Detroit Lions: C.J. Stroud is an obvious selection if he falls to six
Quarterback is not a top priority for the Detroit Lions this offseason. However, general manager Brad Holmes is still keeping an eye on this year’s quarterback class at the NFL Combine. Three of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s class are scheduled to throw at the event. Reports indicate Bryce Young will not throw alongside C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson.
The Lions do not need a new quarterback. Incumbent starter Jared Goff enjoyed a Pro Bowl season where he tallied 4,438 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air. Goff is playing some of the best football in his career. He and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson led a Detroit offense that ranked fifth in points for and fourth in yards gained in 2022.
However, Detroit does not currently have a quarterback under contract behind Goff. Last season’s backup, Nate Sudfeld, is set to hit free agency. There are quality backups in this year’s free agency pool who should come cheap. Sudfeld should be relatively easy to re-sign, but the Lions could look to the draft for their backup quarterback.
Why the Detroit Lions might decide to move on from Jared Goff in two years
Goff’s current cap hit sits at roughly $30 million over each of the next two seasons. When he is due for a contract extension, that $30 million will be the minimum average annual value of his contract. The veteran could command closer to $35 million-plus. That is the range Kirk Cousins currently makes on his contract, and it is the value Derek Carr is seeking for his next contract.
Goff has shown he can bring a team to a Super Bowl. However, he did so with one of the most talented rosters in the NFL at the time. The Los Angeles Rams could afford top-tier talent at numerous other positions because Goff was still on his rookie contract. It would not be a surprise if the Lions decided to take a similar route and ultimately load up on talent at other positions and roll the dice on a young quarterback on a rookie contract.
Stroud could be the perfect quarterback to build that team around.
Will CJ Stroud fall in the 2023 NFL Draft? #OnePride
C.J. Stroud is a natural pocket passer with a strong arm
Take a look at any scouting report on Stroud and one trait consistently stands out: his accuracy. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein touted Stroud as “the most naturally accurate top-tier quarterback in the 2023 draft class.”
Zierlein noted Stroud’s arm talent and ability to stretch the field and hit deep shots along the sideline. Unlike other Ohio State quarterback prospects of the past, Stroud does not have issues making his way through his progressions. He is far from a first-read quarterback. That does not mean he never zeros in on his first read, but he does so rarely.
One of Stroud’s biggest strengths is his ability to throw the ball over the middle of the field. He has the arm talent to push the ball and take deep shots, but he also has the accuracy and touch to attack the intermediate areas of the field. He showed significant improvement in throwing with anticipation throughout the 2022 season as well. He can read the leverage of a receiver and throw them open.
C.J. Stroud needs to take advantage of his athletic tools
One of the major areas of improvement for Stroud’s game is his reluctance to move out of the pocket. On the rare occasions when the opposing teams generated pressure on Stroud, he did not always know what to do. He can sense pressure when it is coming, but he does not consistently know how to manipulate the pocket to buy time.
He has the athletic tools to elude sacks, scramble and throw on the run, but he missed opportunities to take advantage of his athleticism. In many ways, this can be a positive. Stroud wants to stand in the pocket and throw. He makes sure he makes his way through his progressions before deciding to take off and run. However, when the pressure is getting home, Stroud can become a sitting duck in the pocket.
When Stroud did scramble, he was erratic and inconsistent. His decision-making faltered out of structure, and most of his mistakes came when he was forced to improvise. His completion percentage dipped to 41.3 percent when under pressure.
Then there is the Georgia game. In the College Football Playoff semi-final, Stroud put his athletic talent on full display. Georgia consistently applied pressure on Stroud, and the 21-year-old was forced to play out of structure and improvise. Stoud was dynamic. He made accurate throws on the move and positioned OSU in an opportunity to win the game. He finished with 348 passing yards and four passing touchdowns as well as an extra 34 yards on the ground. While the Buckeyes ultimately came up short, his performance was nothing short of phenomenal.
C.J. Stroud draws comparisons to Detroit Lions starter
Zierlein’s NFL comparison for Stroud is Goff. It makes sense. There are similarities to both of their games. Both players throw a good deep ball and they are comfortable attacking the middle of the field and intermediate routes. Stroud has limitations in pocket presence and improvisation, but he plays extremely smart from the pocket and throws accurate balls that hit receivers in stride.
NFL analyst and YouTuber Marcus Whitman also compares Stroud to Goff. However, Whitman adds that Stroud is like if you gave Goff a generous boost in mobility. Drafting Stroud would not mean the Lions are simply acquiring another Goff but on a cheaper contract. He has athletic traits that give him the potential to elevate his game over that of Goff. But Goff is a good benchmark for what to expect if Stroud hits above his floor but does not quite hit his ceiling.
For more insight into Stroud’s growth throughout the 2022 season and his strengths and weaknesses, check out Whitman’s prospect breakdown below.
If the Lions elect to take a quarterback in the upcoming draft, C.J. Stroud has the highest floor of any of the quarterback prospects conceivably available with the sixth pick. He could thrive surrounded by the Lions’ reliable offensive line and young promising skill position players. He would benefit from a year sitting behind Goff, and if Detroit decides Stroud has made the strides necessary to be the starter in 2024, the team could move on from Goff without a significant dead cap hit.
Stroud has a chance to showcase his talent at the scouting combine, and the Detroit Lions are sure to have their eye on him.
(Featured Image Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)