Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Last year’s leak of C.J. Stroud’s S2 score speaks to a deeper reality of the draft

Last year, it was the S2 test. Next year, it could be something else. Every year, there’s something.

The draft is the NFL’s ultimate all’s-fair exercise. Machiavelli on meth. The primary goal for teams? Get the guy we want. The secondary goal for teams? Make it look like we got the right guy. The only goal for agents? Get my guy drafted as high as possible.

When someone leaked to Bob McGinn (as someone always does) the results of the 2023 S2 processing test, it made C.J. Stroud look bad, and it made Bryce Young look great. Someone saw a benefit in making the information publicly known.

Zak Keefer of has taken a close look as the leak that was calculated to make Stroud seem like an inevitable bust. It didn’t happen spontaneously or accidentally. As we see it, there are three potential culprits.

First, someone drafting lower than the Texans at No. 2 might have wanted them to get skittish and pass on him, prompting a slide. It’s one of the fundamental truths of the draft. Teams that love a player will traffic in anything that will spark a fall. Because they want the player to fall all the way to them. And teams that don’t like a player will push any hype or praise, hopeful that someone who picks in front of them will use a pick on someone they wouldn’t take, anyway.

Second, the Panthers might have wanted to make it look like they were right to pick Young over Stroud. Many believe the pick was driven by owner David Tepper, who sufficiently made his preference known to result in a unanimous (or close to it) internal position that Young was the guy. The S2 test helps people on the inside (and outside) think the Panthers picked right.

Third, agents have a real incentive to get some players to fall. It helps their clients get drafted as high as possible. If the Texans could have been persuaded to pass on Stroud, the Texans would have taken someone else at No. 2. That player would have gotten the bigger contract that goes with the higher placement.

That’s how it goes in the NFL. Year after year. The names change. The dynamics don’t. And as long as there are reporters who will gladly receive and repeat information that can be used to make a player fall, teams will keep funneling it to those reporters.

Some would say none of it matters because the teams already have the information. That’s true, but there’s a difference between only the teams knowing it and everyone else knowing it. That’s when owners can get nervous about giving the green light to picking a given player. That’s who those who leak that information are ultimately hoping to influence.

Last year, it didn’t work on the Texans. And that’s good for the Texans. But it won’t keep future teams and agents from trying. It’s one of the basic realities of a system that lets teams pick incoming players, one after another, and that gives little or no power to the players to pick where they will play.