3 quarterbacks in genuine contention for the Carolina Panthers pick at No. 1

C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson
C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Carolina Panthers
C.J. Stroud / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

Carolina Panthers could draft C.J. Stroud

A four-star high school recruit from California, C.J. Stroud committed to Ohio State University over offers extended by heavy-hitters Clemson and Alabama. With the Buckeyes already having a bevy of talent at the quarterback position, he initially sat behind future first-rounder Justin Fields before getting his starting opportunity in 2021.

Stroud found success right away as a starter, earning an overall 92.2 grade from Pro Football Focus, leading the program to the Rose Bowl against Utah, in what turned out to be one of his signature performances. The 2022 campaign was similar, finishing with an 89.9 overall grade, and his best exhibit came in the biggest moment against the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs.

Standing 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, Stroud brings fairly prototypical NFL size for the position. He has a high release point to go along with precise, compact throwing mechanics. There’s no wasted movement on his delivery. That’s music to a coach’s ears, as often the mechanics tend to need tweaking.

The strongest part of his game is his pinpoint accuracy. Stroud can almost effortlessly make every throw in the professional game, displaying arm strength and touch to layer throws to every zone on the field.

While his pure arm strength isn’t necessarily elite, it’s more than adequate. Stroud has a strong football IQ, demonstrating the ability to progress through his reads and make the correct decision on where to go with the football more often than not.

Going back to the 2023 Peach Bowl against Georgia, you can see that Stroud does possess the ability to use his legs as a weapon. Prior to that performance, that was a pretty significant question about him as a prospect. He does tend to prefer to stand in the pocket, as it’s his strong suit, but he showed enough escapability and athleticism to temper those concerns a bit.

His play is less effective when faced with pressure. His no-pressure Pro Football Focus grade in 2022 was 92.9, compared to his 43.9 pressure grade. That discrepancy does show up on his game tape, but I also feel like it’s a deficiency that high-level coaching could help him improve upon.

Stroud is a smart, hard-working prospect with NFL talent and the drive to succeed at the next level. How much of his success was due to his tremendously talented supporting cast and quarterback-friendly system remains to be seen and is something the Carolina Panthers must figure out as part of their evaluations.