Carson Strong looked completely unbothered in Saturday night’s 52-10 victory over the Colorado State Rams.
It was no knee brace, no problem as he delivered two deep-strike touchdowns within the first four minutes of the game, both to wide receiver Tory Horton. There’s been a lot of concern surrounding Strong’s knee in recent weeks as he appeared to be playing through pain, but you get the sense that there’s nothing at all to be worried about in that regard given how effortlessly Strong operated all night, finishing out 17-of-22 (77.2%) passing for 288 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
He headed for the sidelines a little over halfway through the third quarter after throwing yet another impressive deep ball, making way for backup quarterback Nate Cox to get some more reps in as the Wolf Pack held a substantial 38-7 lead over the Rams.
At the end of the 2021 regular season, Strong has completed 367-of-524 passes (70%) for 4,186 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Unless Strong takes part in the bowl game, this will be his final showing with Nevada before he makes the leap to the NFL, where he’s considered one of the top prospects at the position.
Heading into the draft in an NFL era that has become highly receptive to mobile quarterbacks—the Lamar Jacksons of the world, if you will—there will certainly be critics of Strong because of how limited he is in that aspect of the game. But every running quarterback’s day will come when they slow down (typically about five years in or so) and those who are not equally effective as a passer quickly fade and find themselves out of a starting gig sooner rather than later.
That doesn’t happen to quarterbacks like Strong, who have been developed to the utmost degree as passers—after all, a quarterback’s job first and foremost should be to be an accurate thrower at all levels of the field, have a high level of mental processing, and be able to stand in, deliver, and maintain leadership over a team even when playing through high levels of adversity. He checks the boxes in all of those categories, and the season finale only further confirmed that as he cemented his place as QB1.
And the big numbers he’s posted are typical of Air Raid quarterbacks, but it should be noted that even though this is a “quarterback-friendly system” it takes a quarterback who has it between the ears more than a lot of other signal-callers in other systems to post those numbers—many an Air Raid quarterback who didn’t have it mentally or couldn’t get the ball out quick enough never came close to posting stats like those. Simply put, those numbers don’t come from out of thin air and the thought that the scheme can make any quarterback look good or hinders them from an NFL transition is a fallacy—go find a whiteboard and a marker and start drawing out some of the plays you see from NFL teams and you’ll find there are Air Raid concepts littered throughout virtually every offense.
Looking at the film, Strong hasn’t posted those numbers because of his supporting cast alone, either—while receivers like Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner are future NFL talents, Strong’s success isn’t a YAC thing. While Strong is just as good on intermediate throws and short swing passes, he’s the best deep passer in this class without question—he’s money on passes way downfield whether it be in crunch-time or on 3rd-and-short. Call it an “it” factor.
If there’s still a sliver of a doubt as to if Strong will go to the NFL level and be successful, look no further than the greatest quarterbacks of all time, several of which are pocket passers, and turn your attention to what Mac Jones is already accomplishing with the New England Patriots.