CJ Stroud Draft Profile
When evaluating college quarterbacks, it can be difficult to evaluate the player without seeing the jersey. In the past, Ohio State quarterbacks haven’t been known for becoming the greatest NFL players, but I think it’s important to look at every prospect independently. Evaluating the jersey can get a general manager fired; it could cause a team to pass on a guy like Justin Fields. This is the same case for CJ Stroud; born and raised in Southern California, Stroud was a big time recruit for coach Ryan Day. It is fair to say that Stroud lived up to the hype; in both of his two seasons starting for the Buckeyes, he won BIG10 quarterback of the year and BIG10 offensive player of the year. Stroud ended his collegiate career with a playoff loss to Georgia; after leading his team downfield with less than two minutes to go, Ohio State’s kicker missed the field goal that would have led to one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Stroud seems like a guy who doesn’t let the moment get too big for him; there is a sense of stoicism and quiet confidence to his game. Let’s get into the type of player CJ Stroud is, and what makes him different from just any other Ohio State quarterback.
I am always looking for a separator when evaluating quarterbacks; what makes THIS player better than any other player. For CJ Stroud, it is his intentional ball placement. His ability to place the ball exactly where he wants is special. He can make every throw and hits guys in stride like he’s a point guard who found his big cutting to the hoop. Stroud has demonstrated the ability to make throws in extremely tight windows with tremendous velocity and great shoulder turn. His ball placement comes out especially in tight windows and on third and fourth down. He is efficient in the red zone and steps up in the biggest moments. He isn’t just the most accurate quarterback in the class, he also has one of the strongest arms. His ability to put the ball any where he wants down the field makes him a threat to make any throw at any given time. The combination of arm strength and accuracy puts stress on opposing defensive coordinators. Mechanically speaking, Stroud’s throwing motion is quick and doesn’t cause any inaccuracies. From an athletic standpoint, Stroud is twitchy and can make plays with his legs. Against pressure, his initial reaction isn’t to get out of the pocket and run, rather he uses his mobility to buy time for his receivers to get open downfield. Stroud saved his best performance for his last game at Ohio State and stepped up when his team needed him the most. When it comes to dissecting the defense, Stroud does a very nice job against man coverage. Once he recognizes it is man-to-man, he finds his man-beater and allows his receiver to make a play. This is how he was able to build such a good report with Marvin Harrison Jr. Stroud is a total blend of arm strength, accuracy, and athleticism; it is easy to see why he is considered a top ten pick in the draft.
My biggest concern with Stroud has to do with his ability to read a defense and process information vs zone coverage. Teams like Iowa and Maryland gave him a really difficult time when playing heavy cover two and cover three schemes. The biggest thing for Stroud is getting with a quarterback coach who is detail-oriented and has been there before. While Stroud was able to pick a part base man-coverage defenses and throw to players like Marvin Harrison Jr. and Garrett Wilson, he would benefit from being around a quarterback who has seen it all before. Ohio State is an explosive offense, but in every game I watched there were a few opportunities that Stroud left on the board because he was late to find the open target or missed his read. I would like to see him be more decisive and trigger a little bit faster, Stroud has a tendency to take an extra hitch rather than throwing the ball as soon as he finds his receiver. Against pressure, Stroud gets hesitant and likes to fade back which also causes him to throw off his back foot. When he isn’t getting pressured, Stroud can get a little lazy; he will fail to follow through or will put too much air on his dink and dunks. Stroud has the physical tools to be an elite starting quarterback, but he needs a detail-oriented coach who holds him accountable and slows the game down for him.
CJ Stroud is a player who quarterback-needy teams should get excited about. While I don’t think he is a guy who is going to come in right away and be a super star, he has what it takes to develop into a franchise quarterback. His skillset and career trajectory reminds me of Geno Smith, and while I don’t think it will take Stroud nine seasons to reach his potential, I believe Stroud would benefit from not playing immediately. This is why I believe the: Panthers, Lions, and Eagles would all be good fits for him. Being able to see the game from either Frank Reich, Mark Brunell, or Shane Steichen’s perspective would slow the game down for him. With Josh McCown as the new quarterback’s coach for Carolina and them picking in the top ten, I believe this is an ideal fit for Stroud. Watching how Steichen was able to help Jalen Hurts develop as a passer while encouraging him to continue running the football is also promising.His physical assets are what make him a top 12 player for me, but I foresee him going somewhere in the top eight. Like I said earlier, Stroud’s a guy that fanbases should get excited about, but need to be patient for. He has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback, just give it some time.
Natural Arm Talent: 10.75/12
Natural Leadership: 8.25/10
Decision Making + Eyes + Anticipation: 7/10
Pocket Presence: 6.25/8
Athleticism + Mobility: 6.5/8
Deep Ball: 5/6
Feet + Base: 4/6
Throwing Motion: 5.75/6
Toughness + Fearlessness: 4.75/6
Final Rating: 83
Pro Comparison: Geno Smith
Draft Projection: Top 5 Pick
Draft Grade: Top 12 Player
Team Fits: Panthers, Lions, Colts