I have been trying to highlight every Falcons mock draft I see that features a new prospect at No. 8 overall. Atlanta has landed Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee, Tyree Wilson, and Christian Gonzalez, among others. Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com was the first one I’ve seen recently that has the Falcons taking Ohio State product, C.J. Stroud.
Analysis: My models seem higher on Stroud than other people’s (at least so far). It’s possible after the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine that he becomes my top-rated QB in the class, especially after I get the chance to watch more film with some of my evaluators who can help explain some lingering questions I have about the former Buckeye. Why do my models love him so much? Strength at the point of release (stable base even under pressure) combined with accuracy and decision-making. In a system like Arthur Smith’s, where the run concepts lead the way, Stroud’s value is amplified. It could be tough to pass on him, even with owner Arthur Blank recently expressing confidence in 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder.
Most people, including oddsmakers, believe Bryce Young will be the top quarterback off the board in the draft. The Alabama product would be my top choice, but Stroud isn’t as far away from Young as some might think.
The former five-star recruit led Ohio State’s offense to incredible heights in two seasons, throwing 85 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions on 69.3% passing. He has the ideal size for NFL quarterbacks and answered a lot of questions about his athleticism, mobility, and off-script playmaking against the Georgia Bulldogs.
He showed an ability to control an offense and make big plays with his arm. Because he didn’t do it often, it was assumed that Stroud couldn’t work outside of the pocket or make plays with his feet. Those assumptions were wrong. Ditching the pocket is just a last resort for Stroud, which he displayed in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
There are concerns. He’ll need to refine certain aspects of his game; the mental processing of NFL defenses is always difficult for young quarterbacks. The Falcons might not be looking to draft a quarterback with Desmond Ridder waiting in the wings for his chance to take the job, but if Stroud is available, it would be malpractice for Atlanta to pass over him.
It also must be addressed that Cynthia Frelund’s mock draft is entirely unrealistic. The Bears taking Jalen Carter with the first pick isn’t out of the question, but it’s unlikely. They’ll likely trade down to the Texans or Colts pick. Even still, it’s a possibility. If Chicago went with Carter, Houston would go with Bryce Young, right? Wrong. Frelund has the Texans selecting Will Anderson. It sets up Indianapolis to land Young without giving up any trade compensation. I find it hard to believe C.J. Stroud will fall all the way to the Falcons.
Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire