2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: C.J. Stroud
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Coming out of high school in California, Stroud was one of the nation's top recruits, and he proved why in his first season as a starter in 2021. After backing up Justin Fields in 2020, Stroud dominated the Big Ten in 2021, completing 72 percent of his passes for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions. Surprisingly, the sophomore did not record a rushing touchdown that season. Stroud was surrounded by a tremendous supporting cast, including a trio of first-round talents at wide receiver in Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. That trio was essentially gone in 2022 because Wilson and Olave were in the NFL while Smith-Njigba was hurt nearly all year. Entering the college football playoff, In 2022, Stroud completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,688 yards, 41 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Stroud has the look of a NFL starter. He is a natural pocket passer who can pick apart defenses with his arm talent. Stroud may not have an elite cannon for an arm, like a Josh Allen or Pat Mahomes, and he is not a dynamic running talent like a Lamar Jackson, but he is a well-rounded signal-caller who is capable of leading a dominant passing attack.
The most important trait for any NFL quarterback is accuracy, which Stroud possesses. Routinely, he shows very good precision with his ball placement, leading his receivers to make receptions and hitting them on the run to produce big gains after the catch. Stroud will drop passes in some tight windows and beat defenses with his ability to thread a needle. While Stroud could stand to put more air underneath some passes, Stroud generally throws a very catchable ball for his wideouts.
Mentally, Stroud is advanced, flashing some anticipatory throws. He has room for growth, but the potential is there. Stroud is very composed in the pocket and stands tall. He does not get rattled by the rush. With defenders bearing down on him, Stroud keeps his eyes downfield and will step into a hit to complete passes to his receiver.
Stroud has some functional mobility, and he can use his feet to buy time. While Stroud is not a statue in the pocket, he does not present a dangerous running threat. After escaping pressure, Stroud keeps his eyes downfield and looks to get rid of the ball while not showing any fear of getting hit. He is not inclined to run a lot, and in the NFL, he could help himself by being a little more aggressive on third-and-manageable to pick up first downs with his feet when nothing is open.
The biggest knock on Stroud from NFL team sources is that he does not use his feet enough to make plays when he has that ability. Stroud seems to want to just operate as a pocket passer. He does not show creativity to scramble and ad lib his team into a positive play. However in the college football playoff game, Stroud did create some big plays for the Buckeyes by using his feet and ad libbing some huge scoring plays. Stroud showed he can go off script, and it makes one wonder where that ability was previously. If Stroud does more of that as a pro, he could be a deadly quarterback.
Team sources say that Stroud is more of a quiet type and is not a vocal leader. Some franchises want their quarterback to be a vocal leader, and Stroud would not be a fit for that kind of signal-caller presence.
Stroud should become a starter early in his NFL career. With his arm talent, he can fit a pro-style offense. Stroud looks like a high first-rounder for the 2023 NFL Draft and future franchise quarterback.
Player Comparison: Joe Burrow/Jared Goff. Stroud is a difficult player to compare because the NFL is trending away from pure pocket passers. Stroud can really throw the ball with accuracy and velocity, so in that regard he is similar to Goff. However, Stroud is a better athlete than Goff, and with his feet, Stroud could be similar to Burrow. Burrow though is also much smarter and more aggressive about using his feet than Stroud is. If Stroud would take advantage of his athleticism and run like Burrow does, Stroud could potentially turn into an elite pro quarterback.
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