CJ Stroud, Ohio State (6’3”, 215)
What Scouts Say:
Safe prospect at QB. Uses his eyes well to create space for routes over the middle, with great timing and anticipation. Throws his receivers open. Where Levis is accurate, Stroud has PLACEMENT. He throws his guys away from coverage. Struggles with perceived pressure and gets happy feet when the primary read isn’t working and he’s feeling the heat. Non-platform accuracy is a struggle. PFF gave him a low grade against pressure, not a creator in the pocket. Was the CFB Semi a sign that he can run?
What We Saw:
Like Young, Stroud will make his receivers better and amplify those on his team that are already great. He saved his best game for last, shredding Georgia through both the air and on the ground, something we hadn’t seen before to that degree. Ironically, he still is a lot more mobile than a lot of scouting reports seem to think he is, and is proficient as a runner and a plus talent when it comes to the bootleg. As a runner, he has a clear understanding and read to pursuit angles that indicates to me that he’s a MUCH better runner than his college tape shows. His arm isn’t a cannon (in fact, his deep ball is often short of the target), but he wins as a passer by throwing accurately, reading the defense well, and having excellent ball placement. He’s erratic and somewhat messy under pressure and struggles to create as Young does, but as a prospect, he is a pocket passer with mobility, not a creative, ad-libbing QB which will make him an unsexy fantasy pick. However, he routinely drops the ball in a tiny window at all three levels on a consistent basis and is clearly the QB2 of this class by head and shoulders. Some minor struggles vs zone coverage underneath, but it’s not a consistent issue.
He started as a green prospect that was suspect in his first two games. He slowly put it together as time progressed and he developed chemistry with his multiple first-round receivers of Wilson, Olave, JSN, Marvin Harrison, and Egbuka. His level of competition was always a question where he tended to struggle against the potential NFL-caliber defensive talent. There were some moments even against lower-level talent where I had questions about how far his career would go, he didn’t have that clutch factor that Bryce had. There wasn’t that feeling of “he just has this game, let him cook”. There were also arguments of if his stat lines and performance were circumstantial based upon the talent that surrounded him. He can put the ball in the right place with the right touch, where his top-tier talent receivers could grab it and make a breakaway play or big chunk plays. A big knock on him has also been the lack of use of his legs, which is a big component of attractive fantasy QBs. I’ll admit, I was down on Stroud as QB2 of the class by a wider margin, until I watched The Peach Bowl.
The Peach Bowl was a career game for Stroud and showed that he has put all the pieces of his puzzle together to answer all the doubts. Played against an NFL-caliber defense and had the best game of his career by extending the plays, evading pressure, using his legs, and commanding the field the entire game while 2 of his top receivers, outside of JSN, were removed from the game due to injury. If Marvin Harrison Jr isn’t hit dirty, Stroud leads that team to victory and we have a very limited argument of who is the QB1 of the 2023 class. Every criticism was addressed for me, the only thing that matters at this point now is draft capital to decide who I take between Stroud and Bryce. He’s still a QB2 but will teeter on QB1 on certain weeks given the right system and an alpha. Put him in Indy, let them tank again so they can get Marvin Harrison Jr, and the curse of Luck is finally reversed.
Steve McNair/Dak Prescott with better processing ability
Grade: Early Round 1 Dynasty Pick