Ohio State football: C.J. Stroud’s NFL Draft destination up in the air

NFL Draft week is upon us, and nobody knows anything.

The best indication comes from one of the guys who has been doing it the longest — erstwhile Bengals beat writer Peter King.

The long-time Sports Illustrated writer who took his popular Monday morning column to NBC a few years ago wrote this week he has heard Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud could fall out of the top five.

Then he predicted the Tennessee Titans trade up to No. 3 to take him anyway.

Makes sense, right?

I’m not calling out King, who makes clear he is not taking his own mock draft too seriously even before he reveals his pick predictions, but rather pointing out the level of absurdity this all has reached.

Ohio State did not have a first-round quarterback for almost 40 years, and maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing given the rollercoaster rides Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields and now Stroud have gone on between January and April.

The truth seems to be no one knows the truth as the confluence of NFL writers who are willing to print anything anyone tells them, sources (team personnel, agents) who realized this makes it easy to game the system and self-made analysts who don’t know what they don’t know has basically ruined pre-draft coverage over the past decade or so.

Staying up on the latest rumors is nearly impossible, and most of them aren’t worth knowing since they aren’t true.

The interest in the event is still massive, though, so we have to cover it, and of course I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still interested in how it all plays out.

Stroud will go somewhere on Thursday night, and so will a handful or more Ohio State players before the draft ends Saturday.

King’s prediction someone trades up to No. 3 to take Stroud seems to make a lot of sense. The Cardinals have quarterback Kyler Murray under long-term contract, and someone is bound to covet that spot.

Getting to three also might be important because the Colts seem like a lock to take a quarterback at No. 4.

Alabama’s Bryce Young has become the consensus prediction to go No. 1 to the Panthers, and the plugged-in people now seem to think QB-needy Houston will go defense with the No. 2 pick then probably take a quarterback later (they also have Cleveland’s pick at No. 12).

The Texans could trade down, too, if they get a sweet enough deal so the confusion about how the draft is going to shake out at the top seems to be pretty legitimate.

That is exacerbated by the confounding reports Kentucky quarterback Will Levis is making a late rise up draft boards.

In my opinion (My high school English teacher at Cedarville High School, Mrs. Barber, taught us not to use such phrases in our writing, but sometimes it’s necessary in this type of thing because I’m combining news and analysis), this really could be a smokescreen: Lots of people getting together to claim one thing is happening when it really is not in order to raise the odds they get the guy they want, who is not Levis.

Many of the people who cover the draft and I happen to think have some idea what they are seeing find Levis’ stock rising to be bizarre, and that is because he had a much worse college career than Stroud and appears to be a worse prospect in just about every way.

(This is noteworthy to me because two years ago the entire NFL draft media complex convinced itself the Jets using the second pick on Zach Wilson from BYU over physically superior prospects Fields and Trey Lance was not only absurd but actually correct.)

Case in point: Mike Tanier of FootballOutsiders.com projects the Texans will actually use the No. 2 pick on Levis but also calls that “a franchise-crippling unforced error.

Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus also has the Titans trading up to No. 3 to take Stroud while Bucky Brooks of NFL.com projects the Colts draft Stroud fourth and Levis ends up in Houston at 12.

(In contrast to Levis, Florida’s Anthony Richardson is a true wild card in that he is very raw, but his physical skills are so great a team taking a chance on him rather than Stroud, whose floor is much higher but isn’t as athletic, actually is defensible.)

So what does it all mean? Well, the draft is Thursday night and after that we can move on to other things to worry about.

Like who might be the next Ohio State quarterback to get to earn the right to go through the same process in a year or two.

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