Michigan State Football: Ranking the 3 best current Spartans in the NFL

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Michigan State football
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State football (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

1. Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins is arguably the best quarterback in Michigan State history, and has had the most success of any former Spartan in the NFL.

Are you sensing a theme here? Cousins was, like Jack Conklin and Le’Veon Bell, an underrated recruit who did not get the big-time offers of other quarterbacks. Unranked by 247Sports, Cousins was set to choose between Toledo or Western Michigan before Mark Dantonio swooped in and offered him a scholarship.

He redshirted his freshman year, and eventually took over the starting job in 2009. He completed 198-of-328 passes for 2,680 yards and 19 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. In 2010, he upped those numbers to 226-of-338, raising his completion rate from 60 to 67 percent, with 2,825 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw for 3,316 yards and 25 touchdowns his senior year, and took the Spartans to the Big Ten title game.

Cousins had to wait until day three of the NFL draft to hear his name called, but that call finally came in the fourth round when the Washington Football Team selected him with the 102nd overall pick. Washington had just drafted Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick a few days earlier, so there weren’t very high expectations for Cousins going into his rookie season.

After Griffin got injured in a playoff game, Cousins entered the game, but the team ended up losing. Injuries ended up derailing Griffin’s career and by 2015, Cousins became the full-time starting quarterback in Washington. He took the team to a 9-7 record, completing a league-high 69 percent of his passes, with 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns.

In a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cousins led a comeback victory, throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns. The media had been critical of Cousins the week before the game, and as he was walking to the locker room, he shouted, “You like that?” at the media members. This eventually became his famous catchphrase.

He had his best season in Washington the next year, throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and throwing 25 touchdowns. The team only posted an 8-7-1 record.

In 2018, Cousins left Washington and signed a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract with the Minnesota Vikings which, at the time, was the highest paying contract in NFL history. His Vikings career started off strong, completing 70 percent of his passes for 4,298 yards and a career-high 30 touchdowns.

The next year, Cousins took the Vikings to the playoffs and won his first-ever NFL postseason game against the New Orleans Saints, throwing for 242 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Kirk went from breaking Michigan State records to breaking records in the NFL. He is viewed as a top quarterback in the NFL by some, but others see him as just average. While he is polarizing, there is no doubt he puts up numbers in the league, and will continue to do so for the rest of his career.

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