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″, 214 pounds
- Arm: 32 5/8″
- Hand: 10″
If there’s a word that can tie together Stroud’s entire career across his time with the Ohio State Buckeyes, 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.
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2022 brought similar production and success for Stroud. His Buckeyes finished the regular season 11-1, with their lone loss coming to the Michigan Wolverines, and they reached the College Football Playoff. Stroud himself was the primary engine for Ohio State’s prosperity, completing 258 of 389 passes (66.3%), 41 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Stroud’s efficiency is nearly unmatched, and it’s a byproduct of a very translatable process at QB. But beyond that, Stroud’s positive progression carried on all the way to his very last game — a heartbreaking but hard-fought loss in the CFP semifinal against the Georgia Bulldogs.
In his career finale with the Buckeyes — against college football‘s most menacing defensive unit — Stroud completed 23 of 34 attempts for 348 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions, and also added a 27-yard carry. He brought his trademark efficiency and accuracy to the fold but also showed off playmaking ability he hadn’t always gotten credit for.
Some will say Stroud left meat on the bone in his two-year starting career, and they’re not wrong. He never won a championship, never won a Big Ten title, and he never won the Heisman. But that lack of over-arching accomplishments doesn’t change the tape. And the tape is resoundingly in favor of Stroud’s game.
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″, 214-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 stellar 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. His velocity generation isn’t necessarily explosive, but he generates the necessary push to fit passes past coverage with ease.
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 actively manipulates the trajectory of his passes. When on the move, or when his base is fading back, Stroud has enough arm elasticity to deliver accurate throws. On the run, he’s shown to cultivate solid velocity from different arm angles as well.
Beyond his arm talent, Stroud also has underrated mobility. He’s natural getting out into space on boot actions and rollouts and extends 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 twitch and 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 places 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 to 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 to 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.
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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 has the arm elasticity to generate velocity off-platform.
He’s 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. Rarely does he force throws when encountering pressure.
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 few details that Stroud can work to improve, even after 2022. 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.
Expanding on his mechanics, Stroud’s lower body can get tied up when manipulating DBs, and he occasionally has scissor feet on the drop back. He’ll also be a bit frantic with his alignment at times when encountering pressure. He generally senses and reacts to pressure well, but doesn’t always feel edge pressure looping around, and can be panicked when he comes across it.
Looking elsewhere, while Stroud has phenomenal precision and ball placement, his situational placement can be subject to occasional lapses. There are times when 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, Stroud could find a better balance of pace and touch.
Stroud doesn’t quite have the elite arm elasticity to correct faulty lower body angles consistently. He also plays less athletically than he is.
There’s still room for Stroud to become more comfortable as a creator. He 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. Luckily, Stroud’s final game against Georgia was a very promising development in that regard.
Among other things, Stroud occasionally stares down receivers, keying in defenders, and he sometimes tries to force passes with his arm. Lastly, he may need a slight adjustment from a WR-option-heavy offense.
Current Draft Projection for Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
Stroud is a potential blue-chip prospect at the most valuable position in football. Not only is he a legitimate QB1 contender in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he’s also a worthy candidate for the No. 1 overall pick. Whether that pick ends up being Stroud, Anthony Richardson, or Bryce Young is a matter of preference, but Stroud might have the most well-rounded profile.
Some will rightly question Stroud’s creative freedom at a playmaking QB. Especially when juxtaposed with Richardson and Young, those concerns are warranted. Nevertheless, Stroud has flashed the necessary control and athleticism when creating off-script. And in structure, there’s a strong case to make that he’s the best QB in the 2023 NFL Draft.
To start, Stroud fits the prototypical QB mold with his frame and durability. As a passer, he’s tremendously accurate and precise, composed, and extremely adept as a processor. He can anticipate windows and read the field quickly, plus has the eye discipline to manipulate defenders, before capitalizing with his elastic touch and arm strength.
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Stroud can still be more consistent in sensing and working against pressure, but it’s not something he can’t do effectively. He has the necessary athleticism and short-area twitch for his size, and more experience should only bode well for him in that phase. And off-platform, his arm elasticity allows him to generate velocity and maintain accuracy.
If you like QB prospects who can play at a high level right away, Stroud has the best blend of intangibles to fit that description. If you like QB prospects with the traits to elevate their teams down the line, Stroud has enough baseline talent to fulfill that requirement as well. He’s a worthy QB1 candidate, a worthy No. 1 overall pick contender, and a true franchise-caliber passer, with the physical and intangible tools to lead a winning team.