2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Texas football S Anthony Cook

Anthony Cook, Texas football
Anthony Cook, Texas football /

In just a few hours, we could be hearing the first Texas football player’s name called in the 2023 NFL Draft. The festivities for the 2023 NFL Draft are set to begin on the night of April 27. And we’re expecting to hear quite a few names called among Texas Exes in this draft class over the course of the next three days.

Yet, one of the fringe Day 3 selections among former Longhorns in this draft class is another Texas defensive back. Senior safety Anthony Cook is one of the former Longhorns in this draft class that could be selected late on Day 3 but is projected by most to be picked up as an undrafted free agent.

Cook is an interesting prospect in this draft class among former Longhorns thanks to his versatility and high ceiling at the next level. Not only did Cook play three different positions in the Texas secondary in the last three seasons, but he was also one of the most physically gifted defensive backs in the fold for the Longhorns last year.

Let’s take a look at the background of Cook, from his recruitment to Texas, all the way up through the draft scouting process in the last few months. We will also cover his strengths, weaknesses, and trajectory at the next level.

Texas football S Anthony Cook’s career as a Longhorn and his recruitment

Cook was one of the most highly-regarded recruits that signed with the Longhorns 2018 class. And that was a loaded group top-to-bottom, ranking third in the nation and best in the Big 12 for that cycle.

Hailing out of Houston Lamar High School, Cook was rated as the No. 64 prospect in the nation in the 2018 class, the No. 10 cornerback, and the No. 7 prospect out of Texas in the 247Sports Composite. Cook was originally recruited by former Texas cornerbacks coach Jason Washington and ex-WR coach Corby Meekins.

Cook chose Texas over offers from the LSU Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes, and Alabama Crimson Tide, among many other schools.

Cook gets a shot to contribute right away at CB

During his first year on campus, Cook was looked at as one of the true freshmen that could make an immediate impact on the secondary. He took more than 150 defensive snaps as a true freshman during the 2018 season, including a starter-level number of live-game reps in three-straight games in Big 12 play down the stretch.

More than 80 percent of Cook’s snaps during his true freshman campaign came in a three-game stretch in Big 12 play against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, West Virginia Mountaineers, and Texas Tech Red Raiders (in that order).

He showed some flashes during that three-game stretch at the cornerback position, registering more than a dozen combined tackles, just one missed tackle, one sack, and one pass breakup.

After showing flashes during his true freshman campaign in 2018, Cook had high expectations heading into the 2019 season. He wound up solidifying a spot on the two-deep heading into the 2019 regular season and was receiving starter-level reps on a consistent basis at corner opposite fellow second-year DB D’Shawn Jamison.

Yet, Cook struggled throughout Big 12 play in 2019. He was the lowest-graded cornerback that got more than 200 defensive snaps during the 2019 campaign in terms of coverage grade.

Cook’s struggles in one-on-one coverage continued during the 2020 campaign, despite taking more reps as a slot corner/nickel under new DC Chris Ash. He posted the lowest coverage grade of his collegiate career during the 2020 season, along with the worst quarterback rating allowed in pass coverage (120.4).

During the 2020 season, Cook had issues contesting space and keeping the play in front of him. Of the 165 receiving yards Cook allowed in pass coverage in that season, more than 130 came after the catch. He also didn’t get a single forced incompletion (interception or pass breakup), despite allowing 16 receptions and one touchdown in 2020.

However, we did start to see Cook show some flashes during the 2020 campaign in terms of his ability to stop the run when lining up in the box and closer to the line of scrimmage outside pre-snap. In fact, Cook only missed one tackle while coming up with nearly a half-dozen run stops in the second half of the 2020 season.

I think it just took Cook a while to get his feet under him in the new defensive scheme under Ash during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season.

Cook finds himself with another new DC in 2021

Heading into the 2021 campaign, Cook found himself playing in a new defensive scheme for the second time in as many years. Cook played at the nickel position in the defensive scheme under new DC Pete Kwiatkowski in 2021.

And that was a successful home for Cook entering his fourth year on campus. Cook performed at an All-Big 12 level during the 2021 season, posting the best defensive grade, tackle grade, and coverage grade of his career playing at nickel.

Cook developed into the backbone of the Texas secondary, giving this defense someone that could come up into the box and stuff opponent’s run games while effectively covering the flats and short routes in pass defense. His effectiveness showed in his stats and grades to cap the 2021 season. He ranked in the top five on the team in the following grading categories defense, pass rush, tackling, and coverage.

We also saw Cook make plays in multiple ways to help change games for the Texas defense in 2021. He registered three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Cook undergoes another position change in the secondary

The 2022 offseason saw Cook undergo his third position change in as many years. After playing slot corner in 2020 and then nickel in 2021, Cook moved to boundary safety last season. And he continued to be a productive and reliable element in the secondary, leading the way at the safety position alongside Jerrin Thompson.

