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NFL Draft Rewind: No. 2 CJ Stroud

CJ Stroud
CJ Stroud (© Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL Draft kicks off with its opening round on April 27 in Kansas City, so starting today Rivals is taking a look back at its projected first-round picks when they were high school prospects. We move onto our projected No. 2 – quarterback CJ Stroud of Ohio State, who was a four-star in the 2020 class.

NFL DRAFT REWIND: No. 1 Bryce Young


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CJ Stroud
CJ Stroud (Nick Lucero/

NO. 2: QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State

Where they were ranked: Stroud was rated as the third-best pro-style quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class behind Clemson signee DJ Uiagalelei and Tennessee signee Harrison Bailey and he was the first quarterback outside of five-star status. Alabama signee Bryce Young was the top-ranked player in the state that recruiting cycle as Stroud was ranked No. 51 in the class.

Recruitment: Ohio State did not offer until very late but once the Buckeyes got involved they became the frontrunner, especially since Stroud modeled his game after Justin Fields in many ways. Ironically, Georgia (where Fields had played before transferring to Ohio State) was the other main contender in Stroud’s recruitment along with Michigan, Oregon and USC.

Biggest question: How will Stroud do throwing to receivers that aren’t as talented as the ones he had the luxury of playing with at Ohio State? Whether it was Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka or others, the Buckeyes were arguably more stocked across the board than Stroud will find in his first NFL season.

Memories: Stroud was a late riser so while everyone was enamored with Young and Uiagalelei in Southern California and heated debates continued about which one was better, Stroud was out in the Inland Empire emerging as one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

A full-throated argument could easily be made for Stroud to be the best of that group and it was clear to see his talent, especially in the offseason prior his senior season at Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Young was the quarterback at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Uiagalelei was at rival Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco – arguably the two best programs in the country – so Stroud was the forgotten man at the public school that didn’t have a tremendous history of pumping out Division I players.

But at The Opening and the Elite 11 finals that summer and then into his senior year, Stroud really showed he was special and should be including in that Young/Uiagalelei debate.

During the U.S. Army All-American Bowl week, Stroud ended up as the Honorable Mention to Young and Uiagalelei in the awards categories but there could have been some bias there just based on knowing those other two quarterbacks’ resumes better. He was excellent in San Antonio and continued to carry that over to Ohio State.

I don’t buy the pre-draft hype that Stroud is difficult to coach. Although my interactions were limited to being a media member, I never heard that through the grapevine during his high school days. He was an excellent teammate at Rancho Cucamonga and seemingly at Ohio State. Any sideline talks I’ve had with him since then at the Elite 11 or at other events have been more than friendly.

Considering the college career he had – 8,123 passing yards with 85 touchdowns and 12 picks – a No. 51 ranking now looks way too low for someone who could still be the No. 1 overall pick.