Name: C.J. Stroud
School: Ohio State
Weight: 218 lbs
Games watched: vs. Penn State (2022), vs. Iowa (2022), vs. Wisconsin (2022), vs. Michigan (2022), vs. Michigan (2021), vs. Georgia (2022)
Heading into the national championship game, the narrative around C.J. Stroud was heading in the wrong direction. He had struggled at points during his junior season. There were a number of questions around his mobility and his completion percentage was down from the year before. Then, he quieted the critics with a masterclass performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Stroud’s incredible showcase of pocket awareness, scrambling ability and playmaking outside of the pocket. It pushed Stroud back into the QB1 conversation once again.
When it comes to evaluating Stroud though, it is hard to separate what he accomplished from the supporting cast he had in Columbus. During his two years as a starter, he threw to Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Ebuka. Two of them were already first round picks. Smith-Njigba figures to be one this year. Harrison Jr. and Ebuka likely will be in 2024. On top of that, he had a good offensive line and a strong stable of running backs. Can Stroud manage to perform without that elite supporting cast? That is the question NFL teams will have to answer before draft day.
Stroud has some fantastic tape to showcase his arm talent. The throwing motion is effortless. He has above average zip on passes and some really impressive deep accuracy. His touch on short and intermediate throws is impressive as well. His ball placement is strong, but could be even better. He does a nice job spreading the ball around, which is easier with the depth of receiver talent, but it would be easy for him to target Harrison Jr. on every play. As I already mentioned, that mobility he displayed in the Georgia game answered a lot of questions about his ability to make plays outside the pocket. Stroud does not have elite speed or quickness, but his physical skills are definitely in line with the requisite athleticism to play the quarterback position in the modern NFL where quarterbacks need to use their legs in order to be successful.
For as great as Stroud played against Georgia, he has several maddening moments on his tape. He routinely took sacks after holding the ball in the pocket for too long. I would love to see him throw the ball away when it isn’t there. Prior to facing the Bulldogs, Stroud did not display much ability to create outside the pocket. He started slow against a number of Big Ten opponents this season, but wound up finishing strong. You can slice that any way you like, but the inconsistency is a bit of a concern for me. He has a strong enough arm to make most plays, but his lack of elite arm strength will show up if he is asked to fit passes into small spaces downfield.
Of the quarterbacks projected to go in the first round this season, Stroud feels like the safest prospect. He is close to pro ready and seems to be trending in the right direction. He has the prototypical size of an NFL quarterback without the turnover concerns of players like Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. Stroud had 85 touchdown passes to just 12 interceptions over the past two seasons. He might not have all the elite physical traits, but I think he checks enough boxes to be a quality NFL starter. I think there is Pro Bowl potential for Stroud, but he might never crack All-Pro status.
Ideal scheme fit: Vertical passing offense
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