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The C.J. Stroud enigma: Teams unlikely to be aggressive trading up for star QB

Former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud has long been considered one of the two-best quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Throughout pretty much the entire pre-draft process, Stroud joined Alabama product Bryce Young as either the best signal caller or the second-best player at his position in the draft depending on who you ask.

Now that the draft is less than two weeks away, there’s a separation growing between the two. Young is now largely seen as the best quarterback in the class and will undoubtedly go No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

The question here is where Stroud might land. A lot of speculation has surrounded either the Houston Texans (No. 2 overall) selecting Stroud or a quarterback-needy team moving up with the Arizona Cardinals at three for the star quarterback.

We’re now not too sure. Sportsnaut NFL insider Benjamin Allbright reported recently that the Texans could very well go defense rather than find a potential franchise quarterback at two.

Peter King of NBC Sports reported on Monday that other teams selecting a bit further down in the 2023 NFL Draft are not going to be aggressive in a move up for C.J. Stroud.

We’re not necessarily sure what is happening here. At this point in the pre-draft process, there’s several smoke screens making their way to the NFL water cooler.

Quarterback-needy teams might not want to tip their hands when it comes to a potential trade up for Stroud. It’s a way to play the negotiating game with either the Texans or Cardinals through the media.

Related: Sportsnaut’s C.J. Stroud NFL Draft profile and scouting report

C.J. Stroud NFL Draft stock now in question

c.j. stroud nfl draft
Adam Cairns / USA TODAY NETWORK

Outside of the obvious smoke screens and maneuvering leading up to next week’s NFL Draft, there is now a legitimate question about where Stroud might land.

Previously, his ceiling was No. 2 overall to the Texans with a floor at fourth overall to the Indianapolis Colts. While this still might be the case, multiple reports indicating a lack of interest at two and three changes the dynamics a bit.

It would be an absolute shock if the Colts passed up on Stroud should he be made available. General manager Chris Ballard and Co. are looking to finally find that long-term option under center after going with veteran stopgaps over each of the past four seasons.

If that weren’t to happen, we can envision a situation in which Stroud falls to the Las Vegas Raiders at seven. That would be an ideal scenario for head coach Josh McDaniels.

Of course, teams could also look to move up with the Seattle Seahawks (fifth overall) and Detroit Lions (sixth) should Stroud start to fall in Round 1. The Atlanta Falcons (eighth), Tennessee Titans (11th), Washington Commanders (16th) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (19th) all come to mind.

CJ Stroud statsQB RatingTD – INTTD % – INT %Completion %PFF Grade
2021186.644 – 69.9% – 1.3%71.9%92.2
2022177.741 – 610.5% – 1.5%66.3%88.9
C.J. Stroud college stats

A draft day fall for Stroud would also have a trickle-down effect for second-tier quarterbacks such as Will Levis (Kentucky) and Anthony Richardson (Florida).

It was just a few short weeks ago that Levis and Richardson joined the top-two guys as likely top-10 locks. That’s obviously no longer the case. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is among the most divisive products in the 2023 NFL Draft.

All of this is complicated by the fact that some teams might wait it out until next year’s NFL Draft when the likes of Caleb Williams (USC) and Drake Maye (North Carolina) turn pro. Internally around the NFL, these two are seen as better prospects than anyone entering the league in 2023.


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