Based in part on backlash or leaked alleged results of CJ Stroud's cognitive test last year, some 2024 draft prospects could pass on taking the exam this year. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects might take a pass on ‘cognitive tests’ at Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — From Wonderlic scores to the new S2 cognitive test, NFL teams utilize in-person psychological and IQ tests to formulate a more complete evaluation of every prospect at the annual Scouting Combine.

But the longevity of the polarizing practice has been called into question this week by prospects refusing to submit to the scantron as part of their marathon of medical evaluation, on-field testing, private interviews and media obligations required as part of the annual pre-draft gathering.

Leaked cognitive testing results before the 2023 NFL Draft discredited the processing skills of then-Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who reportedly scored 18 out of 100 on the “S2” test.

Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans said the test wasn’t a factor in any way when the franchise selected Stroud with the No. 2 pick in April. Stroud had the Texans convinced he was a franchise quarterback even before he met with them at the 2023 Scouting Combine, and only cemented his status during their interview.

“You’d see C.J. come into our room in formal interviews and just see he had that calmness about him in the room. You can tell — for me, I could tell instantly if a guy has what it takes,” Ryans said. “I saw that in C.J. when I first sat down and he began to speak to us about his background and his college experience. Then you see his teammates and how they spoke about C.J. I remember being here last year, and every Ohio State teammate that sat in our room, they spoke highly of C.J. and the type of leader he was and what he meant to them and the things that he did to those guys to help them. You can’t hide. Your true character always will show, and it showed that C.J. was a really great guy, raised the right way, and he was the same guy throughout the entire year. He didn’t change.”

Stroud became NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, leading the Texans to the AFC South division title and a playoff win over the Cleveland Browns.

His agents at Athletes First sent a letter to all 32 NFL teams before the combine to outline reasons their clients would not submit to any “cognitive or psychological testing” this week, citing a breach in confidentiality with Stroud.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was pleased to report no prospect opted out of their test at the 2024 combine. That’s noteworthy in part because Athletes First also represents Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur.

“It’s a very important part of our process, but it’s just a part of our process,” he said. “Really, the way our cognitive testing works, it’s not really used as much as an evaluation tool whether we’re going to choose a player or not (in the draft).

“It’s more about if we do choose a player, what are the best ways we’re going to support that player once we get him in the building.”

Gutekunst said the test the Packers use likely is different than most or all other teams. They ask prospects to participate because it provides a baseline for individual instruction and tells Green Bay coaches how that player best learns.

Bengals player personnel director Duke Tobin said Cincinnati as a franchise employs its scouting staff and position coaches to discern the information other teams are trying to gather with impersonal “cognitive” tests.

“We don’t believe in a lot of that. We put the resources in our own people to determine how well somebody will transition into our game. There’s no magic bullet and there’s no better mouse mousetrap,” he said. “The mouse still escapes some time. You can spend a lot of time on cognitive tests. And you can spend a lot of time researching the guy’s background on your own. And the results, in my opinion, are pretty similar.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) attempts a pass during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Formula simple for Colts, Texans: Win and get in

Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has led the Houston Texans to their first winning season since 2019.

Now he wants a playoff berth.

Stroud and Houston can earn that postseason spot Saturday night with a win in the regular-season finale on the road against another 9-7 playoff hopeful, the Indianapolis Colts.

Indianapolis also would wrap up a postseason berth with a win. In addition, the Houston-Indianapolis winner would capture the AFC South title and get a home playoff game if the Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7) lose their Sunday road game against the Tennessee Titans.

“At the end of the day with this game, we have to execute,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “That’s what it comes down to. … You can get caught up in the hype of how big it is. Yeah, everyone understands that, but what does it matter when the ball is snapped? It doesn’t. It matters about you executing, being where you are supposed to be and winning that snap.”

Stroud, in his first game back from a concussion that put him on the sideline for two games, was 24 of 32 for 213 yards last week, patiently picking apart the Titans with short passes. He fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to Brevin Jordan in the second quarter and led his team to a turnover-free performance.

And in doing so, he reminded some that the uproar from last season’s meaningless Week 18 game matching the Texans and Colts was much ado about nothing. Then-Houston coach Lovie Smith went for two and the win after a late touchdown — and got it.

When the victory cost the Texans the No. 1 overall pick that eventually went to Carolina via a trade with the Chicago Bears, Houston selected Stroud at No. 2 right after the Panthers tabbed Bryce Young. While Young has struggled amid franchise dysfunction, Stroud and Ryans have turned Houston into an immediate contender.

“(The) offense has done a really nice job all throughout the year,” Ryans said. “Starting with Bobby (Slowik, the offensive coordinator) as he’s led the offense through many different guys being in. … It starts there, just being able to manage the roster and being able to work with whoever is available and still finding a way to get it done.”

