NFL draft preview: Virginia CB Chris Cook
Virginia's best hope of having a player sneak into the first round of Thursday's NFL draft -- or, for that matter, having a player selected in the second round on Friday -- is cornerback Chris Cook.
Cook's stock has elevated during the pre-draft process, as his combination of size and speed makes him a rare breed. Cook is 6 feet 2 and 212 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash at February's scouting combine in 4.46 seconds.
"I feel pretty good," Cook said this week. "It's kind of nervousness, but I feel pretty good about the chances."
Cook could be selected late in the first round, and he almost assuredly will not last past the second round. The top of the draft is deep on cornerbacks, but Cook offers the best size among the group.
"The major thing is Chris is a pretty unusual specimen for the position," former Virginia Coach Al Groh said. "He's a size corner with athletic skill. And there are a lot of smaller corner in the league, but that's not because the league prefers smaller corners. It's because there's a certain level of athletic ability necessary to play out there. It's more frequently found in smaller players than in bigger players. But when a player can bring size, you can see the receivers are constantly getting bigger and bigger."
In fact, some NFL teams have asked Cook if he'd be willing to play safety. Cook is agreeable to what teams want, but believes he is a cornerback and that his athleticism validates his spot at the position.
The question Cook has most commonly been asked by NFL teams is about his year away from the game, when academics kept Cook from participating in the 2008 season. Cook said he answered all the questions honestly -- he admitted at times he was even too honest -- but by being honest, it alleviates concern. Also, academic issues are different than character questions that arise in other situations.
"There have been inquiries about the situation, because teams are just doing their due diligence; they're getting ready to make a sizable investment," Groh said. "They should be asking to get all the information to be the comfortable with the selection, and yes, the academic situation is different in the eyes of most teams than if it was for legal matters or for substance matters. Certainly, when you say academics, there's going to be underlying reason behind that, too -- was there lack of diligence or lack of accountability or responsibility that begs further question -- but certainly in Chris's case, there were never in a course of his career, his time at Virginia, there were never any legal issues or never any substance issues."
Cook will watch the draft from Lynchburg, Va., among friends and family. He's received phone calls from former Virginia players in the NFL who have advised Cook to pay less attention to when he is drafted and focus more on impressing teams upon arriving in camp. That is why Cook will spend the days until mini-camp continuing to work out, specifically focusing on back peddling so he does not lose the muscles needed to excel at cornerback.
"Mini camp starts in a week or two," Cook said, "and I can't let myself get out of shape."
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