Leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, it feels like the scouting report of Nevada QB Carson Strong has fallen down the board relative to other passers like Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, and Desmond Ridder. Should that be the case? Some questions come with the Nevada passer, but there’s also undeniable upside revolving around an arm that may be the best in the class.
Carson Strong NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Nevada
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’3 3/4″
- Weight: 226 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 5/8″
- Length: 31 5/8″
- Hand: 9 1/4″
Carson Strong Scouting Report
Strong had early-round hype coming into the 2022 NFL Draft cycle. Now, it feels like he’ll be more of a Day 2 pick. At his height, he was commonly in the Round 1 conversation. And looking at his arm talent compared to the rest of the class, you’d think he’d be a mainstay within the top 32 picks. However, there isn’t a lot of certainty in the 2022 NFL Draft’s quarterback group, and that applies to Strong.
Strong undoubtedly has the talent. He’s not the same mobile threat that his competitors are, but in a league where inches matter, he has the arm strength and velocity to fit the ball into windows that other QBs can’t. How much does that impact his stock, and what other factors are at play?
Strong’s physical profile
If prototypical size still matters to you, Strong has it. The Nevada QB checks in around 6’4″, 226 pounds, and stands tall in the pocket. While size does bear some relation to durability, its importance has paled in recent years relative to other physical traits like athleticism and arm talent. So, how does Strong fare in those areas?
Let’s start with Strong’s arm, one of his best physical traits. Strong has a crisp, compact throwing motion, and he can generate immense velocity with ease. He carries enough arm strength to push the ball downfield and hit players in stride, capable of fitting the ball into tight windows with touch. He also has enough arm elasticity to generate velocity on the run. Strong maximizes his arm with solid mechanics, hip torque, and synergy between his upper and lower body.
Strong’s high-level arm is his most valuable physical tool, but he isn’t a liability as an athlete. Strong is certainly more of a pocket passer, but he has some underrated mobility within his archetype. He has some modest short-range spryness in the pocket and flashes limited off-script ability. While he’s never going to create much on the ground, he can get out in space with his long strides if pressure pushes him out of the pocket.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Although Strong’s physical baseline affords him natural potential, many of his most prevalent strengths show up in structure. That’s where his mental prowess assists in making his arm talent shine.
Strong does a lot of pre-snap work with protection calls, and he flashes the ability to run through his progressions fairly quickly. At times, he throws with anticipation, with some of the most noticeable examples being on in-breaking routes. Additionally, he can identify looming slot defenders on those concepts. He can also read the field and key in on 1-on-1 opportunities.
Strong has a nice balance of patience and decisiveness as a thrower. He possesses the wherewithal to throw the ball away when he’s forced to the sideline. Furthermore, the Nevada product has naturally strong footwork and knows how to manipulate space in the pocket. He’s not lackadaisical with his movement but poised and precise. He snaps his shoulders around before throwing, and he has a steady, stable urgency as a thrower.
Among other things, Strong is exceptionally accurate in the short ranges, where he can place the ball for yards after the catch. He flashes the ability to freeze linebackers with his eyes and keep space open for receivers. He’s more than willing to give his pass catchers 1-on-1 chances, both downfield and in the red zone. And in those moments, he’s shown he can put touch on his passes. He doesn’t just throw heaters — he has the situational awareness to adjust his trajectory.
Areas for improvement
Strong has admirable traits, but he’s not a finished product. Most notably, pressure can create trouble for Strong. At times, the Nevada QB can plant his feet prematurely and make himself vulnerable. He also occasionally tries to force the ball under pressure, leading to volatility and inaccuracy. He doesn’t always detect pressure on the backside; creating for himself isn’t a natural strength.
Strong sometimes fades away as he throws, limiting downfield distance. He can be easily forced backward by blitzing players, and he tends to fade back on rollouts at times, limiting his leverage as a thrower. Strong isn’t afraid to take risks even in high-pressure situations, but he can sometimes lead the ball into dangerous areas.
At times, Strong fails to identify defenders in range to undercut touch passes, and he sometimes misses safeties looming over the top, trying to force tight throws with his arm. His release point can vary, resulting in varying throw trajectories. Strong can also do better stepping into throws and driving his shoulders on occasion. His mechanics are decent overall, but there are some notable inconsistencies.
Beyond the notes listed above, Strong’s downfield accuracy can be more consistent. He’s a reasonably accurate thrower to all levels of the field. Still, his mechanics can falter as he tries to force the ball downfield. Moreover, Strong can add more experience with progressions. He’s shown he can run through them quickly, but the Nevada offense employs many quick reads and screens, and he sometimes locks in on targets.
Strong’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
Quarterback evaluation evolves every year. In recent cycles, teams have started to favor quarterbacks who can simply do more — both with their arm and with their athleticism. Strong’s mold — the pocket passer — is slowly becoming outdated, but that doesn’t mean a player like him can’t succeed. Strong, in particular, has the requisite traits to succeed as a pocket passer, even if he isn’t an overwhelming athlete.
