Everyone knew the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans would meet in 2023; the NFL scheduling formula says so. What wasn’t known was who the quarterbacks would be; the 2023 NFL draft made that so. Carolina took Bryce Young off the top and Houston followed with C.J. Stroud.
Throw in the Texans going back-to-back at Nos. 2-3 in Round 1 to grab Alabama defensive end Will Anderson, and suddenly a Week 8 matchup between a winless Carolina team and a 3-3 Houston squad becomes historical. Nowhere else in NFL history have the top-3 picks in a draft class played together than will be the case Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
More than checking off boxes for historical context, the matchup also represents another episode in the serial of Stroud and Young’s competitive yet complimentary relationship.
Stroud and Young are California natives who have known each other since middle school, became good friends after high school, and even trained together as they prepared for the NFL draft. During his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Stroud was asked about his relationship with Young and the first time they competed against each other.
“That’s my brother, man,” Stroud said. “Someone I have a lot of respect for. I don’t think we were friends at the time, but we played each other in the seventh grade or eighth grade, one of the two.”
“They killed us terribly. [Young] played for the IE Ducks, I played for the Pomona Valley Steelers, and they put it to us. I remember we played in the rain. He had a really good game. I played terrible. This will be our second time playing each other, I believe. We played each other a couple of times seven-on-seven in high school. I think that was the first time we met.”
Sunday’s matchup will mark the fifth time in NFL history that the first and second-overall selections featuring rookie quarterbacks have competed against each other in the same year.
“It’s really cool,” Stroud responded when asked about competing against Young. “It’s a blessing just to know that we are from the same area, grew up knowing each other, and then our parents know each other. It’s cool just to see somebody just as their journey has gone from high school to college to now into the league. It’s a blessing to have a brother like that to go through the same type of struggle, same type of pressure, the things like that. We talk a lot about that stuff in the offseason and things like that, so it’s a blessing to have someone like that in my life.”
Young echoed Stroud’s sentiments when asked about how close the two were and what type of moment the matchup between the two overall draft picks from 2023 will be.
“It is pretty surreal,” said Young on Wednesday to reporters. “It is definitely a blessing, but it is crazy. That is definitely not something either one of us could have thought about back then. It is crazy how things have turned out, but it is definitely a blessing. There is never going to be a time that I am not rooting for C.J.; I think this weekend will be the exception. We both want what’s best for each other, and we both want each other to be successful.”