The 2023 NFL Draft quarterback class doesn’t have a consensus QB1, but with his scouting report, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud is right in the mix. Two incredibly productive seasons as a starter have led Stroud to this point — on the doorstep of the 2023 NFL Draft. And though there are other contenders, the first overall pick is within his reach.
C.J. Stroud NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Ohio State
- Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Height/Weight: 6’3″, 218 pounds
If there’s a word that can tie together Stroud’s entire career to this point, it’s “progression.”
The Buckeyes signal-caller progressed all through high school and closed out his tenure with a senior season that saw him amass 3,878 yards and 47 touchdowns in 13 games. Stroud progressed through the Elite 11 quarterback competition showcase in 2019 and was ultimately named MVP of the event. In his first full season as a starter at Ohio State, he progressed into a Heisman finalist.
The stats are a strong indicator of Stroud’s growth. After completing just 62.3% of his passes through his first three games in 2021, Stroud closed out the year on a tear, completing 74.7% of his remaining throws, and landing with 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.
2022 has brought similar production and success for Stroud. His Buckeyes are undefeated through three months of the season, and Stroud himself has completed 169 of 249 attempts (67.9%) for 2,453 yards, 29 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. His efficiency is nearly unmatched, and it’s a byproduct of a very translatable process at QB.
C.J. Stroud Scouting Report
Stats can be misleading at times. But for Stroud, the production confirms what’s visible on tape. Not only is he a high-level passer who’s progressed a lot in his young career, but he has the tools to potentially be a franchise signal caller.
To identify a first-round worthy QB, you start with the talent. Stroud no doubt has that. He passes the eye test with a sturdy 6’3″, 218-pound frame. With that frame, he flashes a crisp, tight release. He’s fast and efficient with his throwing motion, and generates great velocity with ease to all levels of the field.
Stroud has excellent arm strength, and with it, he pushes the ball outside the numbers and puts passes where only his receivers can get it. He can effortlessly fit the ball into tight windows and push passes up the seam against tight coverage.
Stroud’s arm is not only strong, but also elastic. This combined strength and elasticity grants the Ohio State QB exceptional overall arm talent. Stroud can masterfully mix pace and touch on his throws. With his arm talent and methodical shoulder adjustments, he can actively manipulate the trajectory of his passes. Stroud has enough arm elasticity to deliver accurate throws when on the move, or when his base is fading back. And on the run, he’s shown he can cultivate solid velocity from different arm angles.
Beyond his arm talent, Stroud also has underrated mobility. He’s natural getting out into space on boot actions and rollouts, and he can extend plays on the ground. Stroud also boasts solid short-area athleticism, using quick movements to escape rushers and surge through small lanes in the pocket. Furthermore, he has the lateral athleticism to sidestep blitzers and create space for himself.
As a thrower, one of Stroud’s best traits is his accuracy. The Ohio State QB throws within the receiver’s wheelhouse with uncommon consistency, and his passes are rarely uncatchable. Going further, Stroud consistently places the ball well for yards after the catch in the short range. He also helps lead receivers away from contact on comebacks and routes over the middle of the field. Moreover, Stroud can place boundary passes to the back shoulder and has the velocity to push those throws past tight coverage.
As accurate as Stroud is, his overall processing and mental work might be even more impressive. Stroud is an extremely smart passer, who’s shown he can quickly go through progressions and process leverage with stellar processing speed and field vision. He’s able to quickly diagnose coverages, make pre-snap checks, and pinpoint mismatches to exploit based on coverages.
Expanding on Stroud’s processing, the Ohio State QB can anticipate stems and maximize efficiency, especially on quick throws. He reacts quickly to WR option breaks and has the anticipation, high-level arm talent, and most importantly the confidence to make high-difficulty throws.
Manipulation and Mechanics
Beyond simple processing, Stroud has shown he can manipulate the field in real-time. He actively uses his shoulders and eyes to manipulate and displace defensive backs, while simultaneously anticipating windows. Additionally, Stroud can feign the run as a scrambler to pull linebackers in, opening windows which he quickly capitalizes on.
