C.J. Stroud’s red flags could lead to Ohio State QB’s stock dropping on draft day

Upon first appearance, C.J. Stroud has everything NFL scouts dream about. The former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback stands 6-foot-3, has plenty of arm strength, above average mobility, and was highly productive in college. This includes taking on Georgia in the biggest game of his life thus far in the College Football Playoff semifinal, where he racked up 348 passing yards and four touchdowns.

In many years, Stroud would seem to be a strong candidate to be a top pick, possibly even the consensus No. 1 overall selection. But with Bryce Young also displaying excellence in all categories except his stature, Stroud’s draft projection has become unclear.

Now with the 2023 NFL Draft closing in, some red flags about Stroud are starting to emerge.

Former NFL QB Brady Quinn, who now works with CBS Sports, recently revealed Stroud had a commitment to attend the annual Manning Passing Academy but ultimately “ghosted them” the night before, failing to show up at all.

Is this a big deal? It all depends. Of course, what was Stroud’s excuse for allegedly failing to show up? Did this even happen at all? Unless we hear from a Manning or from Stroud himself, either confirming or denying, it’s hard not to take such reports with a grain of salt. That’s just the world we live in with draft rumors coming in from every direction.

UPDATE: We now do have another report on Stroud relating to the Manning Academy. According to former NFL defensive back Ryan Clark, Stroud never actually committed to attending the Manning Academy.

Why? Because Stroud reportedly wished to work out with his teammates at Ohio State instead. Keep in mind, this was prior to the start of his final season with the Buckeyes, not recently.

Rumors of C.J. Stroud’s S2 Cognitive test not going well

Stroud also reportedly didn’t perform well in the S2 Cognitive test, which Young crushed. We realize the S2 Cognitive is a bit newer when it comes to evaluating prospects, but this is not the same as the Wonderlic.

The S2 evaluation measures cognitive skills, which some teams believe can help determine a player’s ability to make split-second decisions. Here is how the website describes the test.

“S2 Cognition attempts to quantify split-second reaction times to visual stimuli on a computer screen. The cognitive skills measured by the S2 evaluation are the same cognitive skills engaged on the field, court, or ice. Our evaluation is devoid of racial bias, it does not measure IQ, intelligence or classroom type knowledge, and it cannot be studied for. It requires simple reactions to quick moving visual stimuli on the screen.”

How S2 Cognition describes their evaluation process

But again, the report of Stroud not performing well in the S2 Cognitive test has not been confirmed. We’ve seen plenty of interesting tactics employed over the years in an attempt to diminish a player’s stock ahead of draft day, hoping for the player to fall into their laps.

It’s smokescreen season. For some teams, that means declaring they’re not interested in a player or position (when they actually are), and in other cases, it could even include a member of an NFL organization leaking false information to the media, hoping the report gains traction.

How serious or damaging are these claims about Stroud? It depends who and what you believe. The scouts and talent evaluators who have poked and prodded the Ohio State QB over the past few months likely know what is BS and what isn’t.

Stroud still appears to be a strong candidate to be a top-five pick, with both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts having a strong need at QB. Yet, there are other options, with Florida’s Anthony Richardson, Kentucky’s Will Levis, or even trading down and targeting Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.

Plus, the 2024 NFL Draft class looks promising at QB, with USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye, to name a few.

Perhaps we’ll find our first clue about the veracity of these claims on draft day, but the actual results won’t be evident until Stroud steps on the field. Even then, all players deserve at least a year or two before trying to pass too much judgment on their abilities.

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

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