No, neither of these players are that similar to Kirk Cousins. In fact, a large portion of the media and draft analysts have struggled to agree on Cousins' tool set and player comparison. I believe I have found the truest pro comparison for Kirk Cousins.
Just as with RG3, I began by isolating Cousins' individual traits and examining them across many games. By comparing individual aspects, we can then add up the parts to get a more accurate picture of what Cousins might be like in the NFL.
There is a final player comparison that I believe to be the most accurate and I doubt many have heard before. But you have to eat your vegetables before you can have desert, so make sure to not skip to the end.
Kirk Cousins does not have a rocket arm; in fact arm strength may be the weakest part of his overall game. Cousins is not overly blessed like Jay Cutler or Robert Griffin, but has adequate arm strength.
This is one of the biggest differences Cousins has with many of the other comparisons floating around the web. Kyle Orton, Blaine Gabbert, and the list goes on; these are all quarterbacks with exceptional arm strength that is not present in Cousins game.
Cousins is not always able to fit balls into tight windows and must compensate for this deficiency by releasing the ball earlier. Do not misunderstand this critique, Cousins is fully capable of making NFL throws, he is just not an elite arm talent.
Accuracy is an essential part of any successful quarterback's repertoire and Cousins is more than adequate in this category.
Some will look just at the numbers and see that Cousins' accuracy rate dropped his senior year. However, this is not a fair shake, and you must dive deeper to truly understand the numbers.
Cousins accuracy improved up to 66.9 percent in his junior year, but then dropped to 63.7 his senior year. This dip in accuracy is not all Cousins doing, as his receivers dropped a number of balls. If you watch the film, you will see a number of times where receivers are hit in the hands and still drop passes.
Now, Cousins ball placement is tied into his arm strength because he must release the ball earlier than others. This anticipation throwing is very similar to Andy Dalton, who is forced throw the ball before receivers have begun their breaks.
What Cousins must stay away from is throwing off his back foot, because he looses a majority of the power behind his throws. Without this power, Cousins' balls are weak ducks that can be tipped and easily intercepted. Ultimately, Cousins has the accuracy to succeed in the NFL, but it is very dependent on his footwork and anticipation.
A quarterback's release is one of the most important and underrated parts of being a passer.
The release is a shortened way of describing the speed at which the football is delivered and the angle of the quarterback's arm when delivering the ball.
Cousins has a great release that is almost textbook as far as fundamentals go. Using a classic 3/4 release point, Cousins is able to deliver the ball quickly at the proper angle. Cousins does not have the upper body strength to just flick his wrist like a Michael Vick, but that is perfectly acceptable.
Cousins' release is one area where he is very similar to Kyle Orton. This is not meant to be a knock (as there are many Orton haters out there), in fact, it is a compliment. Orton has always been an underrated quarterback and his release is one of the strong suits of his game.
Cousins release is quick and compact from an excellent height and angle; overall a big check in the positives column.
The ability of quarterbacks to extend plays in and around the pocket is an incredible tool. Cousins does not appear at first glance to be a mobile quarterback, but he absolutely is.
Cousins has underrated athleticism and it shows up in his quick feet. Whether through rolling out of the pocket or pulling the ball down for a quick gain; Cousins can certainly move.
Now, Cousins is not as mobile as a Jake Locker or Christian Ponder, but he is very close. Cousins' mobility is likely one of the main reasons he was selected by the Redskins in the fourth round. His quick feet make him an excellent quarterback for Shanahan's boot action plays and QB rollouts.
Presence in the pocket has always been important, but the overall value is less clear with more mobile quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks like Brady and Rodgers use pocket mobility to step up or side-step and extend the play. Players like Ben Roethlisberger are more likely to extend the play by abandoning the pocket and working towards the sideline.
Cousins has excellent pocket presence and has the patience to hold his ground, even in a collapsing pocket. Even with poor protection at Michigan State, Cousins was able to use the pocket effectively and only take off when necessary.
At times, Cousins will do whatever it takes to extend a play, which leads to turnovers. Rather than taking a sack, Cousins will throw off a defender and make a weak, off-balance throw that can easily be picked (similar to Rex Grossman on a few occasions).
Cousins' pocket presence is at a professional level despite poor offensive line play. However, Cousins must continue to work on his footwork in the face of head-on pressure.
Toughness is a cliche' word to describe the quality I'm referring to—the ability to take hits properly and stand in the face of danger.
Some quarterbacks will allow themselves to take a beating on countless plays, in an effort to win the game (Vick & Roethlisberger). Others will lean away from pressure and allow their quarterback play to suffer (Gabbert).
Who does Kirk Cousins compare best to in the NFL?
This is my favorite part of Cousins' game and what I believe makes him a true competitor. Watching film you will see a constantly collapsing pocket, with pass rushers bearing down on Cousins. However, Cousins is able to keep his eyes downfield, searching for the open receiver, and neglecting the increasing pocket pressure.
Cousins is not afraid to take a hit in order to make the proper throw. This competitiveness is exactly what is needed out of a quarterback, and will help him to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches. If you have not watched film of Cousins, please take a moment to, and let his toughness impress you the way it did me.
Adding It All Up
In the end, the quarterback Kirk Cousins resembles the most is...Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck is good quarterback who is able to overcome his less than stellar arm strength, with anticipation and accuracy. He has good mobility, pocket presence and most of all toughness. Hasselbeck will be 37 this season and is still competing thanks to his toughness.
It may not be the most obvious, immediate comparison but if you look closely at pocket presence, and release of these quarterbacks you will see a striking similarity. I believe if given the proper time to develop, Cousins can mature into a Hasselbeck-type quarterback, and win many games in the NFL.