In the pocket, Stroud does very well to feel pressure, and can preemptively step up into lanes to buy himself time in the pocket. He’s exceptional at managing space — patient and poised, with active feet. He’s comfortable reading the field and can stand in amidst contact to deliver passes. When Stroud has to roll out, he keeps his eyes up and alert. He also has enough speed to beat edge rushers outside and keep plays alive.
Mechanically, there’s far more good than bad with Stroud. The Ohio State QB often has a steady, uniform base in the pocket, and rarely goes too wide with that base. He’s able to sustain hip rotation and level shoulders with this base and also brings a crisp release. Even when worked off his base, Stroud has shown to snap back to congruence ahead of throws. He has that corrective failsafe and can use quick gather steps to recollect his base.
Going further, Stroud can quickly reset his feet after rolling out, to load his hips and get adequate rotation. He’s also able to keep his shoulders level and generate hip rotation on the move. In that phase, Stroud also has the arm elasticity to generate velocity off-platform.
Stroud is a composed, measured decision-maker who comfortably works through his progressions with discretion, all the way to his checkdown. Still, Stroud is more than willing to take high-reward risks with his arm. His risks are often calculated, and he also shows the wherewithal to throw the ball away when worked into a corner.
Among other things, Stroud has shown he can perform pre-snap work, identifying blitzers and assigning protections to running backs.
Areas for Improvement
While he’s strong mechanically, there are little details that Stroud can work to improve. The Ohio State QB sometimes dips his front shoulder on passes, causing throws to sink and fall behind receivers. He could also better manage his shoulders on the move. In a similar vein, Stroud sometimes fails to fully transfer his weight forward on throws and can lock his hips, causing passes to fall short.
Going further, Stroud needs more discipline with the placement of his front foot. He sometimes overcorrects when snapping into place, resulting in inaccuracy. Additionally, the Ohio State QB’s release point sometimes varies. While often compact, his release is occasionally concave, which can push passes high. Among other things, his mechanics can get tied up when manipulating defensive backs, and he occasionally has scissor feet on the drop back.
Looking elsewhere, Stroud is more accurate than precise at this point. There are times where he could place the ball better to accommodate receivers, allow for RAC, and lead away from contact. His passes to the middle of the field are occasionally behind receivers, forcing them to decelerate. And on end-zone fades, he could find a better balance of pace and touch.
Stroud doesn’t quite have the arm elasticity to correct faulty lower body angles consistently. And he plays less athletic than he is. There’s still room for him to become more comfortable as a creator, and that’s something that’s been particularly evident in 2022. Stroud has the athleticism and arm to work off-script, but at times passes up opportunities to create, and struggles to stay in control in those situations.
Among other things, Stroud occasionally stares down receivers, keying in defenders, and he sometimes tries to force passes with his arm. And finally, he may need a slight adjustment from a WR-option-heavy offense.
Current Draft Projection for Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
Not only does Stroud play the most valuable position in football, but he’s also a true potential blue-chip prospect at that position. It goes without saying that Stroud is almost a surefire first-round pick — and a potential No. 1 overall pick. As for whether or not he will be the No. 1 pick? That’s a matter of preference.
Stroud remains in the conversation after his 2022 campaign, but this latest outing at Ohio State hasn’t quelled the concerns around his creative freedom inside and outside the pocket. Stroud has enough athleticism to work with, but Bryce Young is visibly superior, both with his athleticism and off-script instincts. And there’s been talk that Will Levis, while overaged, could enter the discussion with his tools as well.
For my money, it should be between Stroud and Young. And if you’re concerned about Young’s size, Stroud’s frame gives him added security and projected durability. And while Young has the hyper-elite creative instincts that make him so prolific in high-pressure moments, Stroud is arguably the best QB in-structure in the entire 2023 NFL Draft class.
Stroud is tremendously accurate, composed, and adept as a processor. At his best, he can be in complete control of the field ahead of him with his vision, eye manipulation, and arm elasticity. The Ohio State QB still needs to find more comfort off-script, because he’ll undoubtedly face those situations more often in the NFL. But as it stands, Stroud’s a true franchise-caliber passer, with the physical and intangible tools to lead a winning team.