NFL rookie showdown: Who has the edge in C.J. Stroud vs. Bryce Young matchup?

It’s a battle of rookie quarterbacks taken at the top of the draft with Houston’s C.J. Stroud vs. Carolina’s Bryce Young. Stroud has garnered the early recognition, and rightfully so. Stroud set the record for most passes without an interception by a rookie to start his career. Now with just one interception through six games and the Texans a surprising 3-3, Stroud gets an opportunity to build his resume against the 0-6 Panthers. In support of his quarterback, Carolina head coach Frank Reich said recently he "couldn’t be happier" to have Young over Stroud to lead his offense.

Comparing the metrics

Casual viewers can simply use the eye test to see that Stroud has played better than Young. You can look at passing yards, completions and interceptions to support Stroud's case, but let's look a little deeper and compare efficiency.

The Panthers lead the league in pass attempts per game, yet don’t have the production to support it. Young ranks 30th in accuracy and doesn’t attempt the deep ball often, ranking 29th in attempts and 35th in accuracy. The same metrics for Stroud: ninth in pass attempts and 19th in accuracy. He also doesn’t go deep often (28th) but ranks third in deep-ball completion percentage.

Stroud also ranks sixth in expected points added compared to Young, who's ranked 45th with a -3.8 EPA. That bodes well for Carolina as a 3-point road favorite.

C.J. Stroud against Panthers' defense

What’s interesting about Carolina is that opposing teams are not calling passing plays often. Carolina is tied for the second-least opponent pass attempts per game. This has contributed to the Panthers having a top-10 pass defense and ranking second-worst against the run.

When opposing quarterbacks do pass, they are generating some solid production. The Panthers are 26th in opponent yards per pass attempt, 24th in opponent yards per completion and 27th in passing scores allowed. In fact, the Panthers' defense is allowing the third-most touchdowns in the league.

Stroud can attack this vulnerable secondary. He’s playing with confidence, looking experienced and reading coverages well. Stroud and his receivers can exploit Carolina, which is dead last in pressure rate. Stroud has the third-highest yards per attempt (9) when kept clean, with nine touchdowns to just one interception. Stroud has passed for two touchdowns in four separate games this season and can do that again this week.

Bryce Young against Texans' defense

The Texans' secondary isn't much to rave about either, ranking bottom seven in passing yards allowed and yards per pass attempt, but 14th in yards per completion. The Panthers don't have a true No. 1 wide receiver, depending on 33-year-old Adam Thielen to be Young’s go-to target. Thielen is 32nd in yards per target and 77th in yards per reception (10.4). What could help some of Young’s metrics is if he had a receiver with more speed who could stretch the field and gain separation. Until the Panthers get that type of player, then Young and Thielen are good for mostly short, underneath plays, which are easier for defenses to contain.

C.J. Stroud vs. Bryce Young

Young needs to be more confident, make faster decisions and aim for more vertical shots. It's likely the lack of receiving weapons, but Young is averaging just 5.3 yards per pass attempt, tied for worst in the league. He also taken 16 sacks in five games.

This is a solid matchup for Stroud. The Panthers' secondary has the perception of being a threat without the data to back it up. Back Stroud and the Texans as 3-point road favorites and watch him build on his strong rookie campaign.