Seahawks Draft: Ohio State announcer talks stars Stroud, Smith-Njigba

Feb 18, 2023, 10:15 AM
Seahawks CJ Stroud...
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Ohio State is a perennial college football powerhouse that produces top NFL Draft prospects, and that should be the case again in a year in which the Seahawks pick twice in the first round and four times in the first two rounds.

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The Buckeyes, who made it to the College Football Playoffs last season, will lose top-end talent across the board, but most importantly, Ohio State is set to lose quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Stroud is a 6-foot-3 quarterback who completed roughly 70% of his passes in two seasons starting for the Buckeyes and he tossed 85 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. Stroud is seen by most draft experts as one of the two to three best QBs in the 2023 draft.

The Seahawks will likely retain Geno Smith in free agency, but given this is the highest pick the team will make under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, drafting a quarterback to sit behind Smith isn’t out of the question.

So to help break down Stroud’s game, Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob enlisted Ohio State announcer Paul Keels, who joined the show on Friday.

“I think there’s a lot of reason to have faith in what he can do,” Keels said.

Keels noted that when Stroud first became a starter in 2021, he’d never thrown a pass at the college level.

“His first year as a starter, he missed a game to allow a little bit of a shoulder problem to get right, and when he came back after that, he just took off and played like the kind of all-conference and award-winning quarterback that he was recognized for,” he said.

Stroud can make all the throws, Keels said, and he was someone who benefited from playing with elite talent across the board, especially at wide receiver.

“More than anything, a guy that benefited – and not to take away from any of his skills – but he benefited from having great receivers around him, a good running attack, quality offensive lineman and a tight end threat as well,” he said. “What we saw from his first year as a starter to last year (is he) really kind of continued his evolution as a quarterback.”

When asked about where Stroud needs to improve at the next level, Keels mentioned the ability to show he can run the football. That was something Stroud didn’t do much of in college, but he did showcase that skill in his final game.

“The thing you didn’t see, but it showed up in the national semifinal game against Georgia, was the ability to run,” Keels said. “It was something whether he was reluctant to do it, the coaches were reluctant to expose him, you saw him late in that Georgia game show the ability to make big plays with his feet.”

“If there’s anything that people might want to scrutinize – and it’s really splitting hairs – it’s can he be a guy that can pick up tough yards on the ground when you might really need him to do it? Because it was something he didn’t really have to do much at Ohio State,” Keels later added.

As far as Stroud’s personality, Keels had glowing reviews there.

“He’s a guy that really seems to have had a good connection with his coaches at Ohio State, namely (head coach) Ryan Day,” he said, later adding, “The other thing I think that will really help him in this process is he’s such a classy young man. Such a quality guy, very humble, very team-oriented. And you know how now with the way the process goes with evaluating these college players, their personality becomes part of the decision process. And I think that’s what’s going to help him at least get additional consideration, as well as what he does with his football talents.”

Star WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

The Buckeyes have produced a lot of great receivers in recent memory, with both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave going early in the first round last year.

But the guy who out-produced those two in 2021 is in this year’s draft, and that’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson recently mocked to the Seahawks at No. 20 overall.

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Smith-Njigba was a third-team All-American in 2021 for the Buckeyes, and he ended that year with a bang as he hauled in 15 receptions for 347 yards in the Rose Bowl against Utah.

But he only played three games in 2022 and caught just five passes due to a hamstring injury.

“Yeah, that’s gonna be the biggest question because he essentially didn’t play last season,” Keels said. “He got hurt in the opening game against Notre Dame, attempted to come back, but never could quite do it.”

When Smith-Njigba is on the field, though, he’s a dynamic player.

“Certainly a game-changing type of wide receiver, a guy that that really created headaches for opposing defensive coordinator,” Keels said.

But like with Stroud, Smith-Njigba benefited from having elite talent around him at receiver as he worked alongside Wilson and Olave.

“If you’re a defensive coaching staff, it’s almost like ‘pick your poison’ when it comes to pass defense,” Keels said.

“I remember his first game he played at Ohio State,” Keels later recalled. ” … He made a touchdown catch with a toe tap on the back line of the endzone that was just a thing of beauty to watch, and the kind of play that not many football players can make. So he’s a guy — if healthy and when healthy — he can be a game-changing type of wide receiver.”

Listen to the full discussion with Keels at this link or in the player below.

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Seahawks Draft: Ohio State announcer talks stars Stroud, Smith-Njigba