One name remains conspicuously absent among the list of college football players who have declared early for the 2023 NFL Draft: Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is fast approaching, and Stroud — long considered a consensus top-five pick — has yet to formally announce for the draft. For that matter, he has given no indication, publicly at least, on what the future holds for him.
Stroud has more to consider in his decision than just money, but that certainly will be a big factor in what he ultimately chooses to do. The window to play in the NFL is short, and the window to build up your NFL draft stock is even shorter.
That said, the advent of Name Image and Likeness deals in college football has lessened the financial burden on players, and Stroud has yet more he can achieve at this level, despite emerging as one of the game’s premier passers. He can still win the Heisman Trophy, for which he has twice been a finalist. He has also yet to beat Michigan or lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten or College Football Playoff championship.
Stroud has long been considered the No. 2 quarterback of this draft, behind only Alabama’s Bryce Young (though Will Levis of Kentucky has also garnered significant attention as well). If Stroud were to wait until the 2024 NFL Draft, he would likely compete with USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye, among others, for the top overall pick.
With that, The Sporting News looks at the rumors surrounding Stroud’s decision, as well as where he is projected to go in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Will C.J. Stroud declare for NFL Draft?
Friday, Jan. 13
As noted by NFL draft reporter Jared Tokarz, one potential reason Stroud has in returning to Ohio State is the advent of NIL deals.
Ohio State QB CJ Stroud has until Monday to declare for the NFL draft. He has yet to do so.
Could Ohio State be putting together a massive NIL package to try and keep him another year?
Imagine the kings ransom the Bears could demand if CJ Stroud stays with that #1 pick
— Jared Tokarz (@JaredNFLDraft) January 13, 2023
That said, any NIL deal Stroud would accept would have to be on par to what he would earn on the NFL’s rookie wage scale.
Per Spotrac, a player selected fourth overall — where TSN projects Stroud to be taken — would be offered a contract worth $36.7 million, including a $28.8 million signing bonus and $6.7 million cap hit for the 2023 NFL season. Over The Cap lists the contract for any player drafted at that position to be valued at $36.3 million, with a $24.3 million signing bonus and a $6.6 million cap hit for 2023.
To compare, On3.com estimates Stroud’s NIL value at $2.8 million, good for fourth among college football players. While it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for Ohio State boosters to pool their resources in an NIL deal to keep him in school, it would require a significant increase in monetary value.
ESPN’s Peter Burn also estimated the NIL deal required to retain Stroud would have to be worth north of $15 million:
If it doesn’t happen with CJ Stroud, it will just be a matter of time.
Sooner or later a Top 10 NFL draft pick (QB) is going to forgo the NFL to play one more season in CFB.
Would have to imagine it would need to be a NIL package of over $15M+
Worth it for a school? Likely.
— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) January 13, 2023
C.J. Stroud draft projection
Stroud is a consensus top-five pick, with most outlets listing him as the No. 2 overall quarterback available in the draft.
The same is true for The Sporting News, which projects Stroud to be the second signal-caller and fourth player off the board, by the Colts. Per TSN’s Vinnie Iyer:
The Colts’ reward for an absolute QB mess between Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger in the final abbreviated season under Frank Reich is being bad enough to get in position to stop recycling veteran QBs. They can land Stroud, a smart pocket passer with the right accuracy and intangibles to thrive as their true delayed franchise replacement for Andrew Luck.
NFL DRAFT BIG BOARD: SN’s latest top 75 player rankings
When is the deadline to declare for the NFL draft?
The deadline to declare for the 2023 NFL draft is Monday, Jan. 16. Any player who does not declare by the deadline will be ineligible to be drafted ahead of the 2023 NFL season.