The honor of the first quarterback chosen in the 2023 NFL Draft will likely be awarded to either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. In fact, those two are also among the potential first-overall picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

While we don’t expect either to end up being among the worst NFL Draft picks ever, which one is the better prospect ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft?

Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud comparison

With all of the Bears’ trade rumors going around, it’s unclear what team will end up picking first overall.

There’s also no way of knowing for sure if Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud will be the top overall pick. But there is some consensus that these are the two best quarterbacks in this class.

If you had to pick one to lead your favorite team into the future, who would you want: Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud? Let’s take a closer look at this question.

 
 
 
 

College Resume

It’s hard to discern too much from the college stats that Young and Stroud put up. Both played at major programs and were surrounded by elite talent.

As a result, both put up video-game-caliber numbers and were remarkably efficient passers. Perhaps more importantly, each led their teams to a lot of wins. Young was 23-4 at Alabama while Stroud posted a 22-4 record as the starter at Ohio State. Of course, Young has a Heisman Trophy on his shelf, although Stroud was a finalist in back-to-back seasons. 

Size

Plenty of quarterbacks have proven that size isn’t everything, although if it is, Stroud has a clear advantage over Young. The former Ohio State quarterback is about 20 pounds heavier and at least three inches taller, perhaps a little more.

With his size, Stroud fits the profile of a prototypical pocket passer a little better than Young, who sometimes needs to get himself out of the pocket to see the entire field.

As a result, Stroud averaged a full yard more per pass than Young did during their college careers. With Young’s smaller stature, there are also more questions about his durability, making it more important for him to avoid taking big hits.

Arm Strength

In addition to being a little bigger than Young, Stroud also boasts more arm strength. Again, he averaged a full yard more per completion in college than Young, in part because Stroud was able to push the ball down the field a little better.

He may not have the best arm strength in the NFL on Day 1, but it’s not an area where he’s lacking. To be fair, Young’s arm strength isn’t exactly a weakness. He generates plenty of power on his throws and is capable of adding a little zip when it’s needed. But it’s hard to deny that the ball comes out of Stroud’s hand just a little easier.

Accuracy

NFL teams will look at the size and strength of quarterbacks, but accuracy is far more important. Stroud completed 69.3% of his passes at Ohio State with a 79% adjusted completion percentage during the 2022 season.

In comparison, Young had a career completion percentage of 65.8% during his career at Alabama and registered an adjusted completion percentage of 78.1% this past season. In other words, accuracy wasn’t a problem with either quarterback in college.

More importantly, neither quarterback shied away from throwing the deep ball, so it’s not as if those accuracy numbers are a result of short routes and bubble screens. Both quarterbacks appear to have the kind of accuracy that will allow them to succeed in the NFL.

Pocket Presence

It’s one thing to throw the ball accurately under perfect conditions, but pocket presence and the ability to deal with pressure count for a lot in the NFL.

Since they played for elite college programs, Young and Stroud faced a little less pressure than some of their counterparts because they had talented offensive linemen in front of them. However, they both had experience playing in high-level games against teams with comparable talent and each handled themselves well in the pocket.

Their approach to pressure and staying calm in the pocket differed. With his smaller size, Young was more willing to use his legs to run away from pressure and escape the pocket. Stroud, on the other hand, was more willing to shuffle his feet in the pocket to buy himself extra time. While this is a key differentiation between the two quarterbacks, both showed impressive pocket presence, albeit in different ways.

Athleticism

While not a pre-requisite for NFL quarterbacks, athletic quarterbacks are becoming more and more common league-wide. In this area, Young has a distinct edge over Stroud.

While his rushing numbers at Alabama weren’t eye-popping, Young did have seven rushing touchdowns. He also consistently showed the ability to use his athleticism to evade pressure and improvise.

Young won’t be the fastest quarterback in the NFL, although he has good speed and can run away from linemen long enough to pick up a few yards with his legs or create a passing lane. On the other hand, Stroud had just one rushing touchdown in college, and it came on the only snap he took his freshman season.

If you take away that play, Stroud had just 54 career rushing yards in his college career. While he’s mobile enough within the pocket, he’s not going to make as many game-changing plays with his legs as Young will.

Verdict

Deciding between Young and Stroud is almost like splitting hairs. In many ways, the coach and system for a particular team figure to decide the better option.

Young will be a better fit in some situations while Stroud might be preferred in other situations. But if all other things are equal, Young gets the slightest advantage over Stroud.

The biggest difference between the two is Young’s athleticism and skills outside the pocket are far better than Stroud’s. The gap in that area is far greater than the slight edge that Stroud has in size, arm strength, and playing from the pocket. With his legs, Young can do things that Stroud can’t, which is why Bryce Young is a little better than C.J. Stroud heading into the 2023 NFL Draft.

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