INDIANAPOLIS — C.J. Stroud doesn’t want to take Justin Fields’ job, and the Bears don’t seem willing to give it to Bryce Young.
Stroud and Young, the consensus top two quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft, are being compared not just to each other, but also to the third-year pro Fields.
The Bears recommitted to starting Fields and are shopping the No. 1 pick to quarterback-needy teams.
“I don’t want to go there,” Stroud, Fields’ former teammate at Ohio State, said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s his team. I’ve got to do my thing and I’ve got to go build my legacy. Me and him are brothers for life.”
Young, who is the projected top pick in most mock drafts, is skipping throwing drills Saturday in favor of showing off his passing skill at Alabama’s Pro Day, so Stroud and the other top quarterbacks may gain ground in front of scouts, coaches and executives.
Listed at 6-foot, 194 pounds in college, Young‘s biggest moment Saturday will be when he steps on a scale for official measurements and it is determined if his thin frame might lead to a lack of durability.
“I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life,” Young said. “I know who I am. I know what I can do. I’ve been around the 200-pound range [in training] and it’s not too hard to do when you focus on being a professional football player.”
The Texans, Colts, Raiders, Falcons and Panthers all own top-10 picks that could be used in a trade package to acquire the No. 1 choice.
Are the Bears making a mistake by not resetting with Young, who would have four years of a cost-controlled contract compared to Fields’ two remaining?
“If you are comparing who is the better player, it’s Bryce Young,” one NFL scout said. “Fields is the better athlete, but decision-making and throwing the ball to your targets, it’s Young hands down.”
Stroud said Fields “ain’t no damn running back.
He’s a quarterback and he can sling that rock.”
Unless defensive end Will Anderson crashes the party, the most likely scenario for the top of the draft is that Young and Stroud will go No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
The Texans pick No. 2, and Stroud is “looking forward to going deeper and deeper and building a relationship with them” after his first formal interview.
“I think I’ve been the best player in college football two years in a row,” Stroud said. “Honestly, I haven’t even touched my potential yet.”
Inspired by Michael Vick “as a black quarterback to stay in the pocket and throw,” one of Stroud’s untapped skills is an ability to use his athleticism to scramble, which he showed in his final college game, against Georgia.
“I didn’t do it a lot in college and I feel like I should have,” Stroud said. “It’s something I do regret. I’ve had tough third-down runs, I’ve had tough fourth-down runs, But there were times I didn’t run the ball when maybe I should have. That’s something I plan to fix and I’ll show them my athleticism. I’ve done it before on film, but since people don’t think I can do it, I’m going to do it again.”
Young also is a pocket passer.
“My job isn’t to necessarily prove anything,” Young said. “I speak my truth. I make sure I explain how I play the game, how I see the game, my process, how I’m able to get through things. It’s just talking X’s and O’s. I’ve been around so many great football minds in these meetings … being able to talk about myself and see how they run their offense.”
Stroud made more NFL-caliber throws in Ohio State’s offense than previous first-round picks Dwayne Haskins and Fields, both of whom racked up big numbers with throws close to the line of scrimmage.
“I’m smart when it comes to protections and things like that because I solve a lot of issues before they’re even there,” Stroud said. “That’s something I pride myself on . And one thing about me, I think I’m a ball-placement specialist. I don’t want my receivers to have to do really anything to catch the ball.”
Kyler Murray was the No. 1 pick in 2019 despite questions about his 5-10 height.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Young said. “Obviously I don’t get to choose. I’ll be surprised either way.”
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