Fri, 09 Jun 2023

Ohio State, C.J. Stroud lead off huge week of pro days

Field Level Media
23 Mar 2023, 02:05 GMT+10

Quarterback C.J. Stroud met with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday night ahead of Ohio State's well-attended pro day in Columbus, Ohio.

Stroud is a candidate to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft and previously met with team officials at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where he participated in on-field drills and showcased his pinpoint accuracy in a brief throwing session at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Ohio State has multiple first-round prospects, including left tackle Paris Johnson Jr., wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and possibly massive right tackle Dawand Jones (6-foot-8, 371). NFL teams can host 30 prospects at their team headquarters prior to the April 27 draft. Jones already has "Top 30" visits scheduled with the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Carolina's traveling contingent on Wednesday was nearly a dozen, and will make multiple pro day stops this week. The entourage includes owners David and Nicole Tepper, general manager Scott Fitterer, assistant general manager Dan Morgan, head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown and senior assistant Jim Caldwell, among others.

Tepper is reportedly pushing for the Panthers to find a quarterback. Carolina acquired the top pick in the draft from the Chicago Bears earlier this month.

The Bears, who now pick ninth, sent a significant number of staff to Columbus on Thursday with the eight-person delegation led by general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus.

Multiple teams will make the trip from Columbus to Alabama and on to Kentucky.

That's because Bryce Young, a Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, and ex-Kentucky QB Will Levis also will hold pro day workouts on campus this week. Both are viewed as options for the Panthers, Houston Texans (No. 2 pick), Indianapolis Colts (No. 4) and a number of other QB-needy teams.

Young will take part in his pro day along with the usual stacked Crimson Tide draft class on Thursday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. At least 28 teams are planning to be represented at Alabama, including the Panthers.

Alabama could have multiple players selected in the top five, with Young and defensive end Will Anderson Jr. slated to be high on nearly every team's draft board.

Stroud agrees his ball placement is the reason he's in conversations at the top of the draft. But he also said he's a "better athlete than you think" when pressed at the combine about why he didn't make more plays with his legs, a skill he showed in the College Football Playoff semifinals against Georgia.

"If you turn on the film and you really watch what I do and you really look at film game-to-game, I have used my athleticism not only just in the Georgia game, where I did it a lot, but I've done it in every other game," Stroud said.

Young had 80 touchdowns and 12 interceptions at Alabama, and he left Tuscaloosa as a national champion. It won't hurt that Young trained under former Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, who was Alabama's offensive coordinator and rejoined the New England Patriots as the play caller ahead of the 2023 season.

Stroud met with a number of teams at the combine, including the Texans and Colts.

"I want to be myself no matter what room I step in, let them know I control the room no matter what room I step in, that I'm a leader," Stroud said. "And show them the IQ I have, that I'm a student of the game. ... I'm willing to go back to square one and learn it all over again."

Former NFL personnel evaluators appear to be split on whether Young or Stroud is the right quarterback to build around. Louis Riddick said in an ESPN appearance that the "sky is the absolute freaking limit" if Stroud gets in the right offense.

Reich said he wouldn't be afraid to draft Young despite his below-average size and height. Young is 5-10 1/8 inches tall, whereas the NFL average height for quarterbacks in the league last season was 6-2 1/4. Young weighed 205 at the combine, but most evaluators believe he played about 10 pounds lighter. Young, Field Level Media's top-ranked quarterback in the draft, has natural instincts and playmaking ability in the mold of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Waiting his turn for a pro day in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, Levis is a chiseled specimen who confidently touts his "cannon" of a throwing arm, but his numbers and decision-making with the Wildcats have left some general managers with questions.

The same is true of Florida's Anthony Richardson, who has elite size and arm strength and led all quarterbacks at the combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds and 40 1/2-inch vertical. But Richardson was inconsistent as a pocket passer for the Gators, leading coaches and general managers to ponder if he'll need extended training as a backup before he gets a shot to become a starter.

Richardson's pro day is March 30.

--Field Level Media

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