CJ Stroud is unanimously projected to be among the top picks in the 2023 NFL draft, but which team the former Ohio State quarterback will end up with remains anyone’s guess.
With Justin Fields’ Chicago Bears holding the No. 1 overall pick and likely to receive trade offers from quarterback-needy teams looking to move up for the opportunity to draft either Stroud or Bryce Young (or potentially Will Levis), identifying the potential landing spots for Stroud isn’t as simple as just choosing the top two or three teams in the draft order who are in the quarterback market.
Those teams might be the most likely destinations for Stroud come April 27, but there are as many as a dozen teams that could theoretically jump into the race for Stroud by making a move up the draft board.
As the pre-draft process gets underway for Stroud, we take a look at the teams we could see Stroud playing for this fall, starting with the six teams who are best positioned to draft one of the top quarterbacks and are likely to consider doing so . We also look at a half-dozen other teams that are less likely landing spots for Stroud but could still jump into the race due to uncertainty at the quarterback position, though many of them would likely have to make a big move up the board to have a chance at the former Buckeye signal-caller.
Teams in each category are listed in order of the highest draft pick they currently hold.
Most Likely Landing Spots
Current first round picks: No. 2, no. 12
Given that they hold the No. 2 overall pick (and the No. 12 overall pick) and have a clear need to upgrade at quarterback, the Texans are the odds-on favorite to land Stroud right now. While it’s possible someone could jump them to draft Stroud at No. 1, there’s a good chance he’ll be there for the taking at No. 2.
Considering Houston is currently searching for its third head coach in three years, it’s hard to predict what the Texans will do right now. It’s a safe bet the new coach will be looking for a new signal-caller, though, and Stroud is sure to be one of the quarterbacks considered.
Current pick: No. 4
The second-most likely landing spot for Stroud as a team that might not have to move up to draft him – or at least wouldn’t have to move up far to do so – is Indianapolis. Like the Texans, the Colts are currently searching for a new head coach but will surely be looking for a new quarterback after going through the 2022 season with a revolving door of Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles.
Indianapolis has drafted a quarterback two of the last three times it’s had a top-five overall pick (Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, both at No. 1 overall). The Colts even have a history of drafting an Ohio State quarterback with the fourth overall pick, which they used to draft Art Schlichter in 1982. If history repeats itself 41 years later and Indianapolis drafts Stroud with the fourth pick, he’d tie Schlichter for the highest-drafted quarterback in Ohio State history.
Las Vegas Raiders
Current pick: No. 7
By opting to part ways with Derek Carr, the Raiders have thrust themselves into the market for a new quarterback. They’ve been rumored as a potential destination for Tom Brady because of Brady’s history with Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels when he was the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator, but a young quarterback like Stroud would seem to make more sense for a team that just went 6-11 last year.
While landing with the Raiders potentially means sliding a few spots further, Las Vegas might be a more desirable destination for Stroud than Houston or Indianapolis. Not only would it be closer to home for the California native, but it would pair him with a proven quarterback developer in McDaniels and one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers in Davante Adams.
Current pick: No. 8th
The Falcons could choose to stick with 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder after he started their final four games of this past season, but he didn’t do anything spectacular in those four starts that should stop Atlanta from at least weighing its options at quarterback this offseason – particularly if Stroud was slide into its lap at the No. 8 jumpsuit pick.
Stroud certainly looked at home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium with his performance against Georgia in the Peach Bowl to cap off his collegiate career, and pairing him with 2022 first-round pick Drake London would add immediate juice to a passing offense that ranked 31st in the NFL in yards per game this past season.
Current pick: No. 9
After trying to salvage the careers of 2018 top-three overall picks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold for the past two years, the Panthers should be looking to draft their own quarterback this year. For that reason, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any mock draft that has Stroud falling further than the No. 9 jumpsuit pick.
With extra picks in the second, third and fourth round that they received from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers also have the goods to move up the board for the quarterback of their choice, making them a real team to watch in the Stroud sweepstakes even with four quarterback-needy teams ahead of them in the draft order.
Current pick: No. 11
The Titans’ interest in Stroud was apparent during last year’s Ohio State per day, where Mike Vrabel stood alongside Ryan Day to watch Stroud throw to Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and OSU’s other 2022 draft prospects. After a disappointing 2022 season in which the Titans lost their final seven games of the year, they’re within striking distance to either make a move up the board or hope Stroud slides out of the top 10.
Ryan Tannehill is a casualty potential salary cap in Tennessee, which would leave the Titans in need of a new starting quarterback. They could roll with 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis, but his benching in favor of Josh Dobbs after Tannehill’s season-ending ankle injury leaves the door wide open for the Titans to draft a franchise quarterback with their first-round pick.
Mike Vrabel was among the NFL coaches who spent time with CJ Stroud at last year’s Ohio State per day.
Less Likely Destinations
Current picks: No. 5, no. 20
With two first-round picks including one in the top five, the Seahawks have the ammunition to get Stroud if they want him. Seattle’s Plan A at quarterback, however, appears to be re-signing Geno Smith after his career-best 2022 season.
Should the Seahawks fail to agree to a new contract with Smith, they’d jump up into the top category and become one of the most likely teams to draft Stroud. As of now, it appears more likely the Seahawks will target a defensive player with the No. 5 picks
Current picks: No. 6, no. 18
The Lions enter the offseason in a similar position as the Seahawks. With two of the draft’s top 18 picks, they’re well-positioned to land one of the draft’s top quarterback if they want one. As well as Jared Goff played this past season, though, the Lions are likely to stick with him, especially considering he still has two years remaining on his contract.
New York Jets
Current pick: No. 13
The Jets are expected to pursue a quarterback this offseason after a disastrous start to 2021 No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson’s career, and the possibility of repairing Stroud with Garrett Wilson has to be appealing. The Jets would almost certainly have to trade up for a chance to land Stroud, though, and indications are they plan to pursue a veteran quarterback such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Carr or Lamar Jackson rather than drafting one.
Current pick: No. 16
Trading for Carson Wentz last offseason didn’t work out, leaving the Commanders with continued instability at quarterback. They could certainly use a passer of Stroud’s caliber to throw to the likes of Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, but they’re a bit far down the board to have a real chance at actually landing Stroud, and have reportedly told offensive coordinator candidates that they ‘re planning for 2022 fifth-round pick Sam Howell to be their starting quarterback next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Current pick: No. 19
If Tom Brady leaves Tampa Bay or retires, the Buccaneers will have as big of a need for a new quarterback as any team in the NFL. Re-signing Brady remains their preferred option, though. If he leaves, they’d certainly have to consider trying to land one of the draft’s top quarterbacks, but it’s more likely they’d replace Brady with another veteran than trade a king’s ransom to move up for Stroud.
Current pick: No. 22
Like Tampa Bay, the only reason Baltimore is on this list is because of the uncertainty surrounding its current star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, whose contract is set to expire. Working out a deal with Jackson remains the preferred course of action for the Ravens, and with no second-round pick, they’d have to get creative to broker a deal to move up for Stroud. But they may have reason to try if they lose Jackson.