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NFL Draft in 2016 is another year of quarterback

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook passes the ball

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook passes the ball during the first half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game against Alabama, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Credit: AP/ LM Otero

CHICAGO — There may be some question about the quality of this year’s NFL quarterback class, but there’s certainly no debate about the quantity.

A whopping 15 quarterbacks were taken in this year’s draft, the most since 17 went off the board in 2004, the year Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger went early in the first round. And this year’s group is more than twice as big as last year’s class, which saw only seven quarterbacks drafted.

The third and final day on Saturday was highlighted by an early run on quarterbacks in the fourth round, starting with the Raiders’ trade up to take Michigan State’s Connor Cook. The 6-4, 217-pound Cook certainly has talent, but also left many scouts concerned about his leadership, starting with the fact he wasn’t named a team captain before the 2015 season.

Cook also turned off NFL executives after winning last year’s Big Ten championship game MVP. Two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, the former Ohio State tailback, presented the award and offered a handshake before giving Cook the trophy, but the quarterback simply grabbed the trophy and essentially ignored Griffin. Cook now joins a Raiders team that is led by quarterback Derek Carr, a second-round pick in 2014. Cook subsequently apologized to Griffin.

“Any time you see another quarterback drafted in front of you it hurts,” said Cook, who was taken after less-publicized quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett of North Carolina State, who went to the Patriots in the third round, and USC’s Cody Kessler, who went to the Browns in the third. “I’m a competitor. Obviously I think I’m one of the best quarterbacks in this draft class. But things are never easy. Nothing is ever perfect. Everything I was able to accomplish at Michigan State was never easy. Going on to the NFL, it’s definitely going to get a little bit harder and more difficult.”

The Raiders moved ahead of the Cowboys, who were also interested in drafting Cook, to select the Michigan State passer. The Cowboys, looking for a capable backup for and potential successor to 36-year-old Tony Romo, settled on Mississippi quarterback Dak Prescott later in the fourth round. Prescott had 29 touchdown passes and just five interceptions last season.

Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, who helped the Buckeyes win the national championship after the 2014 season in just his third start, was taken in the fourth round by the Bills. Tyrod Taylor, who enters the final year of his contract, won the starting job last year and will continue in that role. But the Bills see Jones as a potential starter down the road, especially if he improves his accuracy.

“He’s got the talent to possibly be a franchise guy,” Bills general manager Doug Whaley said. “Is he there yet? Absolutely not. He’s got a lot of work and a lot of ways to go, but this guy’s driven. This guy’s a proven winner. We got a nice guy to work with, with a high upside, so we’re excited to have him.”

The Chiefs took Stanford’s Kevin Hogan in the fifth round and hope he can serve as a backup for Alex Smith. The Chiefs lost backup Chase Daniel to the Eagles as a free agent last month. Nate Sudfeld of Indiana (Washington), Jake Rudock (Lions) and Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech (49ers) were taken in the sixth round, and Brandon Doughty of Western Kentucky (Dolphins) went in the seventh round.

Notes & quotes: Moritz Boehringer became the first international player to go directly from a European league team to the NFL, when the Vikings took the wide receiver in the sixth round. Boehringer, 22, played in the German Football League and began to attract the attention of NFL scouts when he participated in the Florida Atlantic pro day. The 6-4, 220-pound receiver runs the 40 in a speedy 4.4 seconds.

“That’s kind of what the draft is all about, making dreams come true,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s a really smart kid. He understands football and is able to repeat the different routes to us and things like that. Obviously, he has a lot of work to do, but it’s been fun.”

Boehringer grew to like football several years ago when he watched highlights of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Now, they’re teammates.

Reed is Mr. Irrelevant

With the 253rd and final pick of the draft, the Titans selected Mississippi cornerback Kalan Reed, thus dubbing him the latest Mr. Irrelevant. The nickname for the draft’s final player taken started in 1976, when former NFL receiver Paul Salata founded “Irrelevant Week” in 1976. Salata, 89, became a successful businessman in southern California after his playing career ended.

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