Former NFL MVP gives short-sighted view on Bryce Young-C.J. Stroud debate

Everyone seemingly has their opinion.

Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud
Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason gave his thoughts on the Carolina Panthers taking Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud after contrasting rookie seasons.

Everyone's got their opinion on Bryce Young. Some cannot wait to criticize the Carolina Panthers quarterback after a turbulent rookie campaign. Others point to C.J. Stroud's phenomenal success with the Houston Texans as proof those in power made the wrong call at No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Most criticism comes with no context whatsoever. Comparing Young's first season to Stroud's is apples to oranges. One is going to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and is currently preparing for a divisional playoff game. The other endured significant hardship en route to a two-win campaign in Carolina. But that's not the entire story despite what many would have you believe.

Boomer Esiason slams Carolina Panthers for Bryce Young pick

The latest player to question Carolina's choice was former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason, who pointed to Young's lack of pocket presence compared to Stroud as a primary reason why he felt the Panthers made a grave error in judgment based on comments via Yardbarker.

"When you see C.J. Stroud on the field — and this still drives me crazy about Carolina, I don't know what the hell they were looking at physically — but Stroud looks like he belongs. When you watch Bryce Young play in Carolina, this kid looks like he should still be in high school, or playing behind the best offensive line in college at Alabama because he is not physically ready to play in the NFL."

Boomer Esiason via Yardbarker

Young has quickly become an easy target. Stroud has thrived in a far better situation and looks like an elite long-term performer. But anyone suggesting the Texans weren't going to take the former Alabama star if given the chance is kidding themselves.

Bryce Young
Bryce Young / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

He was the consensus best prospect emerging from the college ranks last year. Some liked Stroud. Some liked Anthony Richardson. Some even liked Will Levis, but the majority around the NFL thought Young was the most polished despite concerns - which he's answered emphatically - about the player's durability.

Let's see what Young had to deal with throughout his rookie year:

  • A woeful offensive line
  • Wide receivers who cannot create separation
  • Flip-flopping of play-callers
  • Uninspiring offensive schematics
  • Frank Reich was fired
  • Non-existent tight-end production
  • Being part of an organization with no established culture

Now let's compare this to Stroud's situation in Houston:

  • Instant culture shift under DeMeco Ryans
  • Elite play-caller in Bobby Slowik
  • Exceptional offensive line - especially in pass protection
  • Outstanding playmakers (Nico Collins, Tank Dell)
  • Stable options at the tight-end position (Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan)

As I said, it's apples and oranges.

The Panthers failed Young in every conceivable way. This was once tabbed as the best environment for any rookie to walk into. As it turned out, it was the worst by a considerable margin.

Young should have performed better on occasions - that's not up for discussion, either. But to write off the Heisman Trophy winner without acknowledging the mitigating circumstances surrounding his struggles is asinine.

Oh, he also got the better of Stroud during their first NFL meeting. For what it's worth.

My evaluations before the draft preferred Stroud. That's no secret. I was also of the opinion the Panthers couldn't go wrong with either. I still believe that despite the completely different trajectories both are heading in Year 1 of their professional careers.

Give Young a better supporting cast. Give him a coach who can mold the scheme on offense around his strengths. Give him an offensive line capable of keeping the pocket clean consistently.

If the Panthers accomplish this and Young still falters, then the pick deserves to be questioned. Until then, is moot.

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