With the NFL season in its twilight, there’s no time like the present to talk about the upcoming 2023 NFL draft. There are plenty of can’t-miss prospects in the 2023 class, one of the best classes in recent history. Despite that, there is almost no question that a quarterback will go first overall. The question is, which quarterback will it be?

Even long before the 2022 college football season, everyone predicted one of two quarterbacks would be the top NFL draft pick. Those two quarterbacks are Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. A whole season later, and there’s still a real debate over which will go first.

These two quarterbacks are neck-and-neck with each other, and there is no wrong choice here. But which of the two is the better choice? Let’s compare the signal-callers in-depth to answer that very question.

Before college

Both Young and Stroud played their high school ball in California and excelled at it. As a senior, Young threw for 4,528 yards and 57 touchdowns, winning the California Player of the Year and USA Today’s Offensive Player of the Year. That same year, Stroud threw for 3,878 yards and 47 touchdowns, receiving an invite to the All-American Bowl.

Young was a five-star recruit, ranking No. 2 in the class of 2020 in 247Sports’ composite rankings. Meanwhile, Stroud was a four-star recruit and ranked No. 42 in the same class. Young was the best quarterback in the class, while Stroud ranked third behind Young and DJ Uiagaleli, which sounds crazy in hindsight.

Both quarterbacks also took slightly different routes to their final schools. While Stroud was always committed to Ohio State, Young initially committed to USC before flipping to Alabama during his senior year. Regardless of how they got there though, both players would go on to become stars at their eventual destinations.

College stats

Young and Stroud both played very rarely in their first season in 2020, but became full-time starters in 2021. So, let’s compare their stats from each of their two full seasons.

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  • Young 2021: 66.9% completion, 4,872 yards, 47 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 167.5 passer rating, 0 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing, first in Heisman voting
  • Young 2022: 64.5% completion, 3,328 yards, 32 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 163.2 passer rating, 185 yards and 4 touchdowns rushing, sixth in Heisman voting
  • Stroud 2021: 71.9% completion, 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 186.6 passer rating, -20 yards rushing, fourth in Heisman voting
  • Stroud 2022: 66.3% completion, 3,688 yards, 41 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 177.7 passer rating, 108 yards rushing, third in Heisman voting

Just from these stats alone, the similarities between the two 2023 NFL Draft prospects are obvious. Both are extremely efficient passers who score far more often than they turn it over. Neither is a particularly effective runner, but they can take off when they need to.

It’s also important to consider the team’s success with each quarterback at the helm. Alabama compiled a 23-4 record with Young starting, including an SEC title, a Cotton Bowl win and a National Championship Game appearance. Stroud led the Buckeyes to a 22-4 record as a starter, winning the Rose Bowl in 2021 and making a College Football Playoff appearance in 2022. Although, it’s important to note that Stroud never led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship Game, and two of his losses came against arch-rival Michigan.

Based on stats alone, Stroud has the slight edge thanks to his better passer rating and higher amount of touchdowns. On the other hand, Young gets the clear edge in team success thanks to his conference title and playoff win. Either way, each has a ton to offer for any interested team.

The argument for first overall in 2023 NFL Draft

If there’s one area where Stroud has a clear edge over Young, it’s his size. He is three inches taller and over 20 pounds heavier than Young, and his size is comparable to players like Joe Burrow. If a team wants a pure pocket passer, Stroud’s larger frame may be enticing. Stroud also has a generally stronger arm, as shown by his much higher yards per attempt.

Young may not have the size that Stroud does, but he more than makes up for that in other areas. He may not be a fantastic runner, but he still has a great ability to escape the pocket and make plays when he needs to. As a near-lock to go in the top two, Young will likely have a subpar offensive line for his first couple seasons, so that elusiveness could come in handy.

Thanks to the Chicago Bears, who already have a young QB, getting the first overall pick, many teams could trade up to first overall. If a team’s offense is more pass-heavy, then Stroud makes sense due to his better deep ball. If it’s more run-heavy, Young makes sense due to his better scrambling ability.

The answer of which is better coming down to “it depends on the team” may seem like a cop-out, but these two are really just that close.