Quarterback CJ Stroud Emerges as Favorite for #1 Pick in 2023 NFL Draft

Posted on: March 12, 2023, 12:31h. 

Last updated on: March 12, 2023, 12:33h.

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is the new betting favorite at -300 odds to become the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, after the Carolina Panthers acquired the top pick in a trade with the Chicago Bears.

CJ Stroud Ohio State quarterback 2023 NFL Draft #1 pick Carolina Panthers trade Bryce Young
Ohio State Quarterback CJ Stroud drops back for a pass against Iowa during a game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. (Image: Getty)

The Bears finished last season with the worst record in the NFL and secured the #1 pick. They already have a quarterback with Justin Fields, so they’ve been shopping the #1 pick since the NFL Scouting Combine. Several teams, seeking to fill a hole at quarterback, were interested in the top pick including the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, and the Panthers.

With limited free agent options at quarterback this season, the Panthers decided to gamble in the draft. The Panthers offered the Bears a lucrative trade package that included wide receiver DJ Moore, the #9 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the #61 pick in upcoming draft, a first-round pick in 2024, and a second-round pick in 2025.

Moore posted three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons between 2019 and 2021. Despite a lackluster passing game with Carolina this past season, Moore still managed to haul in 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven touchdowns. The Bears added a much-needed wide receiver in addition to future draft capital.

The Panthers are +5500 odds to win Super Bowl LVIII according to DraftKings. The addition of the #1 pick did not affect the Panthers’ futures market.

Bryce Young Slipping

Bryce Young from Alabama was the consensus top quarterback prospect in college football during the regular season. He was previously the betting favorite to become the #1 pick at -200 odds at DraftKings. When the Bears were shopping the top pick, it was under the assumption that they’d trade the #1 pick to a team interested in moving up in the draft to select Young.

Young is recovering from AC joint surgery and chose to not participate in passing drills at the NFL Combine. He is waiting until Alabama Pro Day on March 23 to showcase his passing skills.

As a sophomore, Young led Alabama to a 13-2 record. He tossed 47 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Young appeared in only 12 games during his junior season in 2022. He led Alabama to a 10-2 record as a starter, and he threw 32 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

DraftKings updated their 2023 NFL Draft betting board, and Young is now +245 odds after the Panthers and Bears trade.

Stroud and Richardson Rising

Immediately after the Panthers traded up for the #1 pick, Stroud saw his odds jump from +350 to -300. Stroud became the outright favorite based on rumors that the Panthers want to rebuild their franchise around him instead of Young.

Stroud went 21-4 during his last two seasons as the starting quarterback at Ohio State. He threw 44 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 71.9% completion rate in 12 games as a sophomore in 2021. In 2022, Stroud threw 37 touchdowns and six picks in 13 games as a junior.

Richardson is a late bloomer and started just one game during his sophomore season in Gainesville. He took over the starting quarterback job in 2022, but the Florida Gators struggled with a 6-6 record. Ricardson had a low completion rate of only 53.8%, and tossed just 17 touchdowns. However, the swiftfooted Richardson added nine rushing scores.

Richardson impressed scouts with his sheer athleticism including his outstanding vertical leap. His draft stock has been soaring in recent weeks, but was never really in consideration as the #1 pick. His odds to become the first pick topped out at +350, but it’s now +450.

If the Panthers pick Stroud at #1, it’s likely that the Houston Texans will select Young with the second pick in the draft. DeMeco Ryans, the new head coach of the Texans, indicated that they will pursue a quarterback in the upcoming draft.

The Arizona Cardinals are slated for the #3 pick, but already have a quarterback with Kyler Murray. The Cardinals are projected to select the first defensive player in the draft with edge rusher Will Anderson, Jr. from Alabama.

Colts: Trade for Lamar Jackson, or Draft a QB?

The Colts have the #4 pick, but already lost a bidding war for the #1 pick. Team owner Jim Irsay is antsy after watching the Panthers move up from the #9 pick to first overall. Irsay is putting heat on general manager Chris Ballard to make a bold move to acquire quarterback Lamar Jackson in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens.

Jackson and the Ravens are far apart in negotiating a contract extension. Jackson wants a fully guaranteed contract, similar to what the Cleveland Browns offered Deshaun Watson. The Ravens are not budging on a fully guaranteed deal, which is extremely rare in the NFL. They also have reservations on paying Jackson a 100% guaranteed contract because he missed the last five games of the 2022 season with a PCL knee injury.

The Colts could persuade the Ravens to trade Jackson for a package deal that includes the #4 pick in the draft. The Ravens currently have the #22 pick, but trading Jackson to the Colts would put the Ravens in a prime spot to grab Richardson with the fourth pick. If they want more of a traditional passer, the Ravens could select Will Levis from Kentucky. There was a short period last summer when Levis was considered the top prospect in the upcoming draft.

If the Colts do not work out a trade with the Ravens for Jackson, they still have a chance to add Richardson with the fourth pick. If the Texans select Richardson with the second pick, then that means Young will fall to #4 which is still a solid option.

The 2023 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 27.