The 2022 quarterback class is a mixed bag. Daniel Jeremiah and a few others have recently voiced that this draft class is the most unknown in recent memory, and that starts with the quarterback position. Following the Senior Bowl, many expected one of the five top quarterbacks to stick out from the crowd. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. While many have pegged this the offseason for quarterback movement, the draft class still has a lot of unknowns at the quarterback position. Perhaps the quarterback with the most buzz following the week in Mobile was Carson Strong.
Strong came into the season as one of the best quarterbacks in the class and lived up to that talk. While talk has simmered a bit on him in recent months, the two-time defending Mountain West Conference Player of the Year has plenty of traits that coaches at the next level will fall in love with. Strong has over 7,000 yards in the last two seasons combined, 63 touchdowns, and only 12 interceptions. With such high praise and a gunslinging mentality, many wonder why Strong isn’t a consensus first-round prospect in this quarterback class.
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Name: Carson Strong
Jersey: No. 12
Class: Redshirt Junior
Weight: 226 lbs
Games Watched: San Diego State (2020), Idaho State (2021), Kansas State (2021), California (2021), Boise State (2021)
Major Injury History: Repeated Knee Issues
Arm Talent (14.75/15)
Strong has elite arm talent and makes 50 and 60-yard passes look easy. He has enough arm strength to zing it past defenders that form a triangle around a receiver, as seen in the game against Kansas State this year. With such a huge arm, it is special for Strong to be as on target as he is on. While some have gone just outside of the receiver’s grasps, most were within the receiver’s hands. Strong can make throws on the sidelines while putting his receivers in the best position to make a grab.
Even with the elite arm strength, he has superb accuracy as well. There are a few cases of some erratic placements when he doesn’t get his feet set correctly or is moving outside the pocket, but those are only a handful of times. When Strong is within the pocket, he is accurate at all levels of the field. There were plenty of times in this category where the receivers for Nevada would get their hands on the ball, but the ball would wind up hitting the ground. Most of these situations looked to be as part of a concentration drop from the receivers.
Decision Making (12.75/15)
Let’s start with the bad here to get it out of the way. There are a few times where Strong will make a throw that will leave you wondering what he saw, but that can also be said for the throw he had against Kansas State mentioned above. With the arm talent, Strong feels as though he can make any throw, which can be both a good and bad thing. He isn’t afraid to put the ball into tight areas, but sometimes that can get him into some trouble.
On the other hand, there is some good to come in this situation. It is a good sign that Strong is content with throwing the ball away when there isn’t anything open. We’ll get to the reason why later, but for him to have an internal clock of his receivers not coming open in their routes, and chucking the ball away instead of throwing it into harm’s way or taking a sack, is very encouraging for Strong as he heads into the next level.
In some instances, Nevada had quick-hitting passes in terms of a screen or hook route that Strong couldn’t show his work of progressions. When he worked through his progressions, he did a fine job reading the defense, going through his first and second reads, and then dumping it off to the check down. Due to his lack of mobility, he couldn’t necessarily reach some of the reads he was tasked with, which put him in a difficult position sometimes, leading him to throw it to a covered receiver for only a short gain.
Pocket Awareness (9.25/10)
It is known that Strong is primarily a pocket passer and doesn’t do much outside of the pocket. With that said, he has to find himself comfortable in the pocket and feel pressure when it’s coming. Strong maneuvers the pocket with ease and can find small creases he can go into that allow him to get extra time to throw the ball. As a non-mobile quarterback, it is encouraging to see that he is elite in this category and can sense pressure pre and post-snap.
As stated earlier, it is impressive how accurate Strong is with his passes considering his arm strength. There were throws 50 or 60 yards down the field that Strong put enough touch on that the receiver had the ball practically in his lap by the time he came to the ball. On the sidelines, there were plenty of times where Strong would put it only where his receiver could find it. There was a rare time or two where there would be an erratic throw over the middle areas of the field where the ball would sail on Strong, causing an interception or overthrow of the receiver.
Out of Structure (6.5/10)
Surprisingly, Strong does fairly well when the play breaks down, and he’s forced to move outside the pocket. While he won’t run and get chunks of yardage usually, he does an outstanding job of keeping his eyes downfield and extending the play. There were a few instances of this in the Idaho State game, where Strong could roll out and find a man on the right sideline for a big gain to keep the drive alive. Obviously, due to his lack of mobility, this is still a work in progress.
Strong is purely a pocket passer, and he struggles to get any additional yardage on the ground. A few times, he did get some extra yards on his own, but he typically won’t do so, whether that be because of his playstyle, the injuries he suffered, or both. Thankfully, Strong does an excellent job of not putting himself in harm’s way by sliding when he doesn’t appear that he can get further.
His mechanics are good. Strong has a long throwing motion due to his physical stature, but he can give the ball an extra push in velocity as he drives the ball through to the target. Strong does occasionally throw off balance and off his back foot, which gives the ball an erratic placement, which is the only thing to work on in this regard.
Strong is a very intriguing prospect going to the next level, and many on Twitter have him as their top-ranked quarterback in the class, based on film alone. He is a pure pocket passer, which the league has trended away from in recent years. One thing not mentioned already is that Strong had full command over the Nevada offense. He was constantly barking out signals and putting his teammates in the correct spots. That’s another thing NFL scouts will love. Thankfully, the lack of mobility appears to be the only major weakness in his game as Strong can make any throw from any angle and do it accurately.
Unfortunately, the biggest cause for concern for Strong is his injury history. It is a big red flag that Strong has a knee problem that stems back to high school when he felt discomfort and clicking in the knee at a basketball tournament. He had surgery in February before last year and then had his knee scoped in August. It still seemed that the knee was an issue to him last year. If he didn’t have the knee injury, Strong would potentially be a lock for the first round in this quarterback class. Now, he’ll have to clear with team doctors during the combine and at pro days.
Rookie Projection: Backup Quarterback
Third Year Projection: Starting Quarterback
Final Grade (83/100): Mid Second Round
Player Comp: Matt Ryan