Indianapolis enters Week 18 with the AFC’s final wild-card spot in hand. Had things turned out differently, this could have been a matchup of rookie quarterbacks.

Anthony Richardson, drafted by the Colts No. 4 overall last April, provided a tantalizing glimpse of his vast potential during a 31-20 thumping of Houston on Sept. 17, running for two first-quarter touchdowns before leaving due to a concussion.

However, Richardson sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5, forcing the Colts to play backup Gardner Minshew. And for the most part, Minshew has done the job, including a 23-20 home win over the Las Vegas Raiders last week. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown while avoiding the mistakes that have spotted some of his losses.

Now Indianapolis stands one win away from the playoffs.

Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin said, “For us, we just understand what’s at stake. These are the type of games you play for. It’s not really any much more motivation, anything more that needs to be said to get you ready to prepare.”

Running back Jonathan Taylor added, “Same mentality, but this time it’s everything you got — and it’s been like that the past few weeks.”

The running game figures to be crucial to the Colts’ success. Taylor, in his second game back from thumb surgery, piled up 96 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries last week. If the former NFL rushing champion can enjoy that type of game again, it would give Minshew more advantageous passing situations.

Another key will be which team can best crank up its solid pass rush. Indianapolis’ 49 sacks rank fifth in the NFL and the Texans aren’t far behind with 45, tied for 10th. The defense that does a better job of keeping its opponent behind the chains could decide a playoff spot.

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) on the field after an apparent injury during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Texans QB C.J. Stroud remains in concussion protocol

Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud could miss a second consecutive game with a concussion and remains in the league-mandated protocol for head injuries.

Stroud was held out of last week’s 19-16 overtime win against the Tennessee Titans and replaced in the lineup by Case Keenum.

Multiple reports indicate the Texans are unlikely to play Stroud this week even after head coach DeMeco Ryans took the decision for Week 15 down to the wire.

Technically, there is still time for an independent neurologist to clear Stroud for Sunday’s home game against the Cleveland Browns and Joe Flacco — the fourth QB to start for that franchise this season — but he’s still exhibiting common symptoms of a concussion.

Pro Football Talk reported on Wednesday that Stroud has shown concussion symptoms since Week 13 against the Denver Broncos. He officially was diagnosed with a concussion the following week in a road game loss to the New York Jets. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams blasted Stroud on a pass play with 6:24 to play in the game and the rookie quarterback’s head hit and bounced off the turf.

The Texans haven’t responded to questions about whether Stroud actually was concussed before that game.

Specifically, Stroud showed signs of ataxia, which medically should be an automatic disqualifier for players to return to the game under NFL concussion evaluation rules. Ataxia is defined as difficulty walking and balancing.

Houston is one game behind the Browns (9-5) in a crowded wild-card playoff picture in the AFC.

The Texans (8-6) hope to avoid the wild-card quagmire by winning the AFC South division and are one of three teams with the same record. Indianapolis and Jacksonville also have eight wins, and the Colts play at Houston in the regular-season finale.

Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, was second in the NFL in passing yards (3,631) and had the fifth-best passer rating (98.7) in the league at the time of his injury in Week 14.

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) with medical staff after suffering an apparent injury during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Texans QB C.J. Stroud still in concussion protocol

C.J. Stroud missed practice all week and remained in concussion protocol on Friday, but Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans isn’t ready to rule out his rookie quarterback.

Backup Davis Mills and third-string quarterback Case Keenum divided reps with the first-team offense during the week for the Texans (7-6), who are fighting to remain in playoff contention with the Tennessee Titans (5-8) hosting Houston on Sunday.

“Yeah, C.J., he’s starting to feel a little bit better, but still will be in concussion protocol. We still have our hopes that he can feel better, but we’ll see how the next couple days go,” Ryans said Friday post-practice.

Asked if he’s saying Stroud could still play this week, Ryans said: “He’s still in the concussion protocol. … We’ll update you guys on the game status when that time comes.”

Mills played the final 6:30 against the New York Jets after Stroud was forced out of last week’s game. He has plenty of experience with the Texans, starting 26 games over the previous two seasons — although Houston is just 5-20-1 in those games.

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) on the field after an apparent injury during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Texans QB C.J. Stroud (concussion) could miss game vs. Titans

Houston Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said Monday that rookie sensation quarterback C.J. Stroud was diagnosed with a concussion, stemming from a hit during Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the New York Jets.

Stroud was the recipient of a blow from New York defensive tackle Quinnen Williams after throwing a pass in the fourth quarter. His head snapped as he hit the ground.

