High-end NFL Player Comp(s):
Geno Smith Low-end NFL Player Comp(s):
A rich man's Jared Goff
Best Scheme Fit: Because he
worked almost exclusively out of shotgun in college and struggled
so much when he felt pressure in the pocket, Stroud likely needs
to begin his career in a spread offense that emphasizes play-action
passing on a regular basis.
Best Team Fit(s): Panthers, Texans, Colts
Non-bolded times - Good examples of attribute Bolded times - Average/poor examples of attribute
* - How well does his skill set carry over
to the fantasy game? For quarterbacks, a player needs to be a
realistic threat for 4,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards
to be a candidate for a perfect grade. Positional scarcity at
the pro level is also a part of the equation.
Few NFL quarterback prospects coming out of college appear more
confident or can manipulate a defense as well as Stroud. From the
way he moves inside the pocket to the comfort he shows working through
his progressions to the speed with which he makes a decision and
cuts it loose, Stroud is NFL-ready. He is well beyond his years
from a mental standpoint, excelling at diagnosing coverages, anticipation
and seeing the field. Another one of the two-time Heisman Trophy
finalist's best features is his penchant for knowing when to take
calculated risks and when to work within the framework of the play
call. Better yet, he has the arm strength to make those calculated
risks pay off and force defenses to cover every blade of grass.
The first QB in Big Ten history to have back-to-back seasons with
30 or more touchdown passes may also possess the most touch on his
passes and make "bucket throws" more often than any other
quarterback in this draft class. Stroud did not show much as a runner
in college (finishing with a mere 136 rushing yards on 80 career
carries), but there is plenty of evidence to suggest he can do more
with his legs at the next level. While size and weight do not mean
as much as they used to at his position, Stroud fits the prototype
in terms of the requisite size to play quarterback in the pros.
One of the problems of scouting a quarterback at a loaded school
like Ohio State is assigning credit. Was Stroud good because he
had four (or maybe even five, depending on the development of Emeka Egbuka) current or soon-to-be first-round picks to throw to at receiver
or did Stroud make his good receivers great? For as sharp and confident
as he is in a clean pocket, Stroud experienced significant struggles
in a less-than-ideal pocket for the bulk of his college career.
(Per Pro Football Focus, he graded 97th out of 144 qualifying quarterbacks
when under pressure in 2022.) The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player
of the Year was also considered a top dual-threat high school quarterback,
but he rarely flashed his legs in college. (Stroud was able to quiet
the concerns regarding his ability to play well despite chaos in
the pocket and his rushing ability by flashing both while playing
arguably the best game of his college career in Ohio State's College
Football Playoff semifinal loss to eventual champion Georgia.) While
Stroud is very accurate with his throws most of the time (69.3 percent
completion rate for his college career), there is still room for
improvement. At times, he will dip his shoulder. Other times, his
footwork or release point betray him.
If the way Stroud played against Georgia (348 passing yards,
71 rushing yards before factoring in the four times he was sacked,
four TDs and no interceptions) was a sign of things to come, then
he could very well end up being the best quarterback prospect
available in this draft - at least from a ready-to-play-now standpoint.
While it may be a bit unfair to characterize him as a throwback
pocket passer after what he did against the Bulldogs, a throwback
pocket passer is what Stroud was for most of his two seasons as
a starter in Columbus. So what gives? Was the CFP semifinal his
coming-out party brought about by the knowledge he needed to carry
the team in that game?
It probably helps to state the obvious: Stroud is undoubtedly
what NFL teams want as a pocket passer. He has great vision, throws
with accuracy and anticipation, possesses a strong arm and keeps
the ball out of harm's way much more often than not. He routinely
gives his receivers run-after-catch opportunities by hitting them
in stride and the Georgia game showed he (or Ohio State) likely
underutilized his athleticism in college. On the downside, he
rarely displayed the willingness to create plays for himself and
struggled routinely when he felt pressured in the pocket (again,
outside of the Georgia game).
Working in Stroud's favor is that the NFL remains a league in
which quarterbacks must still be able to win from the pocket.
He should be able to do that right away in the pros and do so
at a high level very early in his NFL career. The great mystery
is if he can reproduce his performance against Georgia on a more
regular basis. In a game against a team loaded with future NFL
defenders, his star shined more brightly than anyone could have
reasonably hoped. His perceived weaknesses were no longer weaknesses
and his perceived strengths rose to another level. That version
of Stroud would be the unquestioned top overall pick in most drafts.
Almost regardless of his landing spot, Stroud should be a fine
long-term signal-caller if he simply plays the same way he did
for most of his time in college. His ability to find the level
played at and consistently repeat what he did versus the Bulldogs
will determine if he ends up being great.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He
is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM’s
“Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.