INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Bryce Young insists he’s big enough to win in the NFL, and C.J Stroud calls himself the best player in this year’s draft.
To anyone who disagrees, each has a succinct message: Just watch.
The two top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class stepped behind the same podium Friday at the NFL’s annual scouting combine – Young first, Stroud second – and each made a case to be selected in that sequence order, or reverse order, April 27.
“I’ve been this size my whole life. I know who I am, I know what I can do,” Young said quietly before explaining how he answered the same question in team interviews. “I just speak my truth, you know, I make sure I explain how I play the game, how I see the game, my process, being able to get big plays.”
The former Alabama star and 2021 Heisman Trophy winner certainly presents the skillset of a franchise quarterback. Young has a strong arm, quick release, terrific accuracy and elusiveness as a runner. He even has that championship-winning pedigree.
Still, one concern lingers – size. In college, Young was listed at 6-feet, 194 pounds, but some worried he might check in at 5-10 or 5-11 in Indianapolis. It would make him one of the league’s shortest quarterbacks and if he weighs less than 194, it may raise durability questions.
Young said he’s comfortable with a playing weight around 200 pounds.
But even if Young doesn’t go first, he’s not likely to slide far with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts sitting in the No. 2 and No. 4 slots. Both teams need a quarterback, as does Las Vegas at No. 7 and Carolina at No. 9.
Three other teams in the top 10 also could join the fray for one of the four projected first-round signal-callers — Seattle at No. 5, Detroit at No. 6 and Atlanta at No. 8.
With so many possibilities, including Chicago dealing the No. 1 pick, the fourth day of the combine turned into lobbying day.
Just moments after Young and Stroud passed one another behind podium row, Stroud took the stage and made his case.
In two seasons as the Buckeyes starter, he completed 69.3% of his passes, threw for 85 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, was twice named Big Ten offensive player of the year and was a two-time Heisman finalist.
Unlike Young, Stroud was listed at a sturdy 6-3, 218, but did not win a national championship and until last year’s playoff semifinal against Georgia, didn’t run often. That’s the critique.
Naturally, Stroud disagrees.
“I’ve done everything. I’ve had tough third-down runs, I’ve had tough fourth-down runs,” he said. “But there were times where I didn’t run the ball or maybe I should have – that’s something I learned.”
While the top of the draft board looks like a four-man competition between Young, Stroud, defensive tackle Jalen Carter and linebacker Will Anderson Jr., Young’s college teammate, it’s unclear how it will shake out among the others at the sport’s most important position.
Will Levis of Kentucky has generally been regarded as the No. 3 quarterback and could be taken in the top 10, possibly the top five. While his college stats weren’t nearly as gaudy as Young or Stroud, he played in a more traditional pro-style offense, which could make the transition from college smoother.
Like Stroud, Levis certainly tried to sell himself. He plans to showcase his “cannon” arm during Saturday’s workouts and contends being two years older than the other two guys could play to his and his new team’s advantage.
“I think I’m able to assimilate myself very, very well, better than anybody else,” he said. “That’s the competence I have just due to my experience and just due to my physical tools, I think I’m going to be able to be plugged into any offense, learn it well and become a leader very quickly.”
Don’t count out Anthony Richardson, of Florida, either. The one-year starter with a completion percentage of 53.8% has seen his draft stock skyrocket in recent weeks, going from second-day prospect to top-10 projection. He doesn’t expect the ascent to stop on draft night, either.
“I want to be a legend. I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I will be one of the greats because I’m willing to work that hard and get to that point. To answer your question, I feel like I’m going to be one of the greats for the next few years.”
First, though, the top quarterbacks have eight more weeks to hear about their perceived flaws, to answer those questions, to prove themselves on the field and to convince scouts and general managers they are the best option.
Let the debate begin.
“I think I can show the balance, but I think today when dudes are open you feed your guys the ball or they look at you like you’re crazy,” Stroud said. “If you put on my film, I think I’ve been the best player in college football two years in a row.”
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