Kirk Cousins is not a name that has been talked about during the lead-up to this year's NFL draft. With all the talk surrounding Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Cousins has been left out of the conversations.
Most scouting reports have Cousins as a reliable backup quarterback that teams would love to have. However, he does have the potential to be a star player in the league. Let's look at what makes the Michigan State quarterback a potential star in the NFL.
Cousins has three years of experience as a starter at Michigan State. Also, he was a team captain for all three of those years.
In the NFL, leadership is an essential quality a quarterback must have. Even if the quarterback is not as skilled as Tom Brady, he can still inspire his teammates or help them keep their heads up through leadership.
Being a captain for three years shows he has good command of the team and trust with his teammates. Leadership is something a player can't lose during his transition into the NFL. Either a player has it or he doesn't. In the case of Cousins, he has great leadership qualities and can help lead his team to victory.
Having played in a pro-style offense in college can only help Cousins in the NFL. He is very comfortable under center and has good mechanics in the pocket.
His transition to the NFL should be a quick process for him as he is very intelligent and already has the basic system in his mind.
Also, playing in the Big Ten has helped him get prepared for the NFL. The Big Ten is a physical conference that is known for its hard-hitting defenses, which is as close as he can get to a simulation of an NFL defense. He has proved he can withstand the pressure up the middle while playing in the pro-style offense under center.
If there is one quality that stands out with Cousins, it's his accuracy. He had a 64 percent career completion percentage during his time at Michigan State, which is sixth best in Big Ten history.
While he does not make flashy plays down the field, he has great touch and can hit his receivers in stride in short or intermediate routes.
Cousins could be a good fit for a team like the Arizona Cardinals. They have a decent team on both sides of the ball and have one of the best wide receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald. Cousins will thrive with a receiver like Fitzgerald who is aggressive at the line and is a great route-runner.
Cousins' accuracy is good enough to make him a solid quarterback in the league. If he is paired up with a player that has Fitzgerald-like abilities, it will be a dangerous duo.
His good accuracy naturally leads him to making few mistakes. In 45 games at Michigan State, he only threw 30 interceptions.
He is a conservative quarterback who does not take unnecessary risks. He is a good game manager and has the intelligence and presence of mind to make the right throws. Cousins has an above-average arm but rarely showed it off and avoided taking downfield risks.
In the NFL, the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game. Teams will respond well to Cousins' management of the ball, which should help him gain a starting position in the future.
Cousins is not the first person you would think of when the term "athletic quarterbacks" is mentioned. His 40-yard dash time was 4.91 seconds and he hardly ran the ball at Michigan State.
However, he is good athlete in the pocket and has a good sense for the pass rush. He is elusive in the pocket and is quick on his feet, allowing him to get away from trouble. Cousins will be a pocket passer for his career, so it will be key for him to stay nimble in order to get away from defenders.
His ability to extend the play is reminiscent to Ben Roethlisberger. Both players are hard to bring down and are great at making plays when needed. Where Cousins is better than Roethlisberger is that he is smart with the ball. While he is a great athlete, he also knows when it is time to give up on a play to avoid a sack or a loss and move on to the next play.
The NFL will be different for Cousins since the defenders will be quicker and harder to break away from. This aspect of Cousins' game will be the most interesting to see. His athleticism has a great chance to make him a great player in the league, but he will have to continue to work at it and getter stronger to keep the edge in the NFL.