The Wolf Pack quarterback found plenty of success operating Nevada’s Air Raid, but what traits are NFL teams most interested in?
A big arm but big questions, as well.
Perhaps no player in the Mountain West generated more excitement over the past few years, and thus makes for a more interesting NFL Draft prospect, than Nevada quarterback Carson Strong.
A native of Vacaville, California, Strong’s scholarship offer from the Wolf Pack was the only one he received from an FBS program. After redshirting his first year with the team, he won’t start the quarterback battle in 2019 but didn’t really take off until 2020. While running Jay Norvell’s Air Raid offense, Strong etched his name into parts of the program’s record book and many leaves Reno as part of the conversation as the best signal-caller in its history, earning the Mountain West’s nod as Offensive Player of the year in each of the last two years.
He looks the part of an NFL quarterback and has many of the obvious traits that teams covet in a passer-friendly league, but he carries just as much risk as any other player at his position in this year’s draft class.
Measurables (taken from Mockdraftable)
Let’s start with the arm.
Not only does Strong have the confidence to make all of the necessary NFL throws, he has the cannon to do so when given enough time to operate. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler notes that Strong “has a natural feel for downfield touch” while Draft Wire’s Natalie Miller identified an “understanding of touch and accuracy” in the short and intermediate game among his assets. It takes all kinds of throws, after all, to have completed 70% of passes while averaging at least eight yards per attempt over the last two seasons, a feat of which no other quarterback in this class can boast.
While he isn’t the most mobile prospect in this year’s quarterback class, Strong also has the toughness and physical profile to hang in and try to give himself the time to make those throws, as well. He also doesn’t typically make many mistakes in that process, either, with an interception rate of just 1.5% in his Nevada career.
Unlike every other quarterback prospect in this year’s class, one thing sets Strong apart… and not in a good way. He played the entirety of the 2021 season with a knee injury that left him at less than 100%, a joint upon which he’s now had two surgeries. While he doesn’t have any other long-standing medical concerns to speak of, that one could force some war rooms to shy away from selecting him because, relative to every other quarterback in this year’s class, he’s that much less mobile.
That will put pressure on his ability to make appropriate pre-snap reads, a wrinkle about which NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has concerns, and then manipulate defenders to get the ball out quickly when facing pressure. In his career at Nevada, that wasn’t something Strong always did consistently: Last year, the Wolf Pack absorbed a 6.9% sack rate that ranked 74th among FBS offenses; in 2020, it was 5.1%.
There’s also some disagreement about how effective Strong has been about moving defenders with his eyes as he reads the field. Drae Harris of The Draft Network counts that among the things he does well while Miller and Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings express reservations. If nothing else, that might be a point of emphasis for whichever quarterbacks coach he ends up working with.
Strong clearly has the arm strength to compete at the NFL level, but his “high risk, high reward” profile is a bit different from the norm because of the lingering health concerns and the broader reality that many offenses demand a less statuesque signal-caller these days. As a result, he won’t be among the first handful of quarterbacks selected in the draft, but The league-wide need at the position should make him a mid-round pick, in the third or fourth round.