One of the best players in college in the last few seasons, CJ Stroud is an electric quarterback. He was undeniably in a great position to succeed. His targets included four of the consensus top ten college receivers over the past two years (Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Marvin Harrison Jr.). How much of his success can be attributed to his elite receivers? Is the team that drafts CJ Stroud getting the type of QB that they can build their franchise around for the next decade plus?
- School: Ohio State University
- Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Position: Quarterback
- Height: 6’3’’
- Weight: 214 lbs
Stroud owes much of his recruiting success to the Elite 11 high school quarterback competition. After getting rejected in two different regional tryouts, Stroud was invited to the competition as the 24th and final QB only after DJ Uiagalelei backed out to prepare for his high school senior season. Before Elite 11, Stroud was only a three-star QB and was rated as the 25th-best pro-style QB in the 2020 class. Stroud went on to showcase his talent as the best quarterback at the event, earning his place as the Elite 11 MVP.
He left such an impression on one of his receivers at the camp, Julian Fleming, that Fleming called OSU coach Ryan Day after the competition and begged him to offer Stroud. Ohio State offered Stroud, and a few months later, he committed. Stroud shot up the recruiting rankings, finishing his senior year as a five-star QB and the third-best QB in the class, according to 247sports.
Stroud redshirted during his first season in Columbus. He watched Justin Fields succeed while learning the offense. In 2021, Stroud took the reigns as a redshirt freshman. He never looked back. Stroud threw for 4,435 yards with a 71.9 completion percentage. His touchdown to interception ratio was 44:6. Stroud placed fourth in Heisman voting.
After losing two starting receivers to the draft, Stroud had to prove himself again in 2022. He quickly lost his top receiver (Smith-Njigba) to injury, while Marvin Harrison Jr. emerged as one of the best in the country.
Admittedly, Stroud took a slight step back on the stat sheet in 2022, but he still had a good season. He threw for 3,688 yards with a 66.3 completion percentage. Stroud’s touchdown to interception ratio was 41:6. He placed third in Heisman voting.
Following the regular season, Stroud had arguably the best game of his career. In his College Football Playoff game against Georgia, he proved many analysts wrong who put his improvisation skills as a weakness. He went pound for pound with the best defense in the country, putting his team in a position to win the game. With 54 seconds left and OSU down by 1, Stroud led the Buckeyes all the way down the field, setting up a game-winning field goal, that his kicker ultimately missed. He may have lost the game, but his performance showcased why he may be the best QB in the draft.
Stroud declared for the draft, and he showed out at the combine. He was easily the best passer there (with Bryce Young electing not to throw). On a huge stage, he showed off his accuracy to many quarterback-needy GMs. CJ Stroud awaits hearing his name called on April 27th.
This throw couldn’t be more accurate if Stroud walked down to the goalline and placed it himself. He gets the ball to the spot before the safety can get there, but also puts it high enough that his receiver has an opportunity to go up and get it. Dime.
Here, Iowa is sitting back in zone. Stroud evades a rusher, sets his feet, and delivers a perfect strike with a rusher closing in. He threads the needle, placing it where only Harrison has a chance at catching it.
In this clip, Stroud perfectly leads Harrison on the deep ball. The loft on this ball makes it extremely catchable for his receiver. The placement is perfect. Stroud knew that Marvin’s defender had no help, and he trusted his receiver to create separation. Perfect pass.
Straightaway, Stroud goes through his reads and sees nobody open. He leaves the pocket, dodges a defender, and keeps his eyes downfield, as he sprints toward the sideline. He throws a dart where either his tight end will catch it or nobody. This is textbook improvisation.
I love watching CJ Stroud direct traffic in this clip. Nobody is open, so he escapes and tells Harrison where to go. Then, he fires a perfect strike for a TD.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost died after this play. I thought Stroud overthrew his receiver, so when I saw the catch, I yelled out, “OH MY GOODNESS!” My sleeping baby immediately woke up, and I was scared for my life that my wife would murder me.
This is my favorite play that Stroud made in college. It’s incredibly impressive. The pocket collapses fast (as Georgia does), and Stroud puts #78 in an absolute blender. Then, he sprints to the sideline and somehow sees Harrison with a foot of separation. Off platform, he places the ball in the perfect spot. Beautiful.
Due to copyright issues, I could not include Stroud’s combine clip, but I’ll help you picture it. Stroud throws the ball from the 11-yard line to the opposing 27-yard line. This math adds up to roughly a 62-yard bomb. He also was clocked throwing the ball a solid 59 MPH. Even though Stroud has a cannon, he is also smart enough to know when to unleash it and when to turn it off and put touch on his passes. Stroud definitely has the arm strength to be an NFL QB.
Stroud is not a natural runner. He was able to get downhill and run some this year, but he doesn’t look smooth and will struggle against NFL-level defenders. Stroud is purely a pocket passer (with improvisation skills as highlighted earlier), but his future team should not expect him to scramble for yards much.
As a dynasty owner, this affects you because running quarterbacks score higher in most leagues than pocket passers. Rushing touchdowns typically count as six points vs. four points for passing touchdowns in standard leagues. And rushing yards usually count as .1 points vs .04 for passing yards. Do not expect Stroud to garner many rushing yards or rushing touchdowns at the next level.
Stroud is going to be a starting QB in the NFL for a long time. He is purely a pocket passer, but his accuracy and decision making is the best I’ve seen from a prospect since Joe Burrow. Pro-style quarterbacks tend to last a long time in the NFL.
Stroud is the type of quarterback that his team will be able to build around. Whether he goes first overall to the Carolina Panthers or second overall to the Houston Texans, he may not begin his career with the plethora of weapons that he is used to. Stroud will develop, and his abilities will elevate any receivers that share the field with him. Ultimately, Stroud will be a franchise quarterback that will play on Sundays for the next decade plus.