The Raiders made a surprising move Saturday, moving up in the draft to take Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook with the second pick of the fourth round.
Oakland is well set at quarterback with starter Derek Carr, but Cook provides them a potential backup of value after Cook dropped into the third day of the draft.
The Raiders swapped their fourth round pick (No. 114) and one of their fifth rounders (No. 154) with Cleveland to move up to the No. 100 overall pick. That moved them one spot ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, who were believed to be interested in Cook.
Cook is expected to come in and compete with incumbent backup Matt McGloin for that role.
“I was pretty surprised,” Cook said on a media conference call of being selected by the Raiders. “I think Dallas was interested in me and they were trying to trade up and they couldn’t do it. And then as soon as I saw Oakland trade up, I was talking to my agent, he said they were taking a quarterback.
“Looking at it, Derek Carr is obviously a great quarterback. Go in there and learn from him, try and compete obviously.”
Cook is an experienced signal-caller who had a 34-5 overall record with the Michigan State, making him the school’s all-time winningest quarterback. The 2015 first-team All-Big Ten selection also holds school records for touchdown passes (71) and passing yards (9,194).
There were some character and leadership concerns with Cook, which may have led to his fall down the draft board after he was projected mostly as a second-round pick. That may not worry the Raiders as much considering he won’t be coming in to compete for a starting role and, in fact, will have some work to do even just to beat out McGloin, who will enter his fourth season with the Raiders.
Cook dismissed all that pre-draft talk, which included chatter that he wasn’t popular with his teammates and concern over him not being selected a captain, a rarity for a quarterback.
“I don’t think you can win that many games and be that successful at a program without being a leader,” Cook said. “I think all that stuff was just so far from the truth. Everything will work itself out. If people want to talk and say all that stuff and they’ve never even sat down and talked to me or got to know me as a person. We were successful for a reason. That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say. I’m just looking forward to this whole new journey and getting a chance to just be a part of a great organization and just go out there and compete.”
Cook is the Raiders’ second straight Michigan State selection after they took linebacker Shilique Calhoun in Friday’s third round. He was the No. 4 ranked quarterback in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com and some mock drafts even had him being looked at in the first round. Instead, he ended up as the seventh quarterback off the board, with Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett and USC’s Cody Kessler going ahead of him.
“I’m glad that I found a home,” Cook said. “It was a little bit of a wait, but I’m glad that the whole process is over.
Accuracy wasn’t exactly Cook’s strong suit, with a completion percentage of just 56.1 percent as a senior and just 57.5 for his career. According to ESPN, he had the fourth-worst completion percentage among Power 5 quarterbacks on passes of 10 yards or fewer.
That’s something he’ll have a chance to work on in Oakland and he’s already been in contact with quarterbacks coach Todd Downing.
“It was really laid back,” Cook said of that conversation. “He was just saying that he was looking forward to getting an opportunity to coach me, looking forward to me getting into those facilities and getting to know everyone, and just congratulating me on being a Raider.”