3 things that will define how good C.J. Stroud really is in 2024

C.J. Stroud will have a lot of opportunities to prove his standing among the game's elite.
Houston Texans Mandatory Minicamp
Houston Texans Mandatory Minicamp / Tim Warner/GettyImages

C.J. Stroud is a rising star. In the eyes of some, he's already a top-10, if not a top-five quarterback in the league. Bold, but maybe not untrue. What Stroud did as a rookie was unheard of. He completely took over the league and outperformed not just the expectations that were on him but also the standard by which we all judge Texans quarterbacks.

We're big fans of the youngster out of Ohio State, but to truly be a consistent presence among the elite of the game, he must maintain his level over several years. Names like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Joe Burrow are constantly in the top-five rankings. Why are they constantly up there? Well, according to PFF, they're constantly good. Whether they're on top or coming from behind.

We know Stroud is good at playing from the lead, as the Texans were one of the best teams in the league at getting and holding the lead. They had some of the most wins in the NFL without ever trailing in a game at five. Yet, how Stroud plays from behind, and his ability to find a way to come back in games where the Texans start slowly, is a huge opportunity for growth.

That's just one of the ways Stroud can cement his status as a top guy in the league, so let's talk about that and the others.

1. How he plays when the team is behind

Stroud impressed last season. The one thing he didn't have to do too often was play from behind. We know guys like Mahomes, Allen, and Burrow are great at playing from behind.

If Stroud can showcase that whether in the lead or not, he can play consistently well, then he'll rightfully earn his status among the top guys in the league.

2. How he plays when his best weapons aren't available

We saw this a bit last year when Tank Dell went down. Stroud looked fantastic relying on Nico Collins and Dalton Schultz, but eventually, he's going to have a game — or even a few — where he's not throwing to his best players, or where his best blockers aren't on the field.

How Stroud plays when he's forced to carry a team with less proven talent will be a major factor in seeing where he lands among the top five or 10 quarterbacks in the lead.

3. How he plays when defenses "figure him out"

Eventually, every quarterback gets figured out.

Peyton Manning was the audible king. Tom Brady loved his slot receivers. Lamar Jackson can stretch and stress defenses with his ability to see the field and evade tacklers.

Stroud is a nice, consistent thrower through Year 1. When the NFL figures him out, can he still stay consistent? Favorite targets, how he rolls out of the pocket, where he looks on certain defenses ... all that will eventually be figured out. If Stroud can still consistently be great even when the league has tape on him , that'll cement his place among the most vaunted quarterbacks in the league.