C.J. Stroud: An Uncertain Fantasy Football Option

May 02, 2023
C.J. Stroud: An Uncertain Fantasy Football Option

After weeks of speculation and rumors, the Houston Texans drafted Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick of last week’s NFL draft. Stroud will presumably walk in as the starting QB for the new-look Texans franchise led by head coach DeMeco Ryans. Here’s an early evaluation of Stroud’s fantasy football value in the NFL.

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C.J. Stroud’s Profile

The NFL draft discourse around Stroud was quite the rollercoaster ride, but one thing was always certain: Stroud was indubitably a first-round caliber NFL talent. At Ohio State, Stroud had two outstanding seasons as a starter, finishing top-5 in Heisman Trophy voting in both 2021 and 2022 while pacing the Big Ten in passing yards and touchdowns.

Stroud’s most dominant trait is his precision as a passer. He was sixth in the nation last season in Big Time Throws (per PFF), and had a 70.1% “pinpoint” pass accuracy (best in the class) per The Ringer’s Ben Solak. Stroud is excellent in some of the nuances of the quarterback position—things like pocket awareness and throwing receivers open—and was billed as the best pure passer in the draft class.

While Stroud displayed dominance as a passer in college, context is always important to keep in mind: At Ohio State, Stroud was throwing to some of the best receivers on Planet Earth—Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson, and Chris Olave were all first-round picks in the NFL draft, and Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are expected to go in the first round next April. It’s simply impossible to have that much talent in a receiving room in the NFL, so Stroud will likely need some time to get adjusted to the league.

The main fault in Stroud’s game is his shortcomings as a runner and improviser. He did show some flashes (namely against Georgia in the Peach Bowl) but generally struggled to create out of structure. That might have been sustainable in college due to the talent around him, but Stroud might suffer from his lack of mobility in the NFL, making him an outlier when compared to some of the other successful young QBs in the league.

Projecting the Houston Texans Offense with Stroud

At first glance, the Texans' offense looks rather deprived of real difference-makers around Stroud. After trading away Brandin Cooks to the Cowboys, the receiving corps consists of veteran Robert Woods, young receivers Nico Collins, John Metchie, and Nathaniel "Tank" Dell, as well as tight end Dalton Schultz. There is certainly some untapped potential in that group, but it’s hard to imagine the Texans being anything more than a mediocre offense unless one of the young guys has a true breakout campaign. For reference, the Texans ranked 30th in total yards per game and 31st in points scored per game last season. This does not bode well for Stroud, who will need to have a good offense around him to produce for fantasy especially if he isn’t creating plays with his legs.

One player that should benefit from Stroud’s presence is Dalton Schultz. Schultz emerged as a safety blanket for Dak Prescott in Dallas, and Stroud, who has drawn comparisons to Prescott, should also rely on Schultz while adjusting to the league. At his current ADP of TE11, Schultz could be a steal as he’ll likely be the #1 option for the Texans and the primary red zone threat.

Assessing Stroud’s Fantasy Value

According to Underdog ADP, Stroud is going as the QB24 in drafts, which looks like the right spot for him. There are too many question marks surrounding his capabilities and situation for him to be rostered in 1-QB formats, but he has enough potential to be worth a stash in 2-QB leagues. The main hold-up with Stroud is that he doesn’t offer much in the ground game—fantasy managers have learned that the cheat code to drafts is a dual-threat QB (Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, etc), so it’s hard to trust Stroud when he doesn’t have the built-in floor that other QBs will have.

A player that could serve as a reasonable comparison for Stroud is Trevor Lawrence in his rookie season: There was no disputing Lawrence’s talent, but he did not put up stellar numbers in his first year as a result of having an average collection of weapons to throw to. Lawrence finished that season as the overall QB23 averaging 11.7 fantasy points per game.

The Bottom Line

  • C.J. Stroud is quite a talented prospect with stellar qualities as a passer. However, he is not nearly as mobile as other young QBs in the league which diminishes his fantasy value.
  • Stroud will experience a marked shift in supporting cast when transitioning from a loaded Ohio State receiving room to a middle-of-the-pack group of pass-catchers in Houston. The relatively low expectations for this offense are also a bad sign for his fantasy relevance, as better offenses typically lead to better QB stats.
  • Stroud is appropriately priced as QB24 on Underdog. He shouldn’t be considered in any 1-QB leagues but is worth a late-round flier in 2-QB formats due to his passing capabilities.
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