QB2: CJ Stroud (Ohio State)
Weight: 214 pounds
DOB: 10-03-2001 (21 years old)
Good Stat: 85 TDs-12 INTs as starter
Bad Stat: 16 turnover-worthy plays in 2022
CJ Stroud is a different story from anyone else previously mentioned on this list. He is ready to play right now and can be the focal point of a high-powered offense as a rookie. The former Buckeye proved this during his college career.
Stroud enrolled at Ohio State before the 2020 season and redshirted as the primary backup to Justin Fields. Stroud credits Fields with showing him the way and what it means to be a leader by example.
Stroud took over as QB1 following Fields’ departure, beating Quinn Ewers and Kyle McCord in a tightly-contested preseason battle for the top spot. Head coach Ryan Day was quickly proven correct, as Stroud became one of the best players in the country in 2021.
He completed 71.6 percent of his passes, 4,424 passing yards, and 44 touchdowns in his first year as the starter, finishing second in Heisman voting. Stroud did what he could to beat the hated rival, but Michigan prevailed, preventing the Buckeyes from a playoff appearance.
Stroud returned hungrier than ever in 2022. His stats dipped a bit, but that is expected when you lose your top three receivers from the year prior. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are already NFL stars, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba is in the running to be the first receiver taken in this year’s draft.
The nagging injury that kept JSN sidelined hurt Stroud and the team as a whole. Marvin Harrison Jr. emerged as the top target for Stroud, who would be named a finalist for the Heisman trophy yet again. Unfortunately, the same fate vs. Michigan awaited.
This time, Ohio State still found its way to the playoff and came within a last-second field goal of beating the defending National Champs — the Georgia Bulldogs. In that game, Stroud played the best game of his Buckeye career. He carved up a defense boasting several NFL starters and even showcased some rushing ability that scouts were begging to see more of.
He revealed at the NFL Combine that he heavily considered returning to Columbus. However, the NFL came calling. Stroud is projected as a top-10 pick in every mock draft — and for good reason. He possesses the best anticipatory throws in the class and shows touch on his throws that remind me of Joe Burrow.
The downside to Stroud’s game is centered around his ability to handle pressure in the pocket. At times, his brain quits working when he feels a pass rusher approaching, leading to inconsistent mechanics and errant throws. While it is something he must improve, it is one of the easiest things to fix in a young quarterback.
Stroud dispelled most mobility concerns vs. Georgia. He gained some chunk yardage on the ground and rolled out the pocket to complete a pass numerous times. Add this improvement to his exceptional touch on throws, and you get a franchise quarterback.
He ranks No. 4 overall on my Big Board, regardless of position. I would confidently take Stroud early on day one and slot him into the QB1 role immediately.
NFL Draft Grade: Early Day One