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Kirk Cousins Combine: Analyzing and Projecting the QB for the 2012 NFL Draft

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IFebruary 29, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03:  Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the first quarter of the Big 10 Conference Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If there's any concern as to how Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins will transition to the NFL, nit-picking is about all anyone can do.

And by that, we're talking about his measurable comparisons to former Spartans quarterbacks who have not seen success at the pro level. So in short, Cousins doesn't have history on his side.

Those who came before him from Sparty, Jeff Smoker in 2004, Drew Stanton in 2007 and Brian Hoyer in 2009 all have seen minimal playing time in the NFL and Smoker has been out since 2007.

When comparing Cousins to these guys, he is quite similar in the 40-yard dash at 4.93 seconds, a 28.5 inch vertical, 9'1" on the broad jump, 7.05 seconds for the three-cone drill and 4.5 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle.

Hoyer, Stanton and Smoker put up roughly the same numbers, give or take, so why should Cousins' NFL career have any more promise? Well for one, he's more experienced at the college level, had far more success, played more consistently and with arguably less offensive talent around him.

Not to mention Cousins has intangibles that are just as good as Andrew Luck's and Robert Griffin III's. He was a three-year starter and captain and simply improved with every season at the helm.

As a sophomore in 2009, Cousins threw for 2,680 yards and 19 touchdowns to just nine picks and had a 60.4 completion percentage. Can't ask for much more from a first-year starter, captain and sophomore in the Big Ten.

In 2010, Cousins upped the ante with 2,825 passing yards, 20 touchdowns to 10 picks, a completion percentage of 66.9 percent and the Spartans' first share of the conference title in 20 years. Cousins would save his best for last, however, as 2011 moved him up the quarterback ranks.

There, we saw over 3,316 passing yards, 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions and a 63.7 completion percentage. Not to mention Michigan State was the Big Ten runner-up.

Getting back to the combine, Cousins was knocked for his mobility, arm strength and occasional impatience in the pocket. That said, as a true pocket-passer, Cousins isn't expected to be impressively mobile.

He does however have a much stronger arm than given credit for and has the football IQ to recognize a lot of different things a defense throws at him pre-snap.

Watch the video highlights of his receiver B.J. Cunningham and you'll see solid arm strength paired with some deadly marksmanship that allows only his target to be in position to make the catch.

At the combine, Cousins impressed with his innate ability to set up his feet and display fluid mechanics. Another factor that will ease the transition is having played in a pro-style system from under center for the Spartans.

If he can produce another performance at his pro day where he lives up to expectations, Cousins has an outside shot at being a late first round selection.

Of any quarterback at the combine, he was the biggest winner and needs to continue to demonstrate his value at his pro day. Considering that he'll be able to work with his teammates there, Cousins will have no problem setting up his release from under center and targeting receivers downfield.

Probably of greatest interest to potential suitors will be how much stronger his arm has gotten since the combine. Obviously Cousins could get a little quicker in dropping back as well as laterally for mobility, but for the most part he'll be expected to use his feet only for gunning the rock everywhere on the field.

Provided that Cousins continues his impressive development both physically and mentally, as well as remaining elite with accuracy, mechanics and football IQ, he will at least become a late second or early-third round draft choice.

Current Projection: Jacksonville Jaguars, Round 3

After his rookie season, Blaine Gabbert doesn't appear to be the long-term answer for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The question here, though, is whether the Jaguars opt to select Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden or Arizona State's Brock Osweiler in Round 2.

With Ryan Tannehill expected to be off the board, Cousins will be lumped in with Weeden and Osweiler, two prospects with similar ratings.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 24:  Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 24, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Then again, getting much needed talent at the receiver position should be priority number one for the Jags. Jacksonville's second-round selection could also be a stud receiver like Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill or a running back like Boise State's Doug Martin to complement Maurice Jones-Drew.

Defense isn't too much of a concern, especially after the Jaguars finished ranked No. 6 in total defense last season and inside the top 10 versus the rush and pass. And defensive coordinator Mel Tucker remains on the staff to complement the offensively minded new head coach Mike Mularkey.

Which is now where Cousins comes in.

At Michigan State he was provided with a reliable defense, solid ground game and receivers who complemented one another but were made better by him. The Jaguars can provide all that but on a whole other level.

Tucker's defense is stout and drafting playmakers at receiver and/or running back through the first two rounds is crucial. After that, selecting Cousins in Round 3 will put him in a position to be surrounded with talented youth, depth and under an offensively minded guy like Mularkey.

Lest we forget, Mularkey molded Matt Ryan in Atlanta since 2008, so the man knows how to develop quarterbacks rather quickly. The worst-case scenario is that Cousins sits a few games behind Gabbert then starts by mid season.

Under Mularkey and with a great rushing attack and defense to fall back on, there's really no pressure for Cousins to force anything, just like at Michigan State.

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