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Week One 3 For 3 Draft Eligible: We Evaluate C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, And Jalen Carter

I wanted to start a new written series covering the top three performances that stood out in big moments among top NFL Draft prospects across the college football landscape.

Week one of the 2022 college football season provided plus matchups for us to feast our football-deprived brains upon. To open the season, we chose to dive into the big matchups, Ohio State vs. Notre Dame at the top, followed by Florida vs. Utah and Oregon vs. Georgia. The prospects we chose to focus on in these three games were Florida QB Anthony Richardson, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, and Georgia IDL Jalen Carter.

Florida QB Anthony Richardson (6-4, 240lbs)

The Measurables

As an NFL Draft prospect, Richardson possesses all the attributes you want in a QB. At 6-4, 240lbs, Richardson has the size to go with the big arm. He also possesses the athleticism we are consistently looking for in today's NFL QB. He can move to keep a play alive and take off and pick up explosive plays with his legs. He exhibited all these attributes last night vs. the #7 Utah Utes at home in the Swamp.

The Performance

Anthony Richardson shined last night against #7 Utah in the Swamp in front of the largest home-opening crowd in Florida football history. In only his second career start at QB for the Gators, Richardson posted 274 total yards and three TD's (all three on the ground). He scored on a two-point conversion throw that will be a surefire ESPN top 10 play late in the game to extend the Gator's lead by 3. Utah would not go away, and they would answer on their next drive, regaining the lead and placing the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Anthony Richardson.

As the game progressed, the one thing I wanted to see from Richardson was his ability to put his team on his back, and he did just that by avoiding mistakes in a pressured situation. On the Gator's final offensive drive, Richardson rose to the occasion leading his team down the field on a 75-yard, 14-play drive that lasted 5 minutes. Richardson capped off the drive with a zone-read keeper for a one-yard TD. On the final drive, Richardson helped his team convert 3 of their total 3rd and 4th down plays. Two with his legs, one through the air.

The Final Word

I went into this game remembering how Ohio State shredded the Utah secondary in the Rose Bowl, and I kept that perspective at the front of my mind for a good reason. I knew that if the Gators could exploit the Utah defense, it would be through the air, but that was not the case. Richardson only attempted 21 throws, completing 17 (70%) for 174 yards. He did not throw a TD pass, but he did throw for a 2pt score on the move, escaping a defender's grasp in the backfield. From an advanced data perspective, Richardson committed one turnover-worthy throw, and his ADOT per pass attempt of 7.6 ranked 77th among all passers with at least 20 attempts. He finished the night with an average PFF passer grade, ranking 76th. He had (0) big-time throws on the night.

I am impressed with Richardson, not just by the physical tools but by his patience and moxie. He did not make a critical mistake late; instead, he stepped up, stayed calm, and did exactly what you expect from a big-time player, finishing a tight game with a win. Richardson's first SEC challenge happens in one week when the Gators face off against the WIll Levis-led Kentucky Wildcats at home.

Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

The Measurables

C.J. Stroud entered the night as the 2nd rated QB on our NFL Draft Board behind Alabama's Bryce Young. The 6-3, 220lbs QB is considered by many to be a top 5 NFL Draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Stroud throws with great anticipation and does a great job putting his receivers in a position to be lucky after the catch. He is not the athlete Justin Fields presented while at Ohio State, but Stroud proved he could be every bit as good as a passer, and when needed, he can pick up a first down with his legs. Continued improvement with his footwork and timing will further elevate his top ten NFL draft status.

The Performance

Against Notre Dame at home in week one, C.J. Stroud stepped up and made the plays needed to help his team move past a tough and inspired Irish defense. Ohio State entered the game as a three-score favorite (16.5) but trailed by a score at halftime. Stroud spent most of the game taking what the Irish defense gave him, he did not force anything, and the Irish played a lot of two-high coverage. The word of the night for Stroud was patience. He exhibited tremendous patience throughout, just waiting for the right opportunity, and the Irish would present him with that opportunity late in the third Qtr down 10-7. The Irish decided to bring both safeties from a two-high look on a blitz, and Stroud made them pay with a TD pass to give the Buckeyes the 14-10 lead heading into the 4th Qtr.

From an advanced data perspective, C.J. Stroud did not commit a single turnover-worthy play, and he completed (4) big-time throws, including the TD to put the Buckeyes ahead at the end of the 3rd QTR. Stroud finished with a 90.2 (Elite) PFF passing grade.

The Final Word

Stroud had to deal with a banged-up Smith-Njigba in this game; he made the most of it without his star WR and found a way without him on the field. Stroud also did a great job getting away from pressure several times, extending plays, and making a few big-time throws into small windows on the sideline in this game. We discussed C.J. Stroud's mobility on After Further Review a few weeks ago and that if he is going to leapfrog Bryce Young into the QB1 spot, he would need to show more as an athlete, keeping plays alive and making throws on the run, and he did that vs. Notre Dame to start the 2022 season.

Georgia IDL Jalen Carter

The Measurables

Jalen Carter is the early #2 prospect on the Football Scout 365 NFL Draft board to start the 2022 CFB season behind Alabama Edge Will Anderson. Carter is a disruptive physical force. He combines a quick first step and feet like a running back to shoot into gaps. At 6-3, 310lbs, Carter is a densely proportioned twitchy player with quick hips and elite lateral ability for his position. Carter wins with strength generated from his dense lower half; combined with his elite positional athleticism and quick hands, Carter is a problematic defender to block. He will need to improve his ability to handle and move off of double teams at the next level.

The Performance

Carter dominated from his interior position in week one vs. the Oregon Ducks in ways not shown in a stat book. The Ducks could not block him at times, and you can see precisely why Carter is considered an elite prospect that NFL scouts and GM's are drooling over. His overwhelming presence in the middle of the defense makes life easier for the 2nd and 3rd level defenders behind him and creates problems as both a run stopper and a pass rusher.

The Final Word

Carter did not fill up a stat book. But that does not mean his presence was not felt in different ways. In the videos below, you will see exactly what I am talking about regarding his ability to affect a game.

A clear holding penalty on this play. Carter is tackled in the backfield. If the holding is called, it's as good as a sack.

Carter uses his strength to displace the blocker in his way so that he can get the TFL.


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