CJ Stroud: QB1 in the NFL Draft?

First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft Kicks Off in Cleveland

A Prospect Profile on Ohio State Quarterback, CJ Stroud, who is a projected top-three pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. During two years as a starter as a Buckeye, Stroud threw for 8,123 yards, for 85 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist declared himself for the draft on January 16th 2023, in the aftermath of his epic Peach Bowl performance on New Year’s Day. The film tells us he is one of the safest quarterback prospects in recent memory, but how good can he be? We will be summarising and grading his game, as a whole and in greater detail, and investigate his strengths and weaknesses, before concluding where he should sit on your draft boards.

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CJ Stroud out of the pocket in the Peach Bowl.

The Strengths:

Stroud is one of the most gifted college passers I have ever watched. He can make any throw, he has great anticipation, a great arm, and unbelievable accuracy. He is unlike any of the Ohio State quarterbacks we have watched come out in recent years, he isn’t a system quarterback, but he has shown multiple examples of him making full-field reads, which is a very good sign.

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Finalists for the 2022 Heisman Trophy.

He has a slight tendency to hang on the first, but you see less and less of that as he gets more comfortable in the offense, and you can expect the same at the pro level.

His footwork is neat and efficient, with no wasted motion, and on the whole, he has a great rhythm and his timing is spot-on.

He formed a great connection with WR Marvin Harrison Jr. (who I believe would be firmly in the first round in this draft if he was eligible, potentially even WR1), this allowed him to stretch the field as he and Harrison Jr. connected for 14 touchdowns. Especially when built around, there is no reason CJ Stroud can’t be an elite QB, with an incredibly high floor, especially if he can use the physical gifts that I believe he possesses and begins to use his legs a little more.

The Weaknesses:

Stroud was given a pretty favourable gig at Ohio State, as all Ohio signal callers are, with multiple NFL talents on his offensive line and receiver. This has led to questions regarding his ability to play with his back against the wall if he were to go to a team such as the Texans, who have more questions than answered, and currently possess the #2 overall pick.

Stroud is also more of a lead-by-example type, not a vocal leader which some teams will be looking for in their franchise quarterback. This may be a big issue for some teams, and not particularly relevant to others, beyond that though, there are no character concerns about Stroud who seems cerebral and by all accounts, a good teammate.

The biggest slight on CJ Stroud is his reluctance to break out of the structure, and lack of playmaking ability. At Ohio, when the pocket collapsed, Stroud often took a sack rather than looking to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs.

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CJ Stroud is being taken down in the Peach Bowl.

As pass rushers have become better, improvisation has become imperative in all NFL offenses, and this appears to be the one thing that Stroud hasn’t displayed in college.

However, when you turn on the film of his game against UGA in the Peach Bowl, he shows this in spades. Off-schedule playmaking was a part of his game which never really came out, and was his biggest negative up to that point, but in the biggest game of his collegiate career, he was able to use his legs to keep his team in the game, going up against one of the best college defenses in recent memory.

Will Stroud be able to use this to his advantage regularly on Sundays? That’s what every team will have to evaluate in the weeks before the draft, speaking to him, and in his workouts.

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CJ Stroud on the podium at the 2023 NFL Draft Combine

The Grades:

A final set of grades evaluating the keys of playing the quarterback position:

  • Footwork – A
  • Accuracy – A+
  • Anticipation – A
  • Timing & Rhythm – A
  • Playmaking – C+
  • Mobility – C+
  • Decision-making – A
  • Arm Talent – A-
  • Pocket Presence – B+
  • Composure Under Pressure – B
  • Measurables – A- (pending pro day measurements)
  • Ball Placement – A
  • Throw Versatility – A
  • Leadership – B-
  • Intelligence – A

Final Grade – A

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Stroud using his legs to keep Ohio State in the game.


Ceiling/Floor – Justin Herbert/Jared Goff.

Best Game – Peach Bowl vs UGA (01.01.2023)

Despite being potentially projected as the #2 overall pick, I think CJ Stroud is actually being overlooked as a prospect. I believe his arm and accuracy are on-par with Bryce Young’s, and although he doesn’t possess the same mobility as Young, he doesn’t have any of concerns about durability or size.

He can stand in the pocket and deal, and he has enough positives to overcome his limitations out of the structure. He has an incredibly high floor, and I would have no opposition to him being the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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