“C.J. is still in the concussion protocol,” Ryans said. “We’ll see how he goes throughout the week and hopefully he continues to feel better.”

Ryans wasn’t optimistic that Stroud could play in this Sunday’s road game against the Tennessee Titans. He indicated the team will be cautious with Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft.

“Yeah, we’ll see as he goes throughout the week, we’ll see how he progresses throughout the concussion protocol and that just has to run its course,” Ryans said. “I don’t think many guys have came back the following week after a concussion. You have to make sure at the end of the day that no matter the position, no matter who the guy is, you have to make sure that your guys are healthy and we’re protecting guys and their right when it comes to the concussion or the head injuries. We have to make sure we’re protecting all of our guys.

“It’s more about their long-term health, as opposed to, just everybody gets excited about the next game and the next opportunity, but we care about these guys as men off the field and making sure that their health is the utmost importance to us.”

Williams commented on social media to say there was no ill intent.

“I pray CJ is ok, everyone know I’m not a dirty player or trying to hurt a great, Elite QB like him or any player in the league,” Williams said. “I play hard and I play fair. Again I pray CJ is ok and wish him nothing but the best.”

Stroud, 22, leads the NFL with 3,631 yards despite throwing for a season-low 91 against the Jets. He has 20 scoring passes and been intercepted five times.

Davis Mills and Case Keenum are the starter options if Stroud isn’t available against the Titans. Mills, 25, was 1 of 5 for 4 yards after replacing Stroud against the Jets and has a 5-19-1 career record as a starter. Keenum, 35, is 29-35 as an NFL starter.

“We’ll see where we end up throughout the week,” Ryans said. “Both guys have played a lot of football, and at this point and where we are, we just want guys who are going to put us in a position to win football games. Who can we count on to help us win football games? And that’s how we’ll decide.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws the ball during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Texans QB C.J. Stroud leaves with possible head injury vs. Jets

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud left Sunday’s game at the New York Jets and is in concussion protocol to be evaluated for a possible head injury.

The star rookie was on the receiving end of a hit by the Jets’ Quinnen Williams, during which Stroud’s head snapped back and hit the ground as he went down.

Stroud was able to walk off under his own power, according to the CBS broadcast. He went into the blue medical tent for evaluation, and from there he headed back to the locker room without his helmet, signaling he was done for the day.

Davis Mills entered the game in Stroud’s place.

The Texans trailed 24-6 with less than seven minutes to play at the time of Stroud’s injury.

The No. 2 overall draft pick last spring, Stroud entered the week as the league leader in passing yards (3,540) to help Houston to a 7-5 record entering Week 14. He was 10-for-23 for just 91 yards before exiting the game.

Another top-three draft pick, Will Anderson Jr., picked up an ankle injury and was questionable to return.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Tank Dell (3) and quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) celebrate a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

Texans laud C.J. Stroud as ‘right guy’ in record-setting start

DeMeco Ryans paused only for a moment to reflect on his first win as an NFL head coach knowing the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to town this week with a goal of wrecking the Houston Texans’ rookie quarterback.

The Texans are experiencing “victory Monday” for the first time since Ryans was hired to help fix a team that went 3-13-1 in 2022 thanks to C.J. Stroud’s record start. The No. 2 overall pick has 904 passing yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions with a QB rating of 98.0 in his first three starts. He’s the first quarterback to ever post that stat line in his first three NFL starts.

“Sky is the limit for C.J.,” said Ryans. “He just keeps his head down and keeps working. C.J. is a very humble young man. Everything starts with the quarterback, and we have a good one who’s doing really good things. He’s improved every week. And that’s what I like and admire about C.J. is he’s dialed into improvement every week. He’s not satisfied. He’s been a leader for us as an offensive unit, and it’s impressive to see a young man continue to get better each week and lead that group.”

Stroud passed for 280 yards with 20 completions and two touchdowns despite playing behind an offensive line with four starters out due to injury. He had 384 passing yards in Week 2 against the Colts.

Three Texans receivers have 15 receptions — Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Robert Woods — and 12 players have caught at least one pass for Houston. That doesn’t include Stroud, who also has a reception this season.

“I have great guys around me,” Stroud said. “Nothing I can do without those guys up front battling, the receiver running the right route at the right depth, (offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik) calling the right plays at the right time.”

One of those receivers is tight end Brevin Jordan, who had a TD reception in the 37-17 win at Jacksonville.

“We drafted the right guy. Man, he’s a leader,” Jordan told ESPN on Sunday. “He’s a phenomenal player and a phenomenal guy with God-given talent. Dude, he’s unbelievable.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) attempts a pass as Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Rayshad Nichols (91) rushes during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Texans QB C.J. Stroud (shoulder) listed as questionable vs. Colts

Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the visiting Indianapolis Colts due to an injury to his throwing shoulder.

