A few weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers traded up to the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to nab their quarterback of the future. If the reports and comments made by the front office are to be believed, they made that move without knowing who that quarterback was going to be. We’re now on the Draft Day eve, and there’s hardly any more clarity on the Panthers’ plans now compared to when they first made the trade. The odds have shifted from CJ Stroud being the heavy favorite to Bryce Young, but no one really knows what the Panthers are going to do.
The right move for them would be to take the guy they were linked to all along. Initial impressions were that the Panthers moved up specifically to take Stroud. Now the pundits think the Panthers are certainly going to take Young. It’s been a masterful smokescreen season by the Panthers if nothing else. They’ve convinced just about everyone that they’re targeting Young in the hopes of getting someone (read: Houston) to move up to snag Young. Then they can get Storud at number two.
Stroud makes a whole lot of sense for the Panthers. He’s got good size and throws arguably the prettiest and most accurate ball in the class. In two seasons as a starter at Ohio State, he threw for 8,123 yards, 85 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions while completing 69.3% of his passes. His production was incredible, and that’s complemented by excellent tape.
Stroud didn’t just fluff his numbers against subpar competition. He had some of his best games against the best opposition when the stakes were at their highest. He threw for 348 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against a Georgia team that went on to win the national championship in a cakewalk. In that game he showed off the running ability people had been wanting to see as well. This highlight reel in a single game against a dominant Georgia defense is absurd.
But it wasn’t just the Georgia game. Stroud also had a big performance against Michigan in the de facto Big Ten Championship game the game prior, and he threw for 571 yards and six touchdowns against Utah in the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2021 season. He has always showed up when the lights were brightest.
The biggest selling point for Stroud on tape is his accuracy and ball placement.
some cj stroud ball placement porn pic.twitter.com/HVjdUXgJoQ— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) February 22, 2023
He has an unteachable feel for how much touch to put on his passes and how to find windows through defenders to hit his receivers in stride. He throws receivers open and isn’t afraid to push the ball into tight windows. He only threw 12 interceptions in two seasons despite his aggressiveness.
There are knocks against Stroud for playing with too good of a team, but the quality of receivers shouldn’t take away from the accuracy of the passes he throws. Better receivers might catch more of these passes and help the stats, but they don’t make the throws any easier. Stroud has shown he can deliver a perfect ball, and that’ll be the case regardless of the receivers on the other end.
Depending on who you ask, Stroud may or may not struggle against pressure. Some outlets grade him very poorly as a passer under pressure while others have him as one of the best. Yay for objective statistics, am I right? Regardless, there are all sorts of examples of him dodging pressure in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield, and delivering a strike.
CJ Stroud is the latest proof that the NFL Draft process is about three weeks too long pic.twitter.com/RgHVzq47Aq— Wes Blankenship (@Wes_nship) April 20, 2023
Stroud might not have the home run potential that Bryce Young or Anthony Richardson are thought to have, but he seems like the safest bet of the three. There are questions about Young’s size and how he’ll hold up against NFL size. Richardson doesn’t have the production to match his physical tools. Stroud has a perfect blend of positional size, production, and talent that make him the best option for the Panthers with the first overall pick.