QB C.J. Stroud declares for the 2023 NFL Draft, ending speculation about return to Ohio State

Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) runs away from the pocket to throw a touchdown pass to Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18), not in photo, against Georgia Bulldogs during the first quarter of the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Osu22uga Kwr 16

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud had the football world refreshing social media all weekend, desperate to see if he was returning to school or entering the 2023 NFL Draft

On the final day of the deadline to declare, the redshirt sophomore did what we thought was a foregone conclusion a year ago: declare for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Where Stroud stacks up in the 2023 quarterback class

As of now, PFF lead draft analyst Mike Renner has Stroud as the No. 5 prospect and the third-best quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, behind Alabama’s Bryce Young and Kentucky’s Will Levis

When evaluating quarterbacks for the next level, it’s important to note whether they’re a “shooter” or a “scorer.” It’s an analogy coined by FOX Sports and NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks, and helpful when evaluating Stroud.

For nearly his entire career, Stroud has been an excellent shooter. He’s knockdown when everything around him is perfect. His 35 passing touchdowns when kept clean led the nation this season.

When asked to create on his own, though, he can get into trouble. Heading into the semifinal against Georgia, Stroud was one of the Power Five’s 15 worst quarterbacks under pressure this year in both grade (34.0) and turnover-worthy play rate (7.8%).

Against the Bulldogs, though, he was a bona fide bucket-getter. His 77.6 passing grade and two big-time throws under duress were both career highs.

That performance showed that Stroud was at least capable of when creating on his own. Still, a team without a great supporting cast like the Houston Texans might be hesitant to take him since he’ll have to consistently be a “scorer” there.

What this means for Ohio State

Stroud is obviously a massive loss for the Buckeyes, but they still have a great shot at winning it all next season. Ohio State came in third in my way-too-early top 25 for 2023 — behind Georgia and Michigan. That ranking was assuming Stroud would declare for the draft, too.

The Buckeyes bring back nearly all of their skill-position players after leading the nation with a 94.7 team offense grade this season. Ohio State has its top three running backs returning in Miyan Williams, TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden. The Buckeyes also return their top six receivers. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka have an argument to be the two best receivers in the country heading into next season. This year, they were the Power Five’s two most valuable wide receivers, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. Ohio State does lose three starters on the offensive line, but this is still one of the best offenses in the country heading into next season.

As for the next quarterback, that’ll be one of two former five-star recruits: Kyle McCord or Devin Brown. McCord has the leg up on Brown since he’s a year older and served as Stroud’s backup this season. The redshirt freshman impressed on limited snaps this year with a 76.5 passing grade and an 84.2% adjusted completion rate. Another bonus is that he already has great chemistry with Harrison. McCord was Harrison’s quarterback in high school at St. Joseph’s Prep School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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