There’s been a lot of hype for the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft Class that has a lot of buzz for how strong the quarterback crop projects from the reigning 2022 Heisman Winner and USC quarterback Caleb Williams to North Carolina’s Drake Maye and even Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. to name a few who are all projected to go in the first round of next April’s draft.
Now while all those guys are tremendous talents, with many projecting Williams as the next transcendent talent who’s been compared to the Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the “Next One” might be in the league already on the Houston Texans.
His name is CJ Stroud.
Stroud was the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft out of Ohio State behind Bryce Young of Alabama who went first to the Carolina Panthers and is a former Heisman winner. Young had concerns coming into the league due to his frame and size, standing at 5’10 and weighing 205 lbs.
Stroud on the other hand has the physical profile of the modern-day quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and has a solid and compact frame of 218 lbs that allows him to be able to take contact better than Young.
The Texans were one of the worst three teams last season and were last in the AFC South division at (3-13). Stroud has completely revamped the energy within the Texans organization currently sitting at (4-4) through Week 9 of the NFL season, good for second behind the Jacksonville Jaguars at (6-2) led by their own star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Now why do I believe he can be the “Next One”?
Sunday’s performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 39-37 thrilling victory will show you all you need to know about Stroud’s ability and intangibles. He finished with a staggering 470 passing yards on 30-of-42 completions to go along with five touchdowns with no interceptions.
What makes it more impressive is he did this against a Buccaneers team that’s third in Redzone touchdowns allowed and second in Redzone % according to Lineups.
Stroud has been a transformative player all year for the Texans and he continued to show that against the Buccaneers. One play that stood out to me was during the 9:14 mark of the first quarter for the Texans he did a fake handoff to his fullback that had Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield shift his weight to his left foot causing him to not fully be able to help to prevent the Stroud to Nico Collins touchdown.
Later on in the game early, in the third, he found receiver Noah Brown off an out route with the Texans down 20-10 at that point which resulted in a touchdown to cut the Buccaneers' lead to four you can see here.
Stroud continues his elite composure despite being down throughout the game with another touchdown pass in the third this time to Tank Dell to make it a one-point game and even posed with his arms folded with confidence afterward.
The Texans took their first lead after a Dalton Schultz touchdown but it was late in the fourth in crunch time where Stroud took his status as a budding franchise quarterback to another level.
It’s 2nd & 10 at the Buccaneers 41-yard line with 16 seconds to go, the Buccaneers are up 37-33 and just need one stop to win. Stroud had other plans, off the snap he finds Dell to get it inside the 20-yard line with the red zone in reach.
This comes after Stroud stopped the clock to huddle and gather his team together before a crucial drive. The Texans were now at the 16-yard line with 10 seconds left on the clock with the world watching a rookie quarterback on primetime television on CBS… Can he cap off a historic game with a victory?
The answer was a resounding yes, finding Dell once again for the go-ahead 15-yard touchdown to lead the Texans to a 39-37 win in a thriller in what was perhaps the breakout performance of what has been a historic rookie season for Stroud.
His 470 yards are the most for any rookie quarterback in a single game. What makes it more impressive is Stroud was able to pull out this win without their kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn who left the game with a quad injury in the first half.
If this game is an indication of what we can expect from Stroud in the future…Texans fans are in for a treat as we could be potentially witnessing the beginnings of a superstar due to his mental makeup, composure in pressure situations, physical profile, and talent.