The 2022 NFL Draft‘s quarterback class has naturally been a popular topic of discussion this season. No passer has truly separated themselves from the pack just yet. And with original favorites like Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell stagnating, one would think that the door would be open for a player like Carson Strong to improve his draft stock. As it turns out, however, Strong himself is also imperfect, and the offseason will only embolden some of his concerns.
Carson Strong still hovering in the QB1 discussion
At least five names comprise the current QB1 discussion, with Carson Strong among them. The Nevada passer joins Spencer Rattler, Sam Howell, Malik Willis, and Matt Corral in that tier. Stylistically, Strong is a bit different from the others. He’s more of a pocket passer, but he has a powerful arm, adept pocket navigation skills, and solid processing ability.
Having said this, Strong hasn’t drastically improved his stock thus far in 2021. Through four games, he has completed 108-of-159 passes (67.9%) for 1,218 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. He’s made some eye-popping throws into tight coverage downfield, but he’s also made mental mistakes, missing safeties downfield at times and forcing the ball into dangerous areas.
Strong’s upside remains clear, but for pocket passers, the margin of error is slimmer at the professional level. Strong hasn’t visibly cut down on his mistakes in 2021. Beyond his on-field play, there are also whispers regarding Strong’s medical history. PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline shared more on the latest episode of the Between the Hashes Podcast.
Strong’s knee injury in high school could affect draft stock
Host Cam Mellor asked Pauline about Strong. Pauline shared information about an injury in Strong’s past that could raise questions at the NFL Combine and other events over the impending offseason.
“Evidently, Strong had a significant, if not major, knee injury in high school. It’s something that’s going to have to be inspected closely when he enters the NFL Draft. And some people think it could be a problem. It could be a red flag.”
“It could be something Azeez Ojulari-like,” Pauline said. “Ojulari was a guy who had injuries, primarily in high school, which red-flagged him. He went from what everyone thought was a first-round pick to a mid-second-round, bottom-of-Round 2 choice — not because of his play, but because of the injuries he suffered in high school.
“Keep this in the back of your head as we get closer to the NFL Draft. If Carson Strong enters the draft — I don’t have any information that he’s leaning that way — but evidently, he suffered a significant knee injury in high school. That has raised some red flags from people on the outside looking in. It’s going to be something that’s closely inspected at medical combines and official visits for teams.”
Medical information is always valuable for NFL teams, and it could especially be a cause for concern in Strong’s case. Beyond his longevity, Strong’s style also presents trepidation. As a pocket passer, Strong doesn’t evade pressure as proficiently as other quarterbacks. Thus, he can be more vulnerable against rushes and more prone to injuries in congested pockets. If his knee is already weakened, that only adds to the uncertainty.
Strong had arthroscopic surgery on his knee during fall camp this past offseason. Nevertheless, he hasn’t missed any time this year.
Uncertainty remains even beyond medical reports
In addition to the medical concerns, Pauline also made a note that Strong’s offense has contributed to his lack of progress so far this year. Strong has shown he can handle a lot on his plate, but things haven’t clicked as often this year as they did in 2020.
Still, it’s too early to rush to judgment with Strong — especially in this quarterback class. The Wolf Pack’s starting QB will still be projected to go early in mock drafts, and there’s a reason for that. While Strong is imperfect, so too are the other four quarterbacks in his range.
Additionally, Strong has some unique appeal. He has impressive arm strength, which he can use to make NFL throws at multiple levels of the field. His deep ball can be accurate and carries a ton of velocity. He’s nowhere near the level of Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, but there’s a reason Strong has been starting since his redshirt freshman campaign. Furthermore, he’s been one of the most revered playmakers in the Mountain West. There’s a lot to like.
Yet, questions are looming for the talented signal-caller. As Pauline implies, it remains to be seen what Strong’s future entails. Perhaps he could return for his senior season if he doesn’t take a leap. However, that would add new wear to a knee that’s already spawning doubt.