When Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is selected with the first or second pick in this month’s NFL Draft, he will mark the seventh Buckeye quarterback drafted in the past 20 years. No other school will be able to claim more, and only USC will be able to claim as many.
That day will come well after four-star 2024 quarterback Air Noland makes his college commitment, which is happening this Saturday night. Noland, an All-State state-champion quarterback from Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, Georgia, is set to choose from a group of seven final schools: Ohio State, Miami, Texas A&M, Alabama, Clemson, Arkansas, and Oregon.
Currently, most believe that Noland’s decision will come down to Ohio State, Texas A&M, or Miami, with Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) being a possible factor where the Aggies and Hurricanes are concerned.
Both Miami and A&M have been in the news the last two recruiting cycles regarding NIL. Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher was accused by Alabama head coach Nick Saban less than a year ago of buying his entire 2022 recruiting class.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have been in the NIL news blotter on a monthly basis thanks to University of Miami benefactor John Ruiz, who has pledged NIL funds of at least $10 million per year to Miami athletes.
Most NIL deals are kept private, and the ones that go public tend to be outrageous and ultimately worthless.
But there is money to be had at some schools for true freshmen. So if Air Noland wanted to walk into some guaranteed money, he could do that at Texas A&M or Miami. And the truth is, he could do that at Ohio State as well, though perhaps for a smaller initial number.
But that number wouldn’t likely stay lower for long.
Say Miami or Texas A&M tells a quarterback recruit that they have collectives willing to pay $1 million over three years. That’s an initial $333,000 that an Ohio State collective may not be willing to match for a true freshman, but it’s not likely to be far off from what he would end up with as a Buckeye.
But that would just be the beginning, and that initial $1 million deal is less than what CJ Stroud was believed to have made this past year as a redshirt sophomore.
Time To Get Serious
If Air Noland wants early and immediate money, he’s likely to get it from any of his seven finalists. Texas A&M and Miami may offer him more than anybody else, but early money only lasts as long as it spends. Long money, on the other hand, is the kind that never actually needs to be spent.
And that’s where the NFL comes in.
Over the last decade of NFL drafts, quarterbacks from Miami and Texas A&M have combined to make about $9.2 million. As the first or second pick in this month’s NFL Draft, CJ Stroud will sign a contract worth about $10 million per year over four years. And then the team will have the option to pick up a fifth year, which depending on Stroud’s performance and accolades will likely end up somewhere between $25 million and $35 million for that one season.
But Stroud is not an outlier here. He is going to be the third-consecutive Ryan Day quarterback to be drafted in the first round.
Justin Fields was selected 11th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year deal worth $18.8 million with the Chicago Bears. When he comes up for his fifth-year option in 2025, he’ll be looking at a one-year deal that will likely pay him more than his entire previous contract.
Dwayne Haskins was selected 15th overall by Washington in the 2019 NFL Draft. He earned over $15 million before his tragic passing one year ago this week.
And that’s just the first contract for the first rounders. The second is where the real money will be. That’s when the $200 million deals are discussed. And, should Air Noland be fortunate enough to be in line for that second contract as a star quarterback, the numbers then will likely be $300 million.
They say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Well, you can start at three hundred thousand or you can finish at three hundred million.
You can go for the spending cash or you can hold out for the money that makes money for your family long after the playing days are done.
How Long Ago Is ‘A Long Time Ago’?
The last time a Miami quarterback was drafted in the first round of the regular NFL Draft was Vinny Testaverde in 1987. He is now 59 years old.
Over the last 20 drafts, there have been as many Miami (Ohio) quarterbacks drafted as Miami (Florida) quarterbacks (two).
The last time a Texas A&M quarterback was drafted in the first round was Johnny Manziel in 2014. Before that was Ryan Tannehill in 2012. Tannehill has built a fairly remarkable career, which began and ended at A&M under Mike Sherman. Tannehill has made nearly $170 million in his career, but it’s not really something that Jimbo Fisher can use as a recruiting pitch.
“Hey, let me show you what a quarterback made who was at Texas A&M two head coaches ago!”
It doesn’t really roll off the tongue or fit on a recruiting graphic.
You Are Who You Throw To
For a quarterback to excel in college, they have to have a good teacher. Ryan Day is widely viewed as one of the best QB coaches in the entire game. But quarterbacks also have to have players around them in which to distribute the football.
Over the last 15 years, Miami has produced just two first-round “skill players” (i.e. QB, RB, FB, WR, or TE): receiver Phillip Dorsett in 2015 and tight end David Njoku in 2017. Both players were selected 29th overall. Further, the Canes have produced zero second-round skill players in that time and four third-rounders.
In that same span, Texas A&M has produced three first-rounders, though two were Manziel and Tannehill. Receiver Mike Evans was the third, and he’s one of just five Aggie running backs, receivers, or tight ends to be selected in the first three rounds of an NFL draft over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, since Ryan Day arrived as offensive coordinator in 2017, the Buckeyes have produced four first-round skill players in the past five drafts, as well as two second-rounders and three third-rounders. That’s nine skill players drafted in the first three rounds under Day, compared to eight for Texas A&M and six for Miami over the last 15 years. (And the number of first-rounders for Ohio State will grow by two in three weeks when CJ Stroud and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba are selected.)
If you wanted to open Ohio State up to the same 15-year window as Miami and Texas A&M, the number of first-round skill players grows to six, the second-rounders grow to seven, and third-rounders grow to eight total skill players.
So that’s 21 skill players for Ohio State, six for Miami (three of whom were tight ends), and eight for Texas A&M (three of whom were quarterbacks) who have been selected in the top three rounds of an NFL draft.
Air Noland will be making his decision known in just two days. Some say he is trending towards Ohio State. Others aren’t so sure.
Should he choose the Buckeyes, he will be signing with the program that landed three of the nation’s top 10 wide receivers last year, and already has two of the top five committed for 2024.
Decisions like this shouldn’t be asked of high schoolers, but such is the world we are now living in. There may not even be a wrong decision, but there is definitely a right one. Fast money is fun, but often the only thing it leaves is memories. And not always good ones.
The reasons why a quarterback would choose Ohio State over Texas A&M and Miami are clear and overwhelming.
The reasons why he wouldn’t are in the eye of the beholder, and generally fleeting.
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