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Immediate expectations for C.J. Stroud should be tempered, but the Houston Texans got a potential star in the 2023 NFL Draft

Given time and resources, Stroud, perhaps more than any other rookie QB, has the makings of a prolific NFL passer.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A star, huh? Given the past success of Ohio State quarterbacks, some may have rolled their eyes at the headline above. But to make assumptions regarding the future NFL success of another Buckeye, C.J. Stroud, would be a mistake. To do so (assume) would also be an exercise in futility. Because Stroud is not Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor, J.T. Barrett, or Justin Fields. He is Coleridge Bernard Stroud (IV), and he is vastly different from each of his predecessors.

The former OSU QB he most closely resembles is actually Joe Burrow, who, yes, flourished down on the Bayou but also spent three years in Columbus and one learning from Ryan Day — as in the coach who helped develop Stroud. So there is no apples-to-apples comparison. If anything, comparing Stroud to the others is akin to comparing apples to many different grapes on a single vine... Or something like that.

Comps aside, Stroud now finds himself in Houston, where he hopes to become the Texans’ franchise QB. And while having his name called on draft night was likely a dream come true, the weeks leading up to his selection seemed anything but. Because in early April, and seemingly out of nowhere, a semi-smear campaign began to put Stroud’s draft ceiling in jeopardy. He went from presumptive No. 1 pick in March, to a fringe top-10 player days before the event (if you bought into the rumors).

Why, you ask? Because draft season is silly season, and NFL teams love to overthink their first-round picks. But here’s the thing with rumors: They’re gossip. They’re trash; intended to stir up drama. Put frankly, they are usually covered in bullshit.

The only tangible or known justification for Stroud potentially falling was that he scored poorly on a test designed to measure cognitive skills. Only, he may not have (scored poorly)! One of the test’s cofounders came out and essentially said, “don’t believe everything you hear and/or read.” And Stroud’s results only became a talking point because they were leaked by a sportswriter who covered the Green Bay Packers for decades... Sounds like a real Adam Schefter-like insider.

This same writer also spent part of April crafting pieces that reference a Clemson curse (as in, they fail as pros), question whether Jalen Carter loves football, and cautions teams to think twice before potentially drafting Ohio State OL Dawand Jones. But yeah, other than that, super positive guy putting out positive pieces and celebrating players for their accomplishments... His pieces are easy to find, I won’t do him the favor of adding a link.

Despite the various rumors and teams talking themselves into draft prospects like they are scratch-off lottery tickets at the 7-Eleven, Stroud was taken second overall. He is a Texan, which means sanity prevailed. His “fall” turned out to be nothing, and the talented Scarlet and Gray signal caller might even want to thank his lucky stars for ending up in Houston. Because he avoided certain pressure(s) that comes with being selected first overall, as well as having to play for a team that gave up tons of future assets and its best skill player to move up in this draft.

Side note: I kind of like what Carolina did in free agency, but let me be a homer.

Now Stroud controls his own destiny, at least as far as his on-field play will carry him. No more speculation about where he will end up or fall. And I believe that he is going to flourish sooner rather than later. The pieces around him aren’t great, so fans should be patient, but Stroud has all the makings of a franchise QB.

Arm strength? At least above-average. Accuracy? That of a skilled sniper. Size? Speed? Neither is an issue. As for those cognition and/or processing concerns? Watch the tape. Watch him pick apart and dismantle Georgia, a team that just had five defensive players taken in this same draft... Or simply ask the man if he is worried. Stroud seems to lack zero confidence in his ability to read, react, adapt, and ultimately succeed at the next level.

Not only does Stroud possess all the talent and traits of a successful NFL QB, but Houston has also done a couple of things that should allow him to (hopefully) develop gradually and ultimately find success when the entire roster is ready. While they have not yet gone all-in on offensive weapons, their defense is much improved. And a solid defense can be a rookie QB’s best friend.

The Texans hired a new coach in DeMeco Ryans who was once a fantastic player for the organization and is currently considered one of the best defensive minds in the game. After drafting defensive backs Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre in 2022, the team traded up for Will Anderson Jr. in this year’s draft, giving them a talented young core on that side of the ball. The young guns will play alongside proven vets like Jimmie Ward and Jerry Hughes, and if that defense can play above-average ball, it will create more of a buffer and lessen the load for Stroud and his offensive weapons.

Said weapons are nothing to write home about, but wide receiver John Metchie (if healthy) has dynamic potential, Dameon Pierce is a future 1,000-yard running back, and tight end Dalton Schultz is unlike any pass-catching threat Stroud played with in Columbus. There are some nice pieces. And perhaps most importantly, the former Buckeye signal caller will be protected by Laremy Tunsil, one of the best left tackles in football. Stroud’s situation could be much, much worse. Just look at what Justin Fields has been dealing with in Chicago.

The Texans are not competing for a championship in 2023. Granted, the teams plays in a weak division, but they picked second overall in this recent draft for a reason. There is plenty of work to in Houston. However, I believe that the franchise took a massive step forward with their selection of Stroud. The desired results may not come right away, but if the team and its fans keep the faith and exercise a little bit of patience, their big-time investment should pay even bigger dividends in the not-so-distant future.