feet and will throw off balance resulting in some bad throws... Struggles when under pressure, his footwork falls apart and he'll force throws...
Would like to see him throw the ball away more, tries to make too many plays by himself... Not a threat to take off and run, is a below-average runner with marginal top end speed for a quarterback... A bit on the thin side, needs to bulk up... Struggled against top defenses, had ugly performances as a senior against Michigan and Nebraska...
Michigan State is known more for their running attack and defense rather than their passing attack and Cousins has operated more as a game manager than anything else during his three year stint as a starter."
What teams will like about Cousins is his ability to deliver the football quickly with above average arm strength.
When it comes to those short and intermediate routes, he displays good accuracy (even with pressure coming his way).
At the next level, he'll need to really improve his ability to pull the trigger and trust his talent for reading defenses.
He doesn't always make the right pre-snap reads and if he is shuffling around the pocket, his mechanics struggle.
Being able to be patient, plant his feet and drive through his hips when delivering the football is a talent he'll need to continue to develop as a pro."
The fourth year junior completed just under 67 percent of his passes for 2,825 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions (three came in Iowa game). Michigan State is a run oriented offense, but Cousins definitely makes the most of every throw. Had a dominant performance (22-of-29) in the MSU Spring game where he threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns, and could be poised for a big season in 2011.
Cousins is an accurate quarterback who will have a long NFL career because he is smart and makes great decisions. Not a mobile quarterback by any means, but is a guy who can get outside the pocket and make plays. Gets rid of the ball quickly and excels in play-action.
Some people might call him a game manager, but field general is probably more appropriate. Will occasionally throw the ball into traffic when under pressure instead of getting rid of it. Sometimes tries to do too much, and ends up making risky throws or poor overthrows."