When Stroud injured the right shoulder isn’t immediately known. He was not on the team’s injury report on either Wednesday or Thursday.

Stroud reportedly rested the arm during most of Friday’s practice. In his debut last Sunday during a 25-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Stroud was sacked five times and hit on 10 other occasions.

Stroud also completed 28 of 44 passes for 242 yards in his first NFL game.

Davis Mills is Houston’s backup quarterback. Last season, Mills tied with Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys with an NFL-worst 15 interceptions while throwing for 3,118 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Stroud was the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft. Sunday’s matchup is slated to be his first against No. 4 pick Anthony Richardson, the new quarterback of the Colts.

The Texans also listed standout offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) and linebacker Neville Hewitt (illness) as questionable and ruled out safeties Jalen Pitre (chest) and Jimmie Ward (hip).

For the Colts, star guard Quenton Nelson (toe) and tight end Drew Ogletree (concussion) are listed as questionable.

–Field Level Media

Aug 27, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) looks over the New Orleans Saints defensive line  during the first half at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Texans tap rookie C.J. Stroud to start Week 1

Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is set to begin the 2023 season as Houston’s starter.

Head coach DeMeco Ryans said the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft proved himself ready during training camp and capped a preseason test run with 3-yard TD pass in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints.

Stroud said the designation was “definitely earned,” but doesn’t change anything immediately.

“I’m still going to work the way I’ve been working, even more now. Blessed enough to be a starter so young in this league,” Stroud said, “which isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I know my coaches have trust and faith in me. So I’m going to go out there and try to do my best.”

The Texans open the season on the road Sept. 10 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Stroud had a passer rating of 62.3 in three preseason games, completing 11 of 20 pass attempts for 89 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Stroud unseated Davis Mills for the starting job. Mills will begin the season as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

Texans linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the No. 3 pick in the draft, will also be a starter when the Texans face the Ravens in Week 1. Anderson was one of the highest-graded rookies in the preseason according to Pro Football Focus.

–Field Level Media

Jul 26, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. speaks to the media during the Big 10 football media day at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State unsettled in search for QB CJ Stroud’s replacement

Ohio State continues to craft the mission plan for the 2023 season at a deliberate pace, largely due to a massive question mark at the quarterback position.

CJ Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, left the gaping vacancy for the Buckeyes when he opted to leave Columbus after two seasons as the starter. The decision came on the heels of a heartbreaking end to the season with a one-point loss to Georgia in the CFP semifinals.

“We’ve been in this situation quite a few times at Ohio State and just not knowing who the quarterback is going to be going into the season,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Wednesday at Big Ten Media Days. “You had a new one with Dwayne (Haskins), had a new one with Justin (Fields), had a new one with CJ (Stroud), and now here we are again.”

Day didn’t rule out playing multiple quarterbacks in the first game of the season, which is a rare conference opener at Indiana.

“When you go into these situations, you’d like for someone to emerge during camp, but who knows if that’s going to happen or not?” Day said. “You’d like to see somebody emerge, and then you name them, just like we’ve done with CJ and Justin and Dwayne. If that doesn’t happen, then maybe that is the case. We’ll have to evaluate it from there.”

Ohio State was 11-2 last season and returns a conference-best 16 players who received All-Big Ten notice.

Five-star recruit Kyle McCord lost the previous QB battle for the Buckeyes in 2021, when Stroud was named the starter. He’s competing primarily with sophomore Devin Brown, although Day pointed out the team’s depth at the position has never been better.

“They both had very good summers. They both have shown leadership,” Day said. “Now it’s going to be time to go put it on the field. We obviously would like for someone to emerge here quickly. We’ll kind of have to see once we get on the field.”

Help on the field exists in the form of Heisman Trophy candidate Marvin Harrison Jr. The junior All-American wide receiver, son of Colts Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, lived in the weight room in the offseason with a goal of fending off injuries like the ankle issue that nagged him for 10 weeks in 2022.

Harrison has looked the part of a future NFL receiver in every possible way at 6-foot-4, and that included a nod to his father by wearing royal blue tie and Colts-colors Louis Vuitton shoes to complete his suit for a media day appearance on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

His goals for 2023 aren’t centered around turning pro just yet.

“It starts with beating that team up north,” Harrison Jr. said, referring to Michigan. “We haven’t beat them the past two years. When you come to Ohio State, that’s the first goal we have as a program. It starts there, beating that team up north. And then it’s going to the Big Ten championship, winning that, and going on to win the national championship. When you come to Ohio State, it’s natty or bust. You can’t really have a down year or lose any games. An undefeated season, that’s a successful season.”

–Field Level Media