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C.J. Stroud, quarterback for Ohio State, enters the NFL draft

C.J. Stroud, a junior quarterback at Ohio State, announced his intention to enter the 2023 NFL draft on the last day that players could officially declare their intention to do so.

Stroud will be drafted in the top five in the NFL. He will compete with Bryce Young of Alabama and Will Levis of Kentucky to be the best quarterback selected.

Given his standing, Stroud’s decision shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. However, as he waited to make a decision, the Ohio State fan base became more hopeful that he would return for the 2023 campaign.

“The process has been difficult,” Stroud said in his announcement, “and the decision, one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make. As a kid, I dreamed of playing football at the highest level and after much prayer, I’ve made the decision that it’s time to turn those dreams into a reality.”

He receives essentially a $35 million guarantee in his first contract if he enters the NFL and is selected fifth overall.

Two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Stroud finishes his career at Ohio State 21-4 as a starter and holds 16 Ohio State passing and total offense records. Over the past two seasons, he has consistently been one of the sport’s most dynamic players, completing with 85 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.

Given the opponent and the stakes, Stroud saved perhaps his most dynamic collegiate performance for his final game, as he guided the Buckeyes to the brink of defeating Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Stroud finished with 348 passing yards, four touchdown passes, and no interceptions. Even in the run game, where he rushed for 34 yards and showed a burst in picking up yards with his feet at crucial points, he showed some signs of dynamism. The eventual national champions defeated Ohio State, 42-41, after the Buckeyes missed a last-second field goal.

As Justin Fields was selected No. 1, Stroud will depart Ohio State as one of the program’s most dynamic quarterbacks and as the program’s third consecutive starter to be selected in the first round. 11th overall in 2021, with Dwayne Haskins coming in No. 15 in 2019. Since Art Schlichter in 1982, Ohio State hadn’t had a quarterback selected in the first round before Ryan Day became quarterbacks coach in 2017.

Following Ohio State’s loss to Michigan earlier this season, Stroud hinted at this outcome. He lost to the Wolverines in both of his starts against them, and this year, he realized that would be part of his legacy at Ohio State, which made him unsure of what to do.

“People are going to say I never won The Game, and I understand,” Stroud told reporters after November’s 45-23 loss. “People are going to say I never won a Big Ten championship. I understand. When it comes to that, I just have to eat it.”

Stroud’s total offense in a single game, 583 yards against Utah in the Rose Bowl last season, is one of the records he will leave Ohio State with. In that 48-45 victory, he set five Rose Bowl records, including passing yards (573), touchdown passes (six), and points contributed (36).

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