Photo by Chris Pietsch/Associate Press
Welcome in to the first of a series of guys I'll be spotlighting heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The idea here is to quickly touch on prospects that haven't gotten a ton of love yet. Carson Strong qualifies because I haven't seen him in a single 2022 NFL mock draft yet. If you follow me, though, you'll know that Carson Strong is firmly slotted in my top three quarterbacks for next year. Why am I so bullish on the Nevada quarterback? Let's dive in.
Carson Strong was the 76th-rated quarterback prospect in the 2018 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. His three-star status saw him receive offers from... well, only Nevada. Without the encouragement of former All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Carson Strong may have never pursued a career in football. Add in that he went two full years without playing an in-game snap of the sport (he sat out his senior year in high school due to a knee surgery and redshirted as a freshman at Nevada) and you have one of the more unlikely draft risers. Strong is more of a pocket passer, though his basketball background and off platform work would indicate that he's more of an athlete than most would believe. 2021 will be his redshirt junior season.
Carson Strong came in as a redshirt freshman and posted impressive, albeit not stellar, numbers. He completed 63% of his passes and threw for 2,335 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. But the true success came in 2020, where he completed 70% of his passes and threw for 27 touchdowns, just 4 interceptions, and a rating just north of 160. His expected points added on passing plays in 2020 was 64.4, good for 9th in the nation. PFF ranked him as their 12th-best quarterback in 2020, and his turnover-worthy play percentage of just 1.7% was good for 3rd in the nation.
Carson Strong's ability to sling a deep ball is one of his best traits. His adjusted completion percentage on throws 20+ yards or more was 50%, per PFF. Of those with 40 or more deep attempts, that ranked 10th in college football. His work in the intermediate game was pretty damn good, too, posting a 71.4 ADJ% and ranking 8th in the nation among those with 40 or more attempts. On throws within 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, his ADJ% ranked 4th. The kid can place a football, and virtually all of the throws you see on film indicate this, as well. It comes across as very effortless, too; he has a big arm.
This one isn't perfect, but placing a ball where only your receiver can get it (and could have with a proper attack) 42 yards downfield is impressive, nonetheless.
The first thing that stood out to me when I viewed Carson Strong was his ability to stand in the pocket and deliver a fairly accurate football while absorbing a hit. Strong is 6'4, 215 with a strong frame, so his ability to do so is definitely heightened, but it's still an impressive trait to possess. The most important part: he doesn't lose velocity when he's being driven into the dirt at his release point. He throws with a ton of zip, and that's apparent even while under pressure. More importantly, he takes care of the football and doesn't create extra pressure for himself.
Photo by Byrne Photo/Nevada Athletics
Carson Strong has a chance to have a Zach Wilson or Joe Burrow-esque rise in the 2022 NFL Draft. When you factor in the tools, the production, and the fact that Nevada is going to be in the national spotlight this season, I fully expect Carson Strong to be in contention for a top ten selection come next spring. Nevada should have a very good football team, and their success will lie with Carson Strong. He's my preseason QB2 and I could make a case for him being the best quarterback in next year's draft based on the film and production in 2020 alone. It sounds crazy now, maybe, but it won't in a few months. I cannot wait to watch Carson Strong ascend in 2021.