:You won’t be looking at Stroud as a potential 2023 fantasy starter, unless you play in an impressively deep league. Even for best ball and superflex purposes, he’ll make for a high-risk QB2.
Stroud will not only need to bring his elite accuracy to the pros. He’ll also need to turn his above-average speed (4.74-second 40 time at pro day) into NFL rushing production. And the rookie’s passing numbers will rely on at least solid performance from a lackluster crew of pass catchers.
Stroud sports enough upside to be attractive in dynasty leagues and a quality QB3 for superflex formats. Just don’t expect too much right away.
What We Learned Last Year:Stroud closed a tremendous two-year starting turn at Ohio State with big numbers. Despite losing WRs Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the NFL Draft, he ranked top 15 nationally in:Passing yardsTDsTD rateINT rateYards per attemptPro Football Focus passing gradeStroud racked up 85 TDs vs. just 12 INTs over his two years at the OSU helm. He completed 69.3% of his passes and averaged a strong 9.8 yards per attempt.According to Pro Football Focus, Stroud leads the nation over the past two years with a 26.7% rate of “perfectly thrown passes.”Stroud didn’t run much in college but said leading up to the draft, “I feel like I should have.”
What to Expect in 2023: Most QBs get an upgrade in WR talent going from college to the pros. Stroud will not. His first starting season included Wilson, Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Even with the first two gone and JSN (hamstring) basically out, 2022 still found Stroud throwing to expected first-round NFL picks Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.The Texans’ 2023 WR depth chart features:Nico CollinsRobert Woods (now 31)John Metchie III (coming off a year missed for leukemia treatment)rookies Tank Dell (Round 3) and Xavier Hutchinson (Round 6)Houston also signed TE Dalton Schultz to a one-year deal with $6 million guaranteed.The Texans sport a first-time HC (Demeco Ryans) and first-time OC (Bobby Slowik). Each spent multiple years working for Niners HC Kyle Shanahan.Slowik has spent all nine of his NFL coaching seasons on a Shanahan staff:six with Kyle’s 49ersthree under Mike Shanahan (with Kyle as OC) in WashingtonWe’ll see about Slowik’s system, but it seems fair to expect a heavy Shanahan influence.That’s been a run-friendly scheme. Over their six shared years in San Francisco, the 49ers averaged 43.8% run and 56.2% pass. But it predictably changed by team performance.Average for three winning seasons: 48.3% run, 51.7% passAverage for three losing seasons: 40.9% run, 59.1% passHouston had a lot of holes to fill from last year’s roster. The Texans should certainly be better in 2023. But how much better is tough to say. The early Vegas lines have only the Cardinals projected for fewer wins. So expect a pass rate closer to 60% than to 50%.That would be a good thing for Stroud’s fantasy numbers.
Stroud was selected with the No. 2 pick of April's draft. The 6-foot-3, super-accurate Ohio State product was nothing short of elite at OSU, pacing this year's rookie class in completion rate (69%), YPA (9.8), catchable pass rate (81%), QB rating (181) and total QBR (90.3) during his 28 appearances. Stroud's fantasy upside could be limited by a lack of rushing (55-321-1 career rushing line, excluding sacks), and there's not a ton to love about his supporting cast here in 2023 (Nico Collins and Robert Woods are Houston's top WRs). The 21-year-old will learn on the job this season and will be a potential breakout player in 2024.