What are the requisite traits for a pocket passer? Working well in the pocket is at the top of the list. To do that, you need to be poised. You have to navigate the pocket, manipulate space, and navigate passing lanes. High-level processing is preferred (as is high-level arm strength) to capitalize on windows as they appear. Strong has the arm, and mentally, the capacity is there.
The Nevada QB has a great arm, natural mechanics, accuracy, pocket navigation ability, and flashes of anticipation. He has the processing ability and decisiveness to make the most of his system in structure. He also has enough mobility to manipulate the pocket, stay on his feet, and perform some limited work off-platform.
Strong can still work on seeing the field a bit better, being more disciplined, and cutting down bad risks. NFL safeties may exploit his tendency to stare down targets downfield at times in his early years. Nevertheless, while he can be more consistent reading the field and manipulating defenders, Strong has most of the required pocket passer traits. If he has protection, he can be a solid starter.
Strong’s Player Profile
Some passers have NFL buzz going back to their first years of high school. Others just come out of nowhere. Strong might not have been in the latter category, but a knee injury forced him off the field in his senior season. Strong completed 69.2% of his passes for 2,732 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions as a junior. He was well on his way to potentially earning a four-star designation at that point, but his injury clouded his outlook.
Ultimately, Strong was unranked on ESPN’s board in the 2018 class, and he only earned a three-star recruit billing from 247 Sports. Strong, a product of Vacaville, California, only received one FBS scholarship offer — from Jay Norvell and the Nevada Wolf Pack. He committed on June 6, 2017, and enrolled the following summer.
Strong’s career at Nevada
Strong would log 1 carry for 4 yards as a true freshman, but he didn’t see any starting action. Instead, the Wolf Pack trotted out veteran quarterback Ty Gangi. Strong exercised his redshirt option that year. When Gangi left in 2019, a battle ensued at quarterback, and with his physical traits, Strong ultimately came out on top.
The Nevada QB wasted no time securing the starting role, and he did so with authority. He started all 10 games in the Wolf Pack’s 2019 season, amassing 2,335 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions while completing 63.4% of his passes. It wasn’t an incredibly prolific season, but Strong progressed as the year went on, and his best performance — a 402-yard outing — came in Nevada’s bowl game against Ohio.
Unsurprisingly, Strong reprised his role as Nevada’s starting quarterback during the 2020 season. And this time, he wasn’t holding anything back. Strong exploded to the tune of 2,858 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions over nine games. He completed 70.1% of his passes and upped his yards per attempt from 6.2 to 8.1. For his play, Strong was named a first-team All-MWC selection and the Mountain West Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
2021 was a similar story for the Nevada QB. Strong threw with much greater volume but had similar efficiency. Overall, he completed 367 of 523 attempts (70.2%) for 4,186 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He became the first back-to-back winner of the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year award since 2016 and rode that stellar season to an NFL Draft declaration.
Strong’s NFL Draft ascension
Strong’s NFL Draft scouting report is nearly complete as he heads out of his redshirt-junior campaign. As with all young quarterbacks, the Nevada QB still has room to grow, but he appears destined to have a starting opportunity at the next level. The only question remaining is whether he’ll become a franchise quarterback and elevate his team.
Strong doesn’t quite fit the modern quarterback archetype, but he has enough mobility to keep plays alive within the pocket (where he does most of his work). With his arm talent, accuracy, and processing capacity, Strong possesses many vital qualities that NFL starters boast.
An iffy Senior Bowl performance and concerns regarding the durability of his surgically repaired knee have diluted Strong’s stock. But if teams clear Strong in their independent evaluations, there’s reason to be bullish on his traits. He has the skill to succeed in structure and the best-of-class arm strength to generate defining plays at all three levels of the field.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Carson Strong
Positives: Strong-armed passer with the ability to make all the downfield throws. Sells the ball fakes, patient in the pocket, and remains poised under the rush. Keeps his eyes downfield, quickly gets the ball out of his hands, and possesses a massive arm. Launches deep throws and puts passes out in front of vertical receivers, allowing them to run to the ball.
Easily gets the ball through the tight spots, puts speed on all the throws, and powers the ball into targets. Goes through receiver progressions, effectively sets up screen throws, and takes the safe, underneath outlet if nothing else is available. Steps up in the pocket to avoid the rush and works to elude defenders.
Negatives: Struggles with his accuracy when he is forced to move his head away from the primary target. Must learn to take something off throws rather than whipping the ball into the intended target. Needs to improve his downfield accuracy as well as the accuracy of touch throws. Puts too much air under deep passes. Suffered a significant knee injury in high school which must be checked out.
Analysis: During his redshirt freshman season at Nevada, I identified Strong as an up-and-coming quarterback prospect who could develop into a first-round choice. While he possesses the physical skills to start at the next level, Strong never developed at Nevada.
He’s a nice-sized pocket passer and one of the best arm talents we’ve seen in the draft over the past 20 years. But oftentimes, Strong is too intent on launching deep passes (which he was able to get away with at Nevada), and he never developed as a short or intermediate passer. Strong comes with tremendous upside, and if he is medically cleared by teams, could eventually develop into a starting quarterback if he develops as a total passer.