The biggest news of the process leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft was the trade by the Carolina Panthers with the Chicago Bears for the first overall pick. It was automatically assumed that the Panthers jumped from ninth overall to ensure their choice of quarterbacks.
And while the Panthers could pick any of the top four quarterbacks, realistically there are two options for them: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young. Both prospects are very highly regarded among scouts and coaches alike, and both are expected to be starters immediately. Stroud is widely viewed as the “safer” of the two quarterback prospects thanks to his superior size, but his larger frame aside, Stroud’s ability as a quarterback is what has him in contention to be the first pick in the draft.
2023 NFL Draft Selection
The Houston Texans selected C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. For full coverage of the C.J. Stroud selection, head over to Battle Red Blog.
What are the good things about Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud?
There is obviously a lot to like about C.J. Stroud. While he doesn’t quite have “prototypical” size, he has solid size for the position at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He’s a good athlete for the position, allowing him to scramble and extend the play as well as hurt defenses on his own after escaping the pocket.
His 10-inch hands are certainly big enough to grip the ball in all conditions, allowing him to drive the ball or throw with touch. Similarly, Stroud might not have overpowering arm strength, but he has plenty to execute every throw he will reasonably be asked to attempt in the NFL. He can challenge underneath coverages with zip, or drive the ball downfield on deep corner or out routes.
The most impressive part of Stroud’s game is what he does with those tools.
He has a crisp, compact, and very repeatable throwing motion. He keeps his upper and lower halves synced up and does a good job of generating power from the ground up and doesn’t have to “over throw” to get velocity or distance. The economy and repeatability of his throwing motion, as well as a sky-high football IQ, allow Stroud to precisely place the ball at will. He does a good job of putting the ball where only his receivers can make a play on it, as well as consistently setting them up for yards after the catch. He rarely places the ball such that his receivers need to contort or slow down to make the catch.
His biggest strengths are accuracy and precision, athleticism, decision-making, arm strength, and throwing mechanics.
What can Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud improve?
There is really very little “bad” to C.J. Stroud’s game and that’s why he’s regarded as highly as he is. That said, there are a couple areas that will need development at the NFL level.
Stroud does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield and not getting flustered by pressure. However, he can occasionally find himself playing through a straw as he waits for routes to come open down the field, and be taken unawares when his protection has broken down completely.
Stroud can also occasionally fail to recognize when the defense has dropped potential pass rushers into zone coverage. Likewise, Stroud can occasionally have too much confidence in his arm and receivers, leading to ill-advised (and unnecessary) throws into coverage. He can also struggle a bit to really adjust the trajectory of his passes to fit the ball between coverage players when defenses use levels coverage.
Some of his weaknesses are situational awareness, over-confidence, and down-field layering.
C.J. Stroud 2023 NFL Combine results
Stroud did not take part in athletic testing at the combine, but did throw in the field drills. The NFL was kind enough to post all of his workouts on YouTube if you want to see for yourself.
C.J. Stroud highlights
What others are saying about C.J. Stroud
Barring a stunning decision by a team at the top of the draft, Stroud will be one of the first three players drafted this year. He’s is a complete enough package that a coach and GM will feel comfortable selecting him. Here is what two anonymous coaches said to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman about Stroud:
“I think he’ll be really good in the pros. He’s very smart. They did a good job with him. He keeps his eyes downfield. I think he’s confident. He understands protections. He’s got poise. He’s been on the big stage. Georgia’s defense is as good a comparison to the NFL as you’ll get, and look what he did to them.”
“I think he has a little different personality. He’s very level, which is good. Blank face. I think he’s got that elite mindset that is always neutral: not too high and not too low.”
Is Stroud a “franchise quarterback”? I don’t know that anyone can say that for certain, but what I feel very comfortable saying is that C.J. Stroud is a quarterback who can be the reason why a team wins. He shouldn’t be a player who needs particular scheming or needs an excellent roster to succeed. He’s good enough to allow his coaches to scheme freely and he should be able to execute pretty much any scheme his future coaches will realistically dream up.
C.J. Stroud is one of the very best prospects at the most important position to enter the draft in a decade. That isn’t to say that he’ll be a better player than Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, or Trevor Lawrence. However, Stroud’s physical and mental traits combine to give him the potential to be a player who is able to stand shoulder to shoulder with those players.
Stroud needs some development, but he has the mental and physical traits that are the foundation for being the reason why a team wins consistently. That’s about as close as you can get to predicting that a guy will be the “Face Of The Franchise”.