Connor Cook is the winningest quarterback in Michigan State history. Andrew Billings is coming off a dominant season on Baylor’s defensive line.
It didn’t mean very much in the NFL draft.
Cook watched as six quarterbacks came off the board before he was selected by Oakland with the second pick of the fourth round on Saturday, and Billings tumbled all the way to Cincinnati at No. 122 after it looked as if he could be a first-round pick.
“Anytime you see another quarterback get drafted in front of you, it hurts,” Cook said. “I’m a competitor. Obviously, I think I’m one of the best quarterbacks in this draft class, but nothing is ever easy and nothing is ever perfect.”
Oakland already has Derek Carr, who threw for 32 touchdowns last season, but it traded up to take Cook in front of Dallas out of fear the Cowboys might be looking for a potential successor to Tony Romo. Dallas then grabbed a quarterback later in the round when it took Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott at No. 135.
The 6-foot-4 Cook set school records with 9,194 yards passing and 71 touchdown passes for the Spartans. But questions about his 57.5 completion percentage and leadership skills pushed him down the board.
“I don’t think you can win that many games and be that successful at a program without being a leader,” Cooksaid. “I think all that stuff was so far from the truth. Everything will work itself out.”
Billings, a little over 6-foot and 300-plus pounds, was another one of the top names on the board coming into the day. He was a first-team AP All-American in his last season with the Bears, leading the team with 15 tackles for loss.
He joins a defense in Cincinnati that includes 6-1 Geno Atkins, a 2010 fourth-round pick who turned into one of the best interior linemen in the league.
“My agent started going crazy when the third round passed,” Billings said. “We sat down and talked about it. Geno Atkins went in the fourth round as well. So the fourth round was good. Great, actually.”
Minnesota grabbed one of the draft’s biggest wild cards when it took wide receiver Moritz Boehringer in the sixth round. Boehringer, who wowed teams with an impressive pro day, played in the German Football League last season.
According to the NFL, Boehringer is the first player from Europe to go in the draft without playing in college.
“It’s really a fun story,” Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s kind of what the draft is all about, making dreams come true.”
Southern Mississippi safety Kalan Reed is the new Mr. Irrelevant, going to Tennessee with the last pick.
Long before Reed and the Titans closed out the proceedings, the impressive showing for Ohio State continued on the draft’s third day. Linebacker Joshua Perry went to San Diego at No. 102, and quarterback Cardale Jones was drafted by Buffalo with the last pick of the fourth round for 12 in all.
Jones helped Ohio State win the national championship in 2014 and Perry made 105 tackles during his senior year with the Buckeyes, who had 10 players selected in the first three rounds, a record for the modern era of the draft since 1967.
After Jones went to the Bills, the next quarterback off the board was Stanford’s Kevin Hogan to Kansas City at No. 162. Baltimore drafted Navy star Keenan Reynolds in the sixth round, but he is expected to transition to wide receiver after rushing for a Division I-record 88 touchdowns with the Midshipmen.
“I just think my best area is being in (open) space with the football,” he said.
Jacksonville continued its defensive focus when it selected Notre Dame tackle Sheldon Day at No. 103. Day had four sacks and two forced fumbles for the Irish this season.
The Jaguars also selected three defensive players in the first three rounds, including Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey at No. 5 overall, and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack in the second.
“Definitely shows that we’re definitely going to try to get after it and change everything about this organization and try to make us continue to propel forward,” Day said.
Baltimore used three of its whopping five fourth-round picks on offensive players. Kenneth Dixon, a running back from Louisiana Tech, could be an immediate contributor after he rushed for 1,141 yards and caught 34 balls for 467 yards during his senior season with the Bulldogs.
Among the other noteworthy picks were a couple players with family ties to the NFL.
Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt, the brother of Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt, was drafted by San Diego at No. 198. Florida running back Kelvin Taylor, the son of former Jacksonville standout Fred Taylor, was selected by San Francisco in the sixth round.
Illinois guard Ted Karras, who has numerous family connections to the league, went to New England at No. 221, and Clemson safety Jayron Kearse, the nephew of former defensive end Jevon Kearse, was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round.
The Cowboys took Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers with one of the last picks in the sixth round. Gathers will try to make it in the NFL as a tight end.