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C.J. Stroud Declares for 2023 NFL Draft; Ohio State Star Tops B/R Scouts' QB Rankings

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 16, 2023

COLUMBUS, OHIO - NOVEMBER 12: C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes enters Ohio Stadium prior to a game against the Indiana Hoosiers on November 12, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)
Ben Jackson/Getty Images

In a move that will surely be welcome news for teams looking to find their next franchise quarterback, Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud declared for the 2023 NFL draft on Monday.

CJ Stroud @CJ7STROUD

Proverbs 3:5,6 <a href="https://t.co/FdA2ftqQFJ">pic.twitter.com/FdA2ftqQFJ</a>

This comes as anything but a surprise, as Stroud was seen as a potential top pick throughout the college football season.

Bleacher Report's Scouting Department rated the Ohio State star as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2023 class and eight-best overall player in its postseason big board.

While playing under such circumstances comes with an element of pressure, he responded by completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 3,688 yards, 41 touchdowns and six interceptions in his final collegiate season.

His performance was good enough to finish in third place in the Heisman Trophy voting, underscoring how dominant he was at an individual level. He also led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff, where he surely helped his draft stock even in a heartbreaking defeat to Georgia.

He went 23-of-34 for 348 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 42-41 defeat that swung in the second half when star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. was knocked out of the game on a questionable play where targeting was initially called and then overturned upon review.

Stroud started his collegiate career as Justin Fields' backup and was something of an unknown for the Scarlet and Gray entering the 2021 season after they reached the national championship game during the 2020 campaign.

The Buckeyes fell short of the College Football Playoff in his first season, but it was difficult to place any of the blame on the quarterback's shoulders.

All he did was finish in fourth place in the Heisman Trophy voting while completing 71.9 percent of his passes for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions. He dazzled in a Rose Bowl win over Utah with 573 yards and six touchdowns through the air, elevating expectations heading into 2022.

Some of those expectations were because of the presence of No. 1 wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who was responsible for 347 yards and three touchdowns in that Rose Bowl win. However, he suffered an injury in the season-opener against Notre Dame and missed most of the campaign, leaving Stroud without his top option as the Buckeyes chased a championship.

Yet the quarterback’s ability to distribute the ball led to impressive showings from Harrison, Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming and Cade Stover throughout the season.

The question now is how Stroud will translate to the next level.

Fields' improvement in his second year for the Chicago Bears should quiet concerns about whether Ohio State quarterbacks can find success in the NFL, and there has been no shortage of debate about whether Stroud or Alabama's Bryce Young will be the top signal-caller in the upcoming draft.

It remains to be seen whether Stroud's accuracy, track record and ability to hit throws seemingly anywhere on the field will be enough to convince teams picking in the top five to take him, but he will undoubtedly be one of the most notable names to follow during the pre-draft process.