C.J. Stroud makes another case to go No. 1, but the Colts are monitoring

COLUMBUS - With the eyes of the NFL on him, C.J. Stroud dropped back in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and let the ball rip 58 different times at the Ohio State pro day.

The ball hit the ground on only six of them, and only two were actual misses.

It was a day to put on display the accuracy, ball placement, arm strength, footwork and consistency that have Stroud in position to become one of the first quarterbacks selected in this year's draft. And in front of Panthers coach Frank Reich and many others from the organization, Stroud made that case with hopes of going No. 1 overall.

"It shows you not only how interested they are in me, but I'm interested in them," Stroud said. "It's been a dream of mine (to go No. 1) for a very, very long time."

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud throws during Ohio State football’s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023.
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud throws during Ohio State football’s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023.

The Colts did not have the same contingent present as the Panthers did. Only area scout Mike Lacy was seen in the crowd watching Stroud throw. General manager Chris Ballard and new coach Shane Steichen will also have access to video from the workout later.

It's a busy week of pro days for quarterbacks, as Stroud competed Wednesday, Alabama's Bryce Young will throw Thursday and Kentucky's Will Levis will have his day Friday.

Indianapolis is keeping its options open on all three with the No. 4 pick in this year's draft. It will also look at Florida's Anthony Richardson and Tennessee's Hendon Hooker, who have their pro days next Thursday.

The options have to stay open now that the Colts are not in position to make the first or second quarterback selection. Those rights belong to the Panthers, who sent D.J. Moore and two first-round picks to the Bears for the No. 1 overall selection; and the Texans, who sit at No. 2.

Stroud is the current favorite to go No. 1 overall, based on mock drafts and betting odds. He's considered by many to be the most developed thrower after piling up 85 touchdown passes to just 12 interceptions with a 69.3% completion rate and 9.8 yards per attempt as a Heisman finalist the past two seasons.

He backed up that expectation Wednesday in a workout designed by his team at 3-D QB. He showed consistent timing and accuracy on out routes and slants, sharp ball placement on intermediate digs and sideline comeback routes and a consistent deep ball on fade and flag designs that fell into the bread baskets of his receivers.

One of those receivers was Marvin Harrison Jr., the son of the Colts Hall-of-Famer. Another was Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Both are widely expected to be first-round picks in the next two drafts, which would give Stroud four that he has played with in two seasons at Ohio State. Throwing players open who are not naturally open anyway is one of the questions he has to answer.

"I know C.J. is going to be all right," Harrison Sr. said. "He's a good quarterback, but more important than anything about C.J., he's a leader and he's a good person. That's the first thing I noticed when I came here. He calls me, 'Mr. Harrison.' It's like, 'Don't call me Mr. Harrison. Call me Marvin.' ... Everything I saw out of him today was something I already knew."

Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud is among the players who could go No. 1 in this year's NFL draft.
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud is among the players who could go No. 1 in this year's NFL draft.

The other question Stroud has had to tackle is about his athleticism. He ran for just 136 yards on 1.7 yards per carry in his Ohio State career, though he did showcase escapability and rushing talent in his final game against Georgia in the College Football Playoff. He said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he chose to throw rather than pass due to the strength of his receivers, the work invested in the play designs and a hamstring injury he managed last season.

He also said it was a goal of his in this pre-draft process to show more athleticism. Despite that promise, he chose not to run the 40-yard dash either at the combine or at the pro day.

"I don't need to run the 40," Stroud said with a laugh. "I don't think I really needed to. I have enough on film where I can show. None of the teams asked me to. If they would have, then I would have. ... When I need to extend plays, I extend them just as well as anyone in the country. You've gotta watch the tape."

Though Stroud is the favorite to go No. 1, plenty can still happen to dictate the order. Young, Levis and Richardson will have chances to impress in these controlled settings over the next two weeks. It's possible that they can show more dynamic athletic traits, as Richardson already has with record-setting numbers at the combine.

Until the Panthers reach a consensus and it becomes known, all are on the table for the Colts. It leaves them to dissect the meaning of each and every throw -- all 58 of them from Wednesday's showcase.

"I want to go to whoever really loves me," Stroud said.

Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts: C.J. Stroud makes another case to go No. 1 in the draft