The Case for C.J. Stroud To Be the No. 1 Pick

Alabama's Bryce Young appears to be the consensus QB1 in the 2023 NFL Draft, but Ohio State's C.J. Stroud isn't far behind.

Between the two top quarterbacks in the class, NFL draft analysts slightly prefer Alabama quarterback Bryce Young over Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, but it might be Stroud who has the better long-term prognosis.

For C.J. Stroud, Traits Make the Difference for the No. 1 Pick in the 2023 NFL Draft

Right now, Young is the better college quarterback, but it’s not by much. When projecting traits to the next level, it could be Stroud who comes out ahead. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow, but size matters.

No matter how elusive a quarterback is, he’ll take big hits in the NFL, and though players like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray have survived, they’ve added muscle to their frames that insulates them from hits. Wilson and Murray also struggle to hit the most valuable area of the field — the intermediate middle.

C.J. Stroud Is One of the Most Gifted Passers in the Draft

But more than size, Stroud has talent. He has a natural throwing motion with a lightning-quick release and a strong arm that can thread tight windows. His ability to alter his arm slot and change his release to accommodate the situation is also a huge asset, and he knows how to modulate his throws — sometimes firing through traffic and other times flighting the ball with touch to land in the basket.

He demonstrates this ability both on the run and in the pocket, and he can play well within the structure of the Ohio State offense — responsible not just for making decisions after the snap but setting protections and audibling at the line of scrimmage, which is rare for a college quarterback.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

Stroud calls himself a “ball-placement specialist,” and he’s not wrong. He might be the most accurate quarterback in the draft, and his ability to parlay that with his elite processing and vision means he’s always going to be a threat. He’s a high-level manipulator of defenses, too.

There are concerns, of course. As Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus says, “Stroud has been a fantastic facilitator to some incredible passing weapons at Ohio State over the past two seasons. But for much of that time, there were questions about his play under pressure.”

But, there’s reason for optimism. Sikkema continued, “In his final game, he answered a lot of those questions with an incredible performance against the best defense he faced in the Georgia Bulldogs. If you can convince yourself that version of Stroud is what you’ll get moving forward, he’s a prolific pocket passer, and one worthy of the top spot.”

Stroud falls behind Young in a few areas, like field awareness, pocket presence, and creativity — but not by much. He also has a little less experience in pro-style concepts and could take time to adjust to the NFL. But the goal isn’t to win Week 1 of his rookie season. It’s to get to — and win — the Super Bowl. And Stroud has an excellent chance of that.

Making the Case for Other Quarterbacks

Who else could be the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft? We’ve made a case for each of the top quarterbacks and why it might make sense for an NFL team to venture down their chosen path.

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