Ohio State junior quarterback CJ Stroud has declared for the NFL draft, making his announcement on the final day that players can formally declare they are entering the 2023 draft.
Stroud projects as a consensus top-five player in the NFL draft, according to ESPN’s draft analysts. He’ll compete with Alabama’s Bryce Young and Kentucky’s Will Levis to be the top quarterback taken.
Stroud’s decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering his standing. But as he waited to declare, hope grew among the Ohio State fan base that he could return for the 2023 season.
“The process has been difficult,” Stroud said in his announcement“and the decision, one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make. As a kid, I dreamed of playing football at the highest level and after much prayer, I’ve made the decision that it’s time to turn those dreams into a reality.”
By going to the NFL and becoming a top-five pick, he is essentially guaranteed $35 million in his first contract.
Stroud, a two-time finalist for the Heisman Trophy, finishes his Ohio State career 21-4 as a starter and with 16 Ohio State passing and total offense records. He’s been consistently one of the most dynamic players in the sport the past two seasons, as he finished with 85 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
Stroud saved perhaps his most dynamic collegiate performance for his final game, considering the opponent and stakes, as he willed the Buckeyes to the cusp of upsetting Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Stroud finished with four touchdown passes, no interceptions and 348 passing yards. He even showed some flashes of dynamism in the run game, rushing for 34 yards and showing a burst in picking up yardage with his feet at key junctures of the game. Ohio State missed a field goal at the buzzer and fell 42-41 to the eventual national champions.
Stroud will leave Ohio State as one of the program’s most dynamic quarterbacks and the program’s third consecutive starter to be a first-round pick, as Justin Fields went No. 11 overall in 2021 and Dwayne Haskins No. 15 in 2019. Before Ohio State head coach Ryan Day became quarterbacks coach in 2017, the program hadn’t had a quarterback selected in the first round since Art Schlichter in 1982.
Stroud hinted at this outcome in the wake of Ohio State’s loss to Michigan earlier this season. He lost to the Wolverines in both of his starts against them and this year realized that would be part of his legacy at Ohio State, which led him to be torn about his decision.
“People are going to say I never won The Game, and I understand,” Stroud told reporters after November’s 45-23 loss. “People are going to say I never won a Big Ten championship. I understand. When it comes to that, I just have to eat it.”
Among the records Stroud will leave Ohio State with are total offense in a single game, as he accounted for 583 yards of total offense against Utah in last season’s Rose Bowl. He set five Rose Bowl records in that 48-45 win, including passing yards (573), touchdown passes (six) and points responsible for (36).