Cook also had the most productive season of his collegiate career last fall, registering a career-high 61 combined tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, five pass breakups, and one forced fumble. Outside of a couple of poor showings in coverage against the Iowa State Cyclones and Washington Huskies in the bowl game last season, Cook was reliable and productive both as a run-stopper and coverage safety.

Allowing the lowest reception percentage, quarterback rating, and fewest yards after the catch per reception in pass coverage, Cook continued to be a consistent cover DB for PK and the Longhorns last season.

Run stopping was one of the hallmarks of Cook’s 2022 season with the Longhorns. Cook turned in the best grade in run defense of his collegiate career last season, registering nearly a double-digit number of run stops. He also came up with a forced fumble in run defense for the second consecutive season.

All told the safety duo of Thompson and Cook was one of the best in terms of gathering up run stops and limiting big plays in the Big 12 last season. Thompson and Cook ranked one-two among Big 12 safeties in terms of positive play percentage in run defense in 2022.

The 2022 season did a nice job of illustrating a bigger point of the type of impact that Cook had on the Texas defense during the latter half of his collegiate career. Starting around the midway point of the 2020 season, Cook started to find his role in this defense while showing pretty insane amounts of versatility and drive for this group.

Cook was always willing to fill whatever role was needed out of him in the last three years, whether it was him playing at corner, nickel, or safety. And he was one of the most reliable and productive defensive backs in the fold for Texas in the last two seasons.

All in all, Cook is one of less than a half-dozen defensive backs in the last two decades that took more than 500 defensive snaps at corner, safety, and nickel at Texas.

Pro Day times/measurables

  • 4.61-second unofficial 40-yard dash
  • 4.29-second shuttle
  • 34-inch vertical
  • 10-foot-5 broad jump
  • 12 reps on the bench press

Cook’s strengths

  • Hard hitter that can blow up blows when lined up in the box
  • Versatile and reliable from experience at multiple positions at Texas
  • Keeps the play in front of him in run defense and improved this ability in pass coverage
  • Above-average length and strength for a DB at 6-foot-1 and 200-pounds
  • Reliable run-stopping strong safety

Two of the primary strengths that will help Cook stick out among some of the safeties that are viewed as fringe Day 3 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft are his physicality and closing speed. Cook plays with a non-stop motor and a ton of energy. Combine that with his above-average straight-line speed and acceleration, and you get a defensive back that can close gaps very effectively (even at the next level).

Cook brings a lot of pop in the pads, as he has a lengthy highlight reel of heavy hits from his time at Texas. And the fact that Cook never seems to give up on the play allows him to come up with some big plays in the secondary.

The spot where I think Cook’s high motor and physical gifts will benefit him the most at the next level is in run defense. Any safety that stands north of six feet tall and around 200 pounds that can cover the type of ground that Cook can early in a play’s development can be a special run stopper in the NFL.

It also helps that Cook has the speed and physical tools, along with the experience as a cover corner at the collegiate level, to be able to improve his coverage skills in the NFL.

Cook’s areas of improvement

  • Occasionally takes poor tackling approaches when contesting the ball carrier in space
  • Limited ceiling, doesn’t stand out in any one particular area
  • Can be picked on in one-on-one coverage
  • Hard to find his natural fit at the next level
  • Not very rangy at either safety position in coverage

The biggest issue that Cook will face at the next level is the inability to find one natural fit for him in the secondary. While boundary safety in a limited coverage role would probably be the best fit for Cook right away in the NFL, that still isn’t a very desirable role for teams to fill.

Until Cook solidifies himself as at least an average cover safety, I think Cook will struggle to find a positional role that fits the other strengths of his game.

Another problem that emerged for Cook at different points throughout his career at Texas that will be looked at as a limitation in the eyes of NFL scouts is his inconsistency with tackle approach and positioning in space. Cook let the play get away from him quite a few times, especially in one-on-one coverage assignments in the last few seasons.

The good news for Cook is that I think some of these areas of improvement in his game can be cleaned up. It’s not out of the question for him to find more a solidified role at the next level, which would help him get a better understanding and feel for positioning and approach in coverage in one particular defensive scheme.


Cook is in a similar boat as fellow 2023 NFL Draft entrant and Texas DB Jamison. Both Cook and Jamison are fringe Day 3 picks that could very well have to fight and claw their way onto NFL rosters as undrafted free agents.

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The difference between the two is that I think Jamison has more versatility as he brings value to the table as a special teams weapon and a speedy corner in the secondary. Meanwhile, Cook has a higher ceiling at the next level if he can find the right role and work on his skills in pass coverage.

Verdict: Late 7th round pick to UDFA