BRONCOS

Would Carson Strong be an option for the Broncos in the 2022 draft?

Nov 17, 2021, 11:10 AM
Carson Strong...
(Photo by Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I’m deep diving early into the 2022 NFL Draft for a couple of reasons. First, I love the draft and the draft season is my favorite time of year. Second, the Denver Broncos stink and rather than sit around and complain about the coaching staff and quarterback situation I want to be proactive in looking for answers for this team.

I usually take a deep dive into prospects around the college bowl season. So, I’m a couple of weeks early, but excited to be here.

The 2022 NFL Draft does not feature a strong class. In fact, former scout Daniel Jeremiah tweeted last week that a scout told him 10 players from the 2021 class would go ahead of the No. 1 overall pick this year. I’ve heard from some buddies in the scouting community that this quarterback class is weaker than the one we saw in 2021. In fact, I was told this quarterback class is reminiscent of the 2013 class when E.J. Manuel (a first-round bust) was the only passer selected on the first day.

Now, it’s a quarterback desperate league, so I’m sure more than one quarterback will be selected on day one of the 2021 NFL Draft. One player who could strengthen the class is quarterback Carson Strong from Nevada. He hasn’t officially declared for the draft just yet, but one of the most trusted voices in the draft analyst world – Tony Pauline from Pro Football Network – says he’s heard Strong is leaning towards heading to the pros.

So, would Strong be an option for the Broncos? Here’s an early swipe and some of my notes on the Wolfpack quarterback.

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Pocket Passer

The first thing you’ll notice about Strong is that he’s a pocket passer. Strong is not a new generation, super mobile quarterback who can attack you with his legs on a designed run or when the play breaks down. Instead, he can pick you apart – and I mean pick you apart – from the pocket. He’s a 70-plus percent passer who quickly finds the open man.

I generally find his footwork to be consistent, although I do think mechanically, he could clean some things up. Strong tends to be light on his feet when dropping back. While he’s not mobile, Strong does do a good job dropping back quickly and concisely. He does get a little “toesy” when he goes to throw, and this causes pass placement issues. Basically, Strong gets up on the balls of his feet and almost hops at times when he releases the ball.

He’s got a strong arm and can make all the throws required in the pros. I like his short-to-intermediate pass placement where he generally hits his receivers on time. There is some left to be desired when he’s throwing deep. Because Strong gets “toesy” his passes over 20 yards tend to sail a bit. This causes his receivers to have to wait for a ball. He can get by with that when he’s playing New Mexico State, but in the NFL, those will be pass breakups or worse – interceptions.

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Level of Competition

Playing at Nevada, Strong isn’t going up against the best competition in college football. Beating up on Idaho State is one thing, playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers is something else.

Over the last two years, Strong has played against only two ranked teams (No. 19 San Jose State in 2020 and No. 23 San Diego State in 2021) and he didn’t win either game. Strong did play a clean game (no interceptions) against both the Spartans and the Aztecs, but it would have been nice to see his play lead his team to the victory.

I’d like to see Strong compete at the Scouting Combine next year. Because he’s an underclassman, Strong won’t be invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl or the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January. We won’t get to see him go up against the nation’s best seniors, so going up against the best quarterbacks in this class at the combine will be the only real tell we have in the pre-draft process.

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The Eyes Have It

A more nuanced quarterback will use his eyes to manipulate the defense. Strong does that with more regularity than most college quarterbacks. College systems are set up for success, and they are rarely nuanced or ask their quarterback to make sophisticated reads or decisions.

I’m not saying the Wolfpack has a pro-style offense – they don’t – but Strong does make pro decisions when going through his progressions. He can use his eyes to manipulate the defense, and he’s not afraid to throw to the middle of the field if the read is there.

I’m concerned about his ability to make plays under duress, especially because he’s not mobile. However, I have seen him multiple times make a tough throw – at least attempt a high degree of difficulty throw – while about to get hit.

There is no doubt that Strong is tough. He’s the type of player who could get thrown into the fire as a rookie if the fit is right. I think a year of seasoning on the bench would do him some good, but things don’t work out that way in today’s NFL.

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Summary

If Strong declares for the 2022 NFL Draft, he’s likely to be a first-round pick. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone takes him off the board in the top-15 picks. Depending on the way he tests in the pre-draft process, there is also a small chance he’s the first quarterback off the board.

Currently sitting at 5-5, the Broncos would have the No. 14 overall pick if the draft was today. That means Strong is going to be within striking distance for them.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – it’s all about “fit” in the NFL. We don’t know who the head coach or the offensive coordinator will be in 2022, so I don’t know how Strong would fit with this team. Just from a quick swipe of his game tape, I think Strong would be best suited to wind up with a team like the New Orleans Saints where noted quarterback guru Sean Payton could mentor him. Strong’s game is not for everyone, and if you want a scrambling/athletic quarterback of the current generation then look elsewhere. However, if you want a throwback to when quarterbacks made plays almost exclusively from the pocket then Strong should be on your list.

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