Will decision to skip Senior Bowl cost Connor Cook in NFL draft?

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook has decided not to participate in the 2016 Reese's Senior Bowl.

Will that decision come back to haunt him?

Cook, one of the top senior QB prospects in this year's draft, declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl and will place his focus on training for the late February NFL Scouting Combine.

Senior Bowl week kicks off on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala., and is the marquee all-star event for college players. It gives top senior prospects a chance to showcase their abilities with NFL personnel executives, scouts and coaches on hand.

It's not uncommon for top talents to bypass the game in favor of combine prep, and it's also not unusual for NFL teams to frown on prospects that pass on an opportunity to compete leading up to the draft.



One such case was former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who skipped the 2014 Senior Bowl. He was chided for that decision and later said he was following the advice of his doctors, who told him he needed to rest his body.



McCarron was picked in the fifth round (164th overall) later that year. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah says the Senior Bowl decision hurt McCarron's draft standing, and barring some health-related explanation for his absence that NFL teams find sufficient (Cook injured his shoulder in November and missed a game), Cook's decision could be viewed in a similar light by NFL teams.

"I thought the McCarron decision was a big mistake and that cost him in the draft," Jeremiah said. "I'm surprised Cook didn't learn from that decision."

NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein says the Senior Bowl decision is the latest move in a postseason that will hurt Cook's stock.

"The postseason is a disaster for him," said Zierlein, who doesn't expect Cook to go in the first round.

Cook is a three-year starter who led MSU to the College Football Playoff this season, where the Spartans were trounced 38-0 by Alabama in a semifinal game. Cook completed 19 of 39 passes for 210 yards with two interceptions in the loss. The result was different, but his numbers weren't much better (16-32, 191 yards, no TDs, 1 interception) in the Big Ten title game win over Iowa that clinched a berth in the playoff. Cook suffered a shoulder injury Nov. 14 against Maryland and missed MSU's game the following week against Ohio State, but the QB said he was "100 percent" healthy against Alabama.

An NFC scout last month described Cook as "the most polarizing guy in the draft" and "a third-rounder to me and an average starter at best." Questions about intangibles will follow Cook into the offseason. He would have had an opportunity to address those with NFL teams at the Senior Bowl, but will opt to wait a few more weeks before that process begins in earnest at the combine.

Follow College Football 24/7 on Twitter @NFL_CFB.

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