Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jay LaPrete/AP/Shutterstock (13486430o) Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws a pass against Iowa during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Columbus, Ohio Iowa Ohio St Football, Columbus, United States – 22 Oct 2022
Of course, quarterback Coleridge Bernard “C.J.” Stroud IV was going to leave Ohio State for the NFL. He has a chance to be the first overall pick in the draft and get a signing bonus of almost $25 million. There wasn’t enough NIL money available to convince a multitalented player like Stroud to stay in school for another year.
Playing another season for the Buckeyes would have been preposterous for a prospect who’s destined to be one of the top-two quarterbacks drafted and could go as high as first or as low as fourth. All the Texans’ fans who howled about the possibility of Stroud staying in school wasted a lot of energy.
Stroud, 21, let the suspense play out, waiting until the Monday deadline to make an announcement just about everyone knew was coming.
There’s more than three months remaining in the evaluation process. When all is said and done, it’ll be Stroud or Alabama’s Bryce Young as the first quarterback selected, and it won’t take long for the other to hear his name called.
The Bears have the top pick. They need a defensive tackle like Georgia’s Jalen Carter or an edge rusher like Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. But the Bears also would like to get the Texans and Colts in a bidding war to trade up to the top spot to guarantee getting the quarterback they covet the most.
General manager Nick Caserio and his new coach will have a lot of decisions to make leading up to the draft. Whether it’s a former Super Bowl-winning head coach like Sean Payton or a red-hot assistant like Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, New York Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon or Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, hiring a new coach gets fans and media excited. And nothing creates a buzz like drafting a franchise quarterback to go with the new head coach.
Caserio and the McNair family have an opportunity to initiate the kind of change that’s been desperately missing and make the Texans a playoff contender for the first time since 2019 when they won the AFC South and defeated the Bills in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Once the Texans hire the sixth head coach in team history, they can focus on the draft and finding and developing their first franchise quarterback since Deshaun Watson in 2017. By the time player evaluations are finished and draft boards are set, Stroud could be rated over Young. Or Young could be rated over Stroud. Or Kentucky’s Will Levis could be rated over both of them. Perish that thought.
Fans would stampede NRG Stadium if Caserio and the new coach don’t use their first draft choice on a quarterback – Young or Stroud. At this point, most fans and members of the media want Young. The only negative about Young, according to current personnel people and former front office executives in the media, is his size. He’s got everything else, including enough arm strength to make the throws coaches demand.
Alabama listed Young at 6-0, 194. Prospects have a tendency to shrink when they’re weighed and measured at the combine. Scouts are hoping Young is at least 5-11 but are concerned that he’ll be 5-10. It’s his thin frame that causes many of them to worry because they wonder how well he can stand up to the rigors of a 17-game season and possibly the playoffs.
Young, 21, had an incredible college career with Bill O’Brien as his offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. In 27 starts, he had 8,200 yards, and 79 touchdown passes. He threw 12 interceptions. In his last game against Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl, Young threw for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-20 victory. He won the Heisman Trophy after the 2021 season.
Stroud is listed at 6-3, 215. We’ll know if that’s accurate at the combine. In 25 starts, he threw for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns. He had 12 interceptions. In his last game, the Buckeyes lost to Georgia 42-41 in the Peach Bowl, where Stroud had 348 yards and four touchdowns against the eventual national champion. In the last game of the 2021 season, Ohio State beat Utah 48-45 in the Rose Bowl, where Stroud threw for 573 yards and six touchdowns.
The closer we get to the draft, the more questions you’ll hear about Stroud being represented by David Mulugheta, who also represents Watson and is one of the best agents in the business. The McNair family will not let an agent deter them from making a decision on a possible franchise quarterback. That’s not the way they operate. Besides, Mulugheta should love the Texans. He got a $156 million contract from them that included a no-trade clause and orchestrated Watson’s exit from Houston to Cleveland and a $230 million, fully guaranteed contract. It’s just business.
Even though it’s still early in the scouting process, the Texans can’t go wrong with Young or Stroud as their first pick. Or Stroud or Young, of course.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).