NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Draft Profile: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) looks to throw during the first quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the 2022 college football season is over, it’s time to start taking a closer look at some of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL draft class.

Next up, we have Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud

Stat to know: 88.9 PFF grade last season — 14th amongst all quarterbacks in the country (min. 100 snaps)

NFL role: Stroud has lit it up ever since earning the starting job for Ohio State last season. Following Justin Fields was no easy task, but Stroud has done a tremendous job since taking over, putting up better passing numbers than Fields ever did while at Ohio State. Sure his receivers and linemen are some of the best in the country, but it's hard to argue with his stats. Stroud finished with 85 touchdowns and over 8,000 passing yards in his two seasons. He accomplished all of this in only 833 passing attempts while throwing only 12 interceptions. There is no doubt that Stroud will be a top-10 pick due to several teams needing quarterbacks. It did take him a few games last season to really get settled in as the new QB1 for Ohio State; however, since Week 5 of the 2021 season, Stroud has continuously been in the Heisman conversation. Stroud could have a similar progression in the NFL, as he will most likely be the Day 1 starter for his squad. He might struggle early on in his professional career, especially going to a weaker team, so it’ll definitely be a challenge not having the best receivers and offensive line at his disposal. Nevertheless, there should be little doubt that Stroud has the talent and arm strength to overcome it and be a franchise QB.

Highest-graded game: COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF VS. GEORGIA (92.2)

Hats off to Stroud for his performance against Georgia — one of the best I’ve seen from a quarterback all season, and it came on the biggest stage. Stroud put the team on his back and showcased a dimension of his game that we’ve never witnessed. He truly deserved to win the game after an amazing effort like that — 348 passing yards and four touchdowns against the best team in college football is incredible. Not to mention, he shredded a secondary that is full of NFL talent. Stroud also added 70 yards on the ground (excluding sacks), which is something we’ve never seen before out of him. Perhaps, this was a light switch moment for him, uncapping that potential skill set at the next level.

Lowest-graded game: WEEK 5 VS. RUTGERS (57.8)

This was not Stroud's sharpest game, as he never really looked comfortable for some reason. He completed only 59.1% of his passes and finished with 154 passing yards, which is very low for him. He also threw one of the most ill-advised passes of his career into triple coverage that resulted in an interception. Luckily, it didn’t really matter for Stroud and the Buckeyes, as they still won this game 49-10. 

What he does well: In a clean pocket, Stroud is arguably the best quarterback in the country. If he has time to throw, he’s going to dial in and pick apart a defense. Stroud has excellent vision and sees the field better than almost anybody. He does a great job of finding his open receivers and delivering a strike to any location. It helps that he has the best offensive line and receiving core in college football; however, he still has to make the accurate throw, which he rarely fails to do. He’s big, strong and possesses excellent arm talent, which is exactly what teams are looking for in a professional quarterback. Stroud has been the beneficiary of some phenomenal Ohio State teams, but he is still the one leading the charge and commanding the offense.

What he needs to improve: We just talked about how good Stroud is when kept clean in the pocket (71.7% completion rate, 35 touchdowns, 93.4 PFF grade). Well, he is basically the polar opposite under pressure (41.3% completion rate, six touchdowns, 42.0 PFF grade).

The same could be said for most quarterbacks when facing pressure, but Stroud is particularly bad when the pocket collapses. He ranks 97th in PFF grade out of 144 qualifying QBs when under pressure. This is definitely an area he needs to improve on. Stroud is somewhat of a statue back there in the pocket and rarely ever breaks out to scramble. It’s weird because he was touted as a dual-threat QB when entering college, but he never really used his legs much during his time at Ohio State. He may have to uncork that at the next level, as he is sure to be under pressure far more in the NFL than he ever has been at Ohio State.

The only time we’ve seen Stroud really use his legs was against Georgia because he was under pressure so often. Georgia is the best defense in college, so this could be a good sign of what’s to come from Stroud against NFL defenses next year. Stroud's only other issue was his big-game ability. Before last Saturday, he had mostly underperformed in big games, losing to Michigan twice. However, the 2022-23 College Football Playoff silenced any doubts about that, as it was Stroud’s best game ever on the biggest stage. Yes, it was still just one game, but he really did check all the boxes that NFL scouts will be looking for when analyzing him this spring.

Best NFL traits: Arm talent, vision, high release, accuracy

Best NFL fits: Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders

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