As we begin the final stretch of the College Football season, more and more lesser-known commodities are making names for themselves in the 2020 NFL Draft community. Two weeks ago, the focus was on dual-threat quarterback Tom Flacco, the younger brother of Denver Broncos’ star Joe Flacco. This time around, another sleeper prospect enters the spotlight in Northern Arizona’s gunslinger quarterback Case Cookus.
Unlike Flacco, Cookus fits the prototype of a big, strong quarterback prospect at 6’4″, 205 pounds. Since arriving at North Arizona in 2015, Cookus has made a name for himself as a 2020 NFL Draft prospect. Below, I will examine Cookus’ game and breakdown what makes him a potential day two pick. There are a few teams that could be interested in Cookus, and I will look to find the best fit for him in the NFL.
The start of something special
It was apparent early on that Cookus was a talented player for the Lumberjacks. As a true freshman in 2015, Cookus was named the FCS STATS National Freshman of the Year after compiling an eye-opening 40 total touchdowns and over 3,300 total yards. Cookus’ 37 touchdown passes ranked second in the country at the FCS level. He also showed decent athleticism during his first season at Northern Arizona, rushing for over 200 yards and three scores.
Despite all the promise Cookus showed during his freshman campaign, injuries marred two of his next three seasons for the Lumberjacks. He returned from a season-ending shoulder injury suffered in 2016 to throw for 3,413 yards and 22 touchdowns during the 2017 season. However, Cookus was lost again for the season during the second game of 2018 with another arm injury. That early promise Cookus showed during his freshman season was starting to seem like a distant memory.
Redemption road to the NFL
Cookus has again returned from injury this season and is starting to look like the same old gunslinger and great QB prospect he once was. In only ten games, Cookus has thrown for 3,339 yards and 27 touchdowns. He hasn’t been the same threat running the ball this year for the Lumberjacks, but he continues to show why he might be the most refined passer at the FCS level. He is not just a great quarterback prospect at the FCS level; he is an outstanding player for any level of football.
His large stature allows Cookus to see the field well and deliver throws at all levels of the field with great timing, touch, and accuracy. Take a look at this long pass for a 62-yard touchdown.
(Q3 | 10:21) NAU 27 – MSU 6
— NAU Football (@NAU_Football) August 30, 2019
In 2019, Cookus has broken both the all-time passing yards and passing touchdown records at Northern Arizona. He is a prolific college passer that could be ready to make his mark on the NFL sooner than later.
How he fits at the next level
Recently, Cookus was mentioned by Yahoo! Sports as the best FCS quarterback prospect since Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo has experienced great success in the NFL so far, first with the Patriots and now with the 8-1 San Francisco 49ers. One big reason for Cookus’ success is the supreme confidence and leadership he shows on the field. He believes he can make every throw on the field, and sometimes that gets him in trouble.
With that gunslinger mentality, Cookus continues to put up big-time stats in the Big Sky Conference, and he improves his draft stock in the process. Cookus could be selected as early as the third round, but I expect him to settle in around the 5th or 6th round when all is said and done. The lack of competition and winning will be a knock against Cookus, in addition to the apparent injury concerns.
Garoppolo is a decent comparison for Cookus as an NFL prospect. Cookus is slightly bigger in stature, but both quarterbacks have adequate mobility and can make the majority of NFL throws. This comparison is also interesting because it could lead to teams such as the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins to come calling. The Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round back in 2014 and could make a move for Cookus as well as the heir apparent to Tom Brady.
The Dolphins have a glaring need at quarterback, and with Brian Flores in Miami, there could be serious interest in a prototype quarterback prospect with upside such as Cookus. The team will undoubtedly add a quarterback such as Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert early on, but they could double-down later on with the selection of Cookus as competition. Jim Nagy, a representative of the Senior Bowl game, mentioned Cookus as a player of interest back in September.
One small-school QB that we’re excited to see is @NAU_Football QB Case Cookus (@CaptainCookus10. Suffered season-ending injury in ‘18 so we didn’t have much tape to evaluate this summer. We do know NAU has won a bunch of games with him under center. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/RBkp3jZ3Jt
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 22, 2019
If Cookus can land a spot in the Senior Bowl, that would be a massive step for him. The national media and NFL scouts would get a chance to see the ability and pure perseverance that Cookus has displayed throughout his college career. The opportunity would allow him to cement his name and status as a legitimate prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft.