According to ESPN’s Jordan Reid (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts will select Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the 5th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft via his recent mock draft—a pick which would figure to be to the delight of many Horseshoe faithful these days:
5. Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1)
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The Colts have played musical chairs at quarterback since the abrupt retirement of Andrew Luck in 2019, which means they could be aggressive in this draft to trade up for the guy they want. In this scenario, the music officially stops, and the team secures its QB of the future in Stroud, a traditional pocket passer who has clean footwork and solid body mechanics. In an offense that already has building-block players like Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr. and Quenton Nelson, Stroud would have early help as Indianapolis builds around his skill set.
He finished 2022 second in the FBS in Total QBR (88.8) and TD passes (41), whereas Indianapolis’ 37.8 QBR and 15 TD throws are both bottom-six numbers.
Biggest needs: QB, OL, CB
The 6’3”, 218 pound junior quarterback completed 258 of 389 pass attempts (66.3%) for 3,688 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions during 13 starts in 2022.
He was a second-team All-American selection, won First-Team All-Big Ten honors (for a consecutive season) and was the recipient of both the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year and Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year Trophy.
When kept clean in the pocket, Stroud has been lauded for his decision-making as a passer and can make all the throws—showcasing accuracy and solid arm strength in the process.
However, despite the recent nail-biting loss, he really helped himself with a strong performance against Georgia in the college football playoff, where he demonstrated more improvisation, composure, mechanics, and mobility under duress collectively than he had previously displayed during much of his Ohio State tenure.
It’s not as though Stroud cannot do those latter things—with his legs and when the pocket breaks down around him, it’s just that he wasn’t called on to do it much at Ohio State and didn’t always look comfortable when doing it.
That being said, as the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor showed, who was criticized for his limited pass catching and blocking experience coming out of Wisconsin—but then became fundamentally sound at both in the NFL, it doesn’t mean that Stroud can’t necessarily be a more dynamic quarterback at the pro level in time, with continued growth and development—and just more exposure.
The Colts desperately need a long-term starting quarterback option to finally stop the continuous turnstile that has occurred since Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement ahead of the 2019 season—and the current in-house options: Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, and Nick Foles are not starting caliber to say the least.
After his strong showing, the Colts may even have to trade up to select Stroud, who appears to be the consensus QB2 behind Alabama’s Bryce Young right now, who’s still widely projected to go #1 overall (*likely to the Houston Texans).
It may very well be worth it though, as Stroud appears to have a lot of promise as a passer at the next level—while still possibly tapping into his potential as both a runner and improviser. He’d make a lot of sense for the Colts with the 5th overall pick or even earlier.