The quarterback position is getting a double injection of the antidote for a dearth of talent. Hallelujah!
We already looked at Bryce Young, the consensus QB1 and first overall NFL pick. But right on his tiny little heels is the Ohio St. standout CJ Stroud, who spent most of the last year playing leapfrog with Young at the top of draft boards.
As his Buckeyes predecessor Justin Fields ran circles around NFL defenses, Stroud’s commitment to standing in the pocket and delivering strikes with surgical precision to the country’s best receiving corps somehow became a liability in the eyes of many evaluators. He did take off and run 80 times in his collegiate career, so we aren’t talking Brady/Manning cement cleats status. But you aren’t getting Jalen Hurts’ rushing floor either. A word to the wise, superflexers: beggars can’t be choosers. The QB position is so bad that anyone who comes into the league with job security and a mechanism for scoring fantasy points needs to be considered.
Despite earning his first starting job as a high school junior, Stroud finished his high school career at Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High School as a four-star recruit (42nd overall) in the loaded class of 2020. He received offers from powerhouses like Georgia and eventual archrival Michigan but committed to Ohio State late in 2019.
At 6’2” and 194 lbs, the athletic pocket passer drew comparisons to Teddy Bridgewater. Mobile enough to extend plays, but poised and comfortable in the pocket, with a live arm and accuracy at all levels. His arm strength stood out to recruiters, with a quick, smooth release and the strongest arm in the class.
Courtesy of Sports Reference
The rushing numbers are nothing to write home about; 32 attempts as a redshirt freshman in 2021, increasing to 47 attempts as a junior in 2022. He managed 108 yards rushing in 2022, which seems modest, but was a stark improvement over his -20 rushing yards in 2021. His only rushing touchdown came in 2020, as a true freshman, on a 48-yard house call.
His bread and butter is his passing. He was slightly more effective in 2021, completing 317 of his 441 attempts for a completion percentage of 71.9%, 44 TDs and just six INTs. Despite playing one more game in 2022, everything dipped as the Buckeyes ran the ball more effectively as a team. His 389 attempts and 258 completions still resulted in a 66.3% completion rate. He still surpassed 40 TDs, hurling 41 more, while maintaining his six INTs. His adjusted yards per attempt dropped slightly (10.9 in 2022, down from 11.4 in 2021), and his passer rating lost nine points (186.6 in 2021, 177.7 in 2022). But in both years, he was prolific enough to finish as a Heisman finalist.
Taller and slightly thicker than Young, Stroud looks the part of an NFL QB more than Young if they stand next to one another. But Stroud’s lack of mobility accounts for the small gap between them. Again, it’s not that Stroud can’t run; it’s just that he is comfortable in the pocket, and has the arm talent to pick up chunk yardage by delivering the ball, even when he’s on the move.
- Arm talent. He has an absolute cannon, with a quick, smooth delivery, and accuracy & touch on deep balls.
- Pocket presence. Stroud can evade the rush and extend the play when protection breaks down, but he’s comfortable standing in the pocket and going through his progressions.
- Athleticism. Fast and elusive when he needs to be, and throws on the run with power and accuracy.
- Upside. He’s still relatively new to the QB position, with raw talent and the capacity to get even better.
- Mobility. Facing faster, heavier pass rushes at the pro level, we would like to see a little less commitment to standing in the pocket and more willingness to take off and run in order to keep defensive fronts honest. Particularly at the top of the draft – featuring bad teams with bad offensive line play – Stroud’s propensity to stand tall in the pocket could make him a sitting duck early in his pro career.
- Overcoming adversity. Just like his mobility, it’s not that he can’t… it’s just that he hasn’t had to. Ohio State offers great protection and a QB-friendly system, with a lot of winnable games on the schedule. On top of all that, Stroud’s receiving weapons were second to none with the Buckeyes. How will he perform with a receiving corps like the one in Houston? Or a run-heavy scheme like Indianapolis? And how will he deal with losing as he takes over a bad team? It isn’t a known weakness, but more of a question mark.
Courtesy of NFL Mock Draft Database
As the most accurate passer in the country, Stroud spent a large portion of 2022 as the top prospect and likely first overall pick. He finally dropped off at the end of the season, falling behind fellow QB Bryce Young, as well as defensive stalwarts Will Anderson and Jalen Carter.
A big reason for the small drop is the makeup of the top five of the NFL Draft; Chicago (first overall), Arizona (third overall) and Seattle (Denver’s fifth overall pick) all seem to be set at QB, with bigger holes at other positions. A hypothetical pre-draft trade moving Indianapolis to the top pick to take Young suddenly sends Stroud to Houston with the second overall pick. But until a shakeup at the top occurs, Stroud seems to be on course for the fourth pick at best.
I keep reading that as “Dynasty Outhouse.” Love ya, Russ Fisher.
I made the case for Bryce Young as the first overall pick in dynasty superflex leagues, and that did not go down smoothly. Taking him ahead of Bijan Robinson would make most dynasty players twitchy and sweaty. Asking you to also consider Stroud over Robinson might be a bridge too far, so let’s just slot him in at 1.03.
Stroud does help fix the QB position, which desperately needs to be refreshed and renovated. But Young brings a rushing floor that helps you complete your rebuild and immediately contend, and Robinson comes into the league with significantly more trade value and scoring upside. Stroud will likely be a little bit of a project, as he acclimates to the pro game and a new offensive system while his new team gradually builds around him.
Stroud will also be a little landing spot-dependent, with the two most likely landing spots – Houston and Indianapolis – sporting flawed offenses and new head coaches. If he were to fall a few spots to the Raiders or the Falcons, the outlook becomes much more positive with receiving weapons like Davante Adams/Hunter Renfrow/Darren Waller or Drake London/Kyle Pitts/Cordarrelle Patterson.
Regardless of the landing spot, Stroud walks into dynasty rankings as a low end QB1-high end QB2, in the same range as retirement risks Tua Tagovailoa and Aaron Rodgers. If a top 14 QB with top five upside isn’t enough to overcome the Bijan hype train, it most certainly is enough to overcome RB2 Jahmyr Gibbs or WR1 Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Stroud is an excellent alternative if you can’t trade up to land Young, but you can still plan on Stroud coming off the board third overall in your superflex rookie drafts. There will be one or two more rookie QBs (Will Levis? Anthony Richardson?) who are fantasy relevant and can be acquired cheaper and easier than Stroud, but they won’t match his upside and won’t enter the league with nearly as much trade value. Considering the price of a top two pick, trading for 1.03 and drafting Stroud is a modest investment with a very similar return.
While your league tries to reach for 1.01 or 1.02, sneak into 1.03 for Stroud. And while you’re at it, stay sexy and superflexy!
- 2023 NFL Scouting Combine Winners and Losers: Quarterbacks - March 6, 2023
- John Hogue: Dynasty Fantasy Football Superflex Rankings Explained - February 3, 2023
- 2023 Dynasty Rookie Early Look: CJ Stroud, QB Ohio State - January 16, 2023