From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a quarterback prospect that has impressive arm talent and college production, but questions regarding his mobility and injury history cloud his projection at the next level.
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada (R-Junior)– 6033, 226 lbs.
Senior Bowl/Combine Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Carson Strong||6033/226||9 1/8″||32″||76″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has impressive arm strength to uncork it 50+ yards in the air with relative ease
— Can put some zip on his short and intermediate throws, getting the ball quickly to his intended target
— Has enough throw power to lead his man deep down the field, showing impressive arc on his deep ball
— Has the arm strength and talent to deliver an accurate ball while rolling outside of the pocket down the field
— Has improved his accuracy over the middle of the field and also on his deep ball
— Does a good job dropping the ball into the bucket over the shoulder of his receiver or putting it up high for his man to go up and get it
— Shows good touch on his passes, being able to put extra gas on it or drop it into a tight window to his receiver in contested coverage
— Normally shows a quick, compact release
— Relatively has the ball come out fast, making quick decisions as a passer
— Shows impressive poise in the pocket, being able to step up and maneuver inside to evade pressure with his eyes downfield
— Isn’t an exceptional athlete when it comes to speed and quickness
— Mobility both inside and outside the pocket was very limited this past season, often being a sitting duck to the pass rush
— Frame could stand to add more bulk to handle punishment at the next level
— Occasionally will have his ball sail on him when he has pressure in his face, short arming his pass down the field
— Tends to want to throw off his back foot
— Can stand to be more consistent with the placement of his throws over the middle to avoid underthrows
— Can stay locked onto one receiver down the field and needs to do a better job going through his reads, often forcing the ball into tight windows
— Needs to be more willing as a runner when the defense gives him green grass, having not provided anything on the ground thus far
— Played in a relatively simple offensive system with a lot of screens, quick outs, and deep shots
— Level of competition can be a concern when projecting to the next level
— Has a long history of a knee that has resulted in three separate surgeries, one of which affected his play in his final season in college
— Redshirt Junior prospect from Vacaville, CA
— Was a two-sport athlete in football and basketball
— Did not play as a senior in HS due to injury
— Redshirted as a true freshman after appearing in just one game
— Appeared and started in ten games as a redshirt freshman, completing 237-of-374 attempts (63.1%) for 2,335 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven INTs
-— Started nine games and completed 249-of-355 attempts (70.1%) for 2858 yards and 27 TDs and only four INTs
— Played and started in 12 games in 2021, completing 367-of-524 attempts (70.0%) for 4,186 yards and 36 TDs with eight INTs.
— Earned Academic All-MW honors in 2019
— Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year (2021), All-Mountain West First Team (2021), Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year (2020), All-Mountain West First Team (2020)
Nevada QB Carson Strong is an interested study on film as a throwback, traditional pocket passer for the Nevada Wolfpack who has been the starter for the past three season. Strong shows signs of development in 2020, but really took a step forward in his development as a passer in 2021, showing the qualities of accuracy and arm talent you want to see in a traditional NFL QB.
The first thing that pops out when watching Strong is his arm strength. He can sling it with ease down the field having the throw power to chuck it well over 50 yards in the air. Check out this play against Kansas State where Strong takes the shotgun snap and fakes the give to the running back as he drops back to pass then steps into his throw to launch it from his own 35-yard line to the opposing five-yard line, dropping it right over the defenders trailing from behind to #7 Romeo Doubs who hauls in the bomb to set up the Wolfpack offense in the red zone.
Strong possesses impressive loft on his deep ball and can make defenses pay if his has room to step up and throw. We see he against the Lobos Strong step up in the pocket, locating his receiver getting separation don the seam and launches to Doubs who walks in for the easy TD score.
While Nevada ran a lot of spread formations, Strong does have experience lining up under center during his time in college. Here on this throw against UNLV, we see Strong make a beautiful throw to the sideline from the I-formation on a traditional drop back, showing nice touch on his pass as he drops it into the bucket to Doubs as he runs up the sideline and out of bounds for the chunk gain.
His ball placement on some of his throws down the field and to the sideline are quite impressive seeing the arm strength and accuracy on display. Check out this throw from the far hash to the left sideline on the deep out route against Fresno State where Strong puts it up in the air only where his receiver can make a play on the back shoulder throw that he successfully brings down in-bounds to move the chains and keep the drive alive.
His ability to maneuver the pocket and deliver an accurate ball to his intended target probably makes him the most pro-ready pure passer in this draft class. While Strong shouldn’t be considered a great athlete, he can climb the pocket and buy time to find a receiver down the field. Watch this rep against Utah State where Strong buys time by rolling out to his right, proceeding to throw a beautiful ball down the right sideline off his back foot to Doubs in the end zone who goes up and gets it overtop the smaller defender in coverage for the score.
