Should Panthers draft CJ Stroud at No. 1 overall? Breaking down Ohio State QB's game.

Ellis Williams, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Football

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the first pick in the 2023 NFL draft, the Carolina Panthers will select one of four quarterbacks. Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) Anthony Richardson (Florida) and Will Levis (Kentucky) all have a case to be the top pick.

Over the next four weeks, The Charlotte Observer is breaking down the top four quarterback prospects to analyze which of the four might be the best fit for the Panthers and new coach Frank Reich. We’ll unpack what each prospect does best, identify their ideal NFL scheme fits, and then project who they’ll become as professionals based on the shades of NFL quarterback play they already possess.

This process is based on film evaluations and conversations with scouts and evaluators around the league.

Let’s start with two-year Buckeyes standout C.J. Stroud.

What Stroud does best

Stroud looks like a prototypical quarterback in the mold of signal-callers from Reich’s past. He stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds, aligning with players like Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck from Reich’s time in Indianapolis. As a thrower, there is not a pass Stroud cannot make. As one evaluator said: “He has every club in his bag.”


He’s a quick-game ace, able to thread slants, unders, stick routes, curls and hitches into tight windows. He’s smooth as a drop-back passer. His feet are tied to his arm and eyes. When Stroud hits the top of his drop, he either throws on time or quickly resets his feet if he feels pressure or interprets sticky downfield coverage.

Since he’s such an on-schedule thrower, Stroud passes with a sturdy base. He generates power by keeping his cleats in the ground, driving off his feet, through his hips and torso. Being on time takes anticipation. Often, young quarterbacks need to see their target open before throwing. Not Stroud. His game tape is littered with anticipation throws — deep or intermediate routes where the ball is out of his hand before the intended receiver is looking for the ball.

There aren’t signs of panicked or forced throws on his tape. He’s ready for every moment and raises his level of play in must-win games. Stroud electrified evaluators in a 42-41 Peach Bowl loss to Georgia by throwing for 341 yards and four touchdowns. His escapability and off-script playmaking forced scouts to rewrite their reports.

Against Georgia, his first two passing touchdowns were scramble drills he turned into scores. Twice in the first half he evaded the Bulldogs’ pass rush, kept his eyes downfield, reset and delivered 30-yard strikes into the end zone. Three of his four touchdown passes came outside the pocket.


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