When it comes to the NFL Draft, I start studying draft prospects about 14-15 months before a player is eligible for the NFL Draft. So, in February 2022, I started studying Ohio State's star QB C.J. Stroud after the 2021 season, his first as a starter in Columbus. From the first film I studied to the Rose Bowl against Utah, I was enamored with the Buckeyes' star QB. The first thing that stood out was his insane ball placement and accuracy. This was my final paragraph in my original scouting report in February 2022.
"Stroud's accuracy on downfield throws outside the numbers is outrageous, especially so in the 2022 Rose Bowl. He destroyed Utah with throws from bottom of the numbers to the sideline and his ability to drop the ball in the bucket from deep is going to entice all NFL personnel. RPO game is strong. He has a powerful delivery on slants and interior breaking routes. He can throw effectively and accurately off platform, although he is much better throwing from a protected well/pocket than any other time."
Through the first three games of his NFL career, Stroud has proven every single word I wrote to be 100% correct and those assets helped him earn the first Offensive Rookie of the Month award of his career. It's all happening like it did in two years at Ohio State.
To watch Stroud throw receivers open…like he did at Ohio State
To watch Stroud throw with amazing anticipation…like he did at Ohio State
To watch Stroud decipher coverages and fronts…like he did at Ohio State
To watch Stroud make proper throwing decisions without panic…like he did at Ohio State
That's what many didn't think he would be able to do when he got to the next level, but he's proving all of those people wrong on the daily. The NFL game isn't easy yet he's making it look like it's just year three at Ohio State. His work ethic, coverage understanding and toughness have given this Texans offense an identity and an edge. I love watching him play the position every single day.
He's made a dozen plus throws or more this year that gave me a charge, but there were three where I realized, man, maybe he's even better than I thought.
1. Preseason game two v. Dolphins - Out route to Robert Woods.
Remember when I mentioned how simple he makes the difficult look? Well, that was exactly what he did in his first home preseason game. He ripped a throw to Robert Woods on the Miami sideline, air yards of about 30-35 yards, on a rope, thrown into about a six inch box where the Miami DB couldn't even make a play on it. That was a BIG LEAGUE throw and it was just a precursor of things to come.
2. Week two v. Colts - Deep dig to Nico Collins
Nothing really went right in the game against the Colts, especially early in the game, but after the Colts took a 14-0 lead, Stroud started moving the offense down the field. The big chunk play came on a deep dig throw to Nico. I mean, he RIPPED a shot to Nico right down the middle of the field. When I went back to see the end zone view, it was clear Stroud let that ball go when Nico hadn't even broken into the middle void! Furthermore, it wasn't so much that he completed the pass, it was that he hit Nico right in stride so he could run through the catch and generate yards after the catch. I saw that throw and started looking around at anyone around me as if to say "Y'ALL SEE THAT?!? THAT was special!!" But, no one wanted to talk to me. Oh well, they saw it.
3. Week three at Jaguars - Deep out to Robert Woods
One consistent thing from Stroud is his ability to scan the field and not panic, locating an open receiver. This one was ridiculous, though. He wanted a route to his left side but nothing was available on that side. Stroud pulled the ball back down, turned his feet and hips to the right side, found Woods on the out route and threw a dadgum seed for a completion. Woods caught it right in front of me and I remember thinking "WOW, that was a DIME!"
I feel bad singling out any individual throw from Stroud over any other because it feels like there have been so many that have led to this point.
I love that the powers that be singled Stroud out as the Offensive Rookie of the Month because he's added so much to this franchise in a short time, even though he'll NEVER accept that praise. He's stepped up as captain of this offense. His toughness has given this offense an "Us against the World" mentality.
He richly deserves this honor and it's been a blast watching him earn it through the first month of the season and his career.