Strong has a live arm that has enough zip and velocity on his throws to complete passes into tight windows that many quarterbacks would think twice about before throwing the ball. He has supreme confidence in his abilities as a passer and it leads to impressive moments like this against Kansas State where he maneuvers to his left out of the pocket and throws a bullet over the middle of the field, fitting the pass in-between two defenders intersecting at the ball and completes it to Doubs who makes the catch falling to the turf.
Another example for the same game where Strong fires it on a line to his receiver breaking open on the slant pattern in the end zone, fitting the pass into a tight window as the receiver gets brought to the ground after making the play for the score.
Here against the Bulldogs, we see a beautiful tight window throw from Strong who fits the ball into Doubs over the middle of the field between two defenders to move the offense into scoring position in attempt to tie up the game.
Strong isn’t afraid of giving his receiver a shot on the 50/50 ball, trusting his man to come down with it in combative catch situations. He has this trust also in-part due to his ability to place the ball well in the red zone, putting it up high and with enough touch for his guy to have the best shot to come down with it as we see on this touchdown pass against Fresno State on the end zone fade.
Strong isn’t a great athlete, but he has shown an understanding on how to move the pocket. He can evade the pressure coming at him and find a way to step up or to the side to either get the pass off or tuck the ball and get what he can on a play. Here against the Wildcats, we see the pressure collapse the pocket and Strong wisely escapes up the middle after being flushed out, picking up five yards before sliding to the turf. Strong dealt with the ramifications of a clean-up knee scope surgery for his entire 2021 campaign, noticeably having less mobility than the year prior. However, he has the awareness of the pressure coming and the ability get away.
While Strong mainly excels as a pocket passer, he does tend to lock onto his primary target rather than progress through his reads and will often eyeball his receiver down the field, telegraphing where the ball is going to go. While the receiver slips on this INT against the Wildcats, Strong locks onto him from the start of the route, maneuvering to his left and lets it fly into coverage with several defenders in the vicinity which one picks it off. Had his receiver have not slipped, the pass likely would’ve been completed, but this staring down a receiver for an extended time needs to be addressed.
Strong, like other draft-eligible prospects in this class, can have a little too much faith in his arm at times as well, thinking he can launch it without stepping up to pass or when throwing off his back foot. Here against Kansas State, we see Strong get flushed from the pocket to his left, shuffling to the left sideline and attempting to square his shoulders and flick the ball to his receiver over the middle on third down. The pass ends up being high and behind his intended target, falling incomplete and resulting in fourth down. Strong tends to sail passes overhead receivers when pressured and forced to throw on the run, having to throw off-platform and short-arm his intended pass.
Here is another example of Strong feeling pressure coming off the edge on fourth down in the same game and has it affect the pass by throwing off his backfoot and short arming his pass which falls in-between two receivers open to move the chains but ends up resulting in a turnover on downs.
As mentioned earlier, Strong isn’t a great athlete for the quarterback position and his mobility inside the pocket was noticeably affected this year with the knee injury he opted to have cleaned up just four months prior to the start of the season. This led to him being a sitting duck in the pocket often, not having the escapability to extend the play and create time for his receivers to create separation down the field. This led to Strong taking 36 sacks in 2021, part due to his protection up front, but also part falling on his shoulders and his inability to create.
When you look at Strong’s frame, play style, arm talent, and ability to maneuver the pocket the way he does while not having exceptional athleticism, I would compare him to current Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan who boasts almost and identical frame, arm strength, and ability to maneuver the pocket and place the ball down the field in a pass-happy attack. Both guys lack high-end athleticism, but Ryan still can be considered a more-than-suitable franchise QB with the other aspects his game and when the team is right around him.
I personally see a similar argument for Strong, as while he needs some seasoning in terms of consistency and taking what the defense gives him, I see him being more “pro-ready” as a passer than some other more athletic prospects in this draft class. While the dual-threat QB is the newest trend, the NFL is still as passing league the requires quarterbacks to read, diagnose, and beat defenses with their arm. While Strong can do this from a passing standpoint, the biggest question going forward will be his medical evaluation when teams examine him at the NFL Combine in March.
When interviewing Strong, he mentioned that the true condition he’s been battling is osteochondritis dessicans which Dr. Melanie Friedlander broke down for the site, in which she said that “the second surgery that Strong had in February 2021 has a high probability of long-term success.”
Should Strong’s medical check out following these evaluations and he regain some of that mobility he showed in 2020 compared to 2021 following the minor arthroscopy prior to this season, he easily could be the next lesser-known QB from a smaller-school that gets lost in the shuffle of “higher-upside” prospects that experiences a positive transition to the league. The lack of mobility will always be there for Strong, along with his long-term health outlook concerning the knee. However, given his ability to make every throw in the playbook, his leadership, and character both on-and-off the field, Strong should play himself into the conversation of QBs jostling to be taken on the back end of Round One or earlier in Round Two.
Projection: Late Day One-to-Mid Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.4 MED – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: vs Wyoming (2020), vs San Diego State (2020), vs Fresno State (2020), at Kansas State (2021), at Cal (2021), at Fresno State (2021)