Dynasty Prospect Scouting Report: Carson Strong
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Height: 6’3 3/8”
Strong passed on the athletic testing in Indianapolis. He did participate in on-field drills.
Strong arrived in Reno as a 3-star recruit with an unusual story.
The California native underwent right knee surgery in 2017 due to an osteochondritis dissecans lesion. I’ll let the Mayo Clinic translate that into plain English:
Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow. This bone and cartilage can then break loose, causing pain and possibly hindering joint motion.
The surgery knocked Strong out of his entire senior year. Still, Nevada brought him in as a 2018 redshirt. No other school offered an athletic scholarship.
Come 2019, Strong started the season-opener vs. Purdue. He led a 34-31 comeback win while throwing for 295 yards, 3 TDs and 0 picks.
His final 9 games generally weren’t as impressive. But come next fall, Strong proved he belonged in the national conversation on top QBs. His Pro Football Focus grade jumped from 61.7 to 85.2. His YPA, completion rate and TD rate all spiked, too.
Momentum slowed going into 2021, however. Strong needed another procedure on his knee, one that carried a full year recovery timeline. Somehow, he returned to the field in just 6 months.
Any questions about this kid’s toughness stopped right there.
"On the mobility aspect, what I put on film this year from 2021 wasn't my best ball just because I had a surgery in February,” Strong said via CBS. "I played six months out of surgery when it was supposed to be a year recovery. That hindered my mobility during the year. It did get better as the year went on… last game of the season I played without the knee brace, at the Senior Bowl I played without the knee brace. I moved way more fluid, I was smooth, I did my play-action boot passes, I stepped up in the pocket and scrambled for 10-15 yards and got down a couple times."
Now consider what he was able to accomplish on-field.
Starting 12 games — sitting out only Nevada’s bowl game — Strong ranked top-8 in the nation in pass attempts, completions, yards and TDs. He tossed only 8 INTs.
This Wolfpack offense was put on Strong’s right arm, and he delivered.
So how did he excel? Let’s get to the tape.
Games watched: California, Boise State, Fresno State, Kansas State, San Jose State
Arm strength. Arm strength. Arm strength.
Strong can make all of the requisite NFL throws, and the tape bears that out.
What I think separates Strong from most QBs with big arms is his ability to keep the ball out of harm’s way. Per Pro Football Focus, Strong ranked top-10 out of 124 QBs with 150 dropbacks in turnover-worthy play rate (2.0). That put him on par with Desmond Ridder and Alabama standout Bryce Young.
Sure, a lower level of competition helped -- Nevada played only 2 Power Five schools in 2021. But we can only work off what he’s shown. And it was impressive, starting with this off-balance dime in traffic...
As for the deep ball -- Strong can really sling it. Here, he chucks a pass that travels ~60 yards in the air, and it's right on the money. Among 65 qualifying passers, Strong ranked 12th in deep ball grade from PFF last season.
Next, you'll see another well-placed ball thrown from inside the pocket. His ability to win with bodies around him is key, since Strong isn't a mobile passer. I thought he was able to do just that, despite playing alongside an O-line that PFF ranked 108th in the nation in pass blocking.
It's worth noting that Nevada ran an offense that was heavy on straight drop-backs; not the play-action or RPO-based attacks that are now so common. Strong's also been lauded for his leadership and ability to process. So, combined with his starting experience, Strong brings to the league a solid foundation of character traits and mental makeup.
Now, Strong clearly wasn't at full health last season. But even a healthy version of himself doesn't project as a fantasy-friendly rusher. As for what we have to go off last year: Strong recorded 23 throwaways, a top-5 mark in the country last year. That shows up on tape, as he struggles to make plays outside the pocket.
Under pressure, he ranked 49th among 73 QBs with 100+ drop backs in PFF grade. His YPA was a mid-pack 6.1.
At bottom -- he's just not likely to get himself out of trouble at the NFL level to make second reaction throws...
Ultimately, Strong’s negatives mainly have to do with his health and mobility. But mechanically, he’s admitted there are some tweaks necessary for the next level. In a recent interview, Strong talked about getting his whole body into throws and driving off his back foot more. He’s working with noted QB guru Jordan Palmer, who’s trained a number of high profile passers including Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
Here's a fine summary of Strong's pro outlook, courtesy of The Athletic's Dane Brugler:
“Each team views it a little differently,” Brugler said. “[Strong] has had numerous surgeries and is healthy to go play a game right now. But long-term there are concerns. Enough that will take him off some boards. Decent chance he’ll end up being a terrific value for the team willing to take the chance.”
So it’ll take a certain, trusting franchise to pull the trigger here — assuming he doesn’t slide into day 3 of the draft.
While I like the tape overall, his pass-only skill set just doesn’t do much for fantasy players. More than likely, Strong will only be worth a rookie pick in superflex formats.