It’s been a dream start to the season for Houston’s C.J. Stroud, who has repeatedly set rookie records through the first half-season of his NFL career. He’s, without a doubt, the best rookie quarterback in the NFL right now.
But what about the rest of the league?
Here’s where C.J. Stroud ranks in individual passing statistics this season:
In the staple quarterback metrics, Stroud is a top-10 quarterback in the NFL this season. He has more passing yards than Jared Goff, Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, and Brock Purdy (to name a few). Stroud has a higher passer rating than anyone except Tua, Purdy, and Kirk Cousins. He has more touchdowns than Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, Jared Goff, Joe Burrow, and Trevor Lawrence (again, to name a few). And no regular starter in the NFL has as few interceptions as Stroud’s one pick this season.
The Texans‘ rookie quarterback is also 11th-best regarding total offensive grades over at PFF and passer grades.
This week, Stroud broke the single-game record for passing yards by a rookie quarterback, throwing for 470 yards and five touchdowns in Houston’s 39-37 win over the Buccaneers. According to NFL senior researcher Tony Holzman-Escareno, Stroud is the youngest player (22 years, 33 days) since at least 1950 with 450+ pass yards & 5+ pass TD in the same game. Patrick Mahomes was the previous youngest at 23 years and 63 days.
So, yeah, there’s a case to be made that C.J. Stroud is not only the best rookie quarterback in the league this season, but also one of the best quarterbacks regardless of tenure this season.
The most exciting thing about Stroud is that he looks the part. It’s not just a matter of pulling numbers that have me believing Stroud is among the NFL’s elite. I remember watching the All-22 of Stroud’s Week 2 performance against the Colts and thinking, “f—, this kid is good!”
In his second NFL start, he was dropping pinpoint dimes, pushing the ball down the field, getting through his reads with ease, extending plays while keeping his eyes upfield, and playing a brand of mistake-free football that we don’t often see from rookies.
Being a rookie in the NFL is about making mistakes. The best of them sprinkle in a play that makes you go “wow!” between the growing pains. C.J. Stroud has done very little of the former and a bunch of the latter.
It was in Week 6 against the Saints that Stroud threw his first interception. He hasn’t thrown one since. Since that first-quarter interception against the Saints, he’s thrown seven touchdowns and racked up 809 yards through the air. The Texans are 2-1 in that three-game span. They’re 4-4 on the season. They’re on the wild card bubble right now, which is incredible, given their preseason expectations. While DeMeco Ryans and OC Bobby Slowik have plenty to do with those results, Stroud has made it possible with his near-flawless rookie campaign.
I re-watched his record-setting performance against the Buccaneers this morning, and I came away with the exact same sentiment that I did after the last film session on Stroud: “f—, this kid is good!” This time, with even more emphasis.
More impressive than anything else has been the way that Stroud has elevated the players around him. He’s not halfway through the season with only one interception because the Texans are dumbing down the gameplay and asking him to play safe football. He’s also not stepping into an insanely talented roster with an established system like Brock Purdy did in San Francisco last season.
He’s doing the exact opposite. He stepped into an offense in which Nico Collins was his No. 1 target on paper, entering the season with a rookie defensive-minded head coach and a rookie offensive coordinator.
Nico Collins needs two catches next week to establish a new career-high in receptions. He already has almost 200 more yards this season than in his first two seasons and two more touchdowns than he had previously.
On Sunday, the quarterback managed to get impressive performances from both tight end Dalton Schultz and receiver Noah Brown. Throughout the season, he has played with backup players more than starters along the offensive line.
Oh, and in case you forgot … he’s a rookie. That means that unlike his peers, he’s as cheap as elite QB play comes in the NFL right now. Exciting times in Houston.