There are two different ways to look at the huge trade that brought the third overall pick to Houston. Most observers actually view it as a trade for C.J. Stroud. For one, they point out that the team always loved Will Anderson, but discovered late that they could add Stroud as well. The idea was that they would draft Stroud and that would effectively depress the market for the third overall pick.
It also is a lot more convenient to consider it as a trade for a quarterback because that is more common. We can grade quarterback selections in any number of ways, but the way that makes the most sense is to look at the NFLcom prospect grades at the time they were taken. We can also look at how many of them got a second contract. This will particularly be telling when comparing it with other positions.
Quarterback Profiles: A Critical history
Unfortunately, NFL.com has only been keeping their current grading system since 2014. There have been 32 first round quarterbacks taken in the draft since the 2014 draft. NFL.com uses a system of ranking prospects between 5 and 8. Players with grades below six will usually get a backup grade. Players with grades above seven will be anywhere from a perennial Pro Bowler. Players between six and seven are anything from a day one starter on the top end to someone that could develop into a starter on the bottom end.
We start by looking at different representations of average. We can look at the grades for this year and we know the Texans got the consensus number two quarterback on the board. Yet, we don’t necessarily know how this quarterback class ranks compared to others without doing the legwork.
C.J. Stroud Prospect Grade= 6.70
Quarterback First Round Prospect Grade Mean (32)= 6.68
Quarterback First Round Prospect Grade Median (32)= 6.70
So, essentially Stroud is more or less the average quarterback prospect historically when we look at the guys that were taken in the first round since 2014. There are just as many guys with a higher grade as with a lower grade. He shared the same grade with three other first round quarterbacks.
However, it would be correct to point out that he was a top five overall selection. So, how would he compare with quarterbacks taken in the top five or top ten? It would seem logical to assume that he would actually be on the lower end of the dynamic. Yet, we should put that through the same test as all first round quarterbacks.
C.J. Stroud Prospect Grade= 6.70
Top Ten Overall Quarterbacks Mean (21)= 6.76
Top Ten Overall Quarterbacks Median (21)= 6.80
Top Five Overall Quarterbacks Mean (17): 6.83
Top Five Overall Quarterbacks Median (17): 6.80
So, these quarterbacks are a little better historically as we would expect, but Stroud fits comfortably near the mean and median for both top ten selections and top five overall selections. Even though he isn’t a part of this study, it should be pointed out that David Carr was at 6.30 and Deshaun Watson came in at 6.80. So, Stroud fits comfortably with that group.
What happens after they enter the league?
Prospect grades are all well and good, but we would obviously like to know how successful these quarterbacks are once they enter the league. As you mit suspect, this is kind of a mixed bag. We could talk about why quarterbacks fail and whether it is about the team or the quarterback, but we are going to expand our study back to 2002. A hit is defined as a player that gets a second contract and operates as a starter beyond the fifth season.
First Round Quarterbacks 2002-2021 (62): 24 out of 61
Top Ten Overall Quarterbacks 2002-2021 (38): 18 out of 38
Top Five Overall Quarterbacks 2002-2021 (29): 13 out of 29
All numbers have a context and that context can’t be known until we compare quarterbacks with other positions. However, a hit rate close to 50 percent seems a lot better than what we would have thought. Of course, I had to cheat a little to get here. I considered Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa as hits even though they haven’t technically signed a second contract. I considered Jared Goff as one as well even though he hasn’t signed a long-term extension yet.
The Road Not Travelled
The Texans had two other options they could have taken when it came time for the draft. They could have simply stuck at two and picked. In this scenario they would almost certainly take Anderson and then either punt on quarterback or take Will Levis later. There were a number of people before the draft that preferred punting on quarterback.
The rationale there was two-fold. First, the team could spend the entire 2023 draft and 2024 offseason building the team up in preparation for drafting their quarterback of the future. The second scenario involved them trading down and gaining even more picks. In both scenarios, the idea would be to use all of that draft capital to trade up to pick one of the best quarterbacks available in next year’s draft.
As you might suspect, we don’t have prospect grades for guys that haven’t entered the draft yet. However, we do have PFF scores for Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and the top five guys on the board before the 2023 college season. It’s not a perfect comparison since we don’t know if that will be the top five following the season, but it gives us some idea of what the Texans chose to bypass. The first number listed will be the 2021 PFF score while the second number will be the 2022 PFF score.
Bryce Young— 92.2, 91.5
C.J. Stroud— 92.2, 88.9
Anthony Richardson— 74.8, 80.1
Caleb Williams— 91.3, 91.6
Drake Maye— N/A, 91.5
Michael Penix— 69.7, 87.9
Bo Nix— 78.5, 86.8
Quinn Ewers— N/A, 72.4
If two seasons of college production matters then we see Stroud was really the only choice left to Houston in this draft and that Caleb Williams is the only guy on next year’s list that currently fits the bill. PFF scores are only one indication. Having watched Williams live I would say he is probably more advanced than either Young or Stroud. Of course, we still have a season of college football to play.
What does all of this mean? We obviously don’t know if Stroud will be good or not. What we know is that he fits comfortably in the range for first round quarterbacks, top ten overall quarterbacks, and top five overall quarterbacks. We will be looking at front seven defenders next and that would probably tell us whether quarterbacks are a good bet overall or not.