Ohio State QB CJ Stroud taken second in NFL draft by Houston Texans

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Not much has come easily for C.J. Stroud in his life.

It’s perhaps fitting then that the Ohio State quarterback’s path to the NFL draft was not without bumps.

But the pre-draft scrutiny is now over. Stroud was picked with the second pick of the NFL draft by the Houston Texans on Thursday night.

Dec 31, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws a pass during the first half of the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

He becomes the highest-drafted quarterback in Ohio State history. Art Schlichter went to the Baltimore Colts with the No. 4 pick in 1982.

"I know that it's meant to be," Stroud said, "and I know that with this franchise it's going to be something that I'm really going to take very, very seriously, and I'm going to work my tail off to get some wins."

The Texans are 11-38-1 in their last three seasons under four head coaches.

Stroud was considered the favorite to be the first overall pick after he dazzled at the NFL combine and OSU’s pro day. But as the draft approached, it was widely reported that the Carolina Panthers preferred Alabama’s Bryce Young.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, left, poses beside NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Houston Texans with the second overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 27, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Then a report surfaced claiming that Stroud had scored poorly on a test that measures cognition and processing. Speculation grew that Stroud might have a slide similar to that two years ago of former OSU quarterback Justin Fields. The Chicago Bears traded up to pick Fields with the 11th pick.

Stroud didn’t have to wait nearly that long. He is regarded as the best pure passer in the draft, able to make every throw with velocity, touch and accuracy.

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At the combine, he described himself as a “ball-placement specialist.”

At Ohio State, Stroud was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist and might have won the award if the Buckeyes hadn’t lost to Michigan the last two years. He threw for 8,123 yards and 83 touchdowns (with only 12 interceptions) while completing 69.3% of his passes.

Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud walks the NFL Draft Red Carpet before the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“I like to be very accurate,” Stroud said. “I don't want my receivers have to do really anything to catch the ball, and I think I've shown that time and time on film.”

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Even when Stroud needs to fire a pass to a well-covered target, his receivers marvel at how catchable it is.

“That’s probably the best thing about C.J.,” OSU receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. said at Ohio State’s pro day. “You can ask any receiver. They love playing with C.J. because the ball is always perfect. It comes in nice and soft, but he still has the velocity he needs to fit into a tight window.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day was a quarterbacks coach in the NFL for two seasons.

“Any time you’re looking for a franchise quarterback, you want them to have some sort of an extraordinary trait,” Day said. “That probably is C.J.’s extraordinary trait. He can really locate the ball well and is very accurate. But that’s not all he can do. He can do a lot more than that.”

Stroud’s selection was the culmination of a long journey. His father was his mentor as a young athlete, even designing T-shirts proclaiming him a future first-round NFL draft. But when Stroud was 13, his father was imprisoned, and his family’s economic situation worsened.

Stroud was a promising quarterback, but he didn’t start until his junior season at Rancho Cucamonga High School in southern California. He became a prized college prospect only after dazzling at the Elite 11 competition.

Stroud signed with Ohio State, played behind Fields in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and then won a competition against Jack Miller and Kyle McCord to become the starter in 2021.

Now he joins the late Dwayne Haskins Jr. (15th by Washington in 2019) and Fields as the third straight Buckeye quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

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