After finishing with the fifth-highest completion rate in the FBS and shattering several North Carolina passing records in 2016, Mitch Trubisky is poised to make a meteoric rise from being a backup quarterback in 2015 to a top pick in the 2017 draft. The third-team All ACC selection set single-season school records in passing yards (3,748), completions (304), total offense (4,056) and touchdown passes (30) while displaying a polished game that is ideally suited for the NFL.
In fact, Trubisky's impressive natural talents have led many evaluators to ignore his limited experience (13 career starts) to anoint him as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2017 class. Considering how one-year wonders have struggled making the transition to the NFL (see Mark Sanchez), there's still a bit of trepidation surrounding the North Carolina star despite his immense talent and potential. With that in mind, I think it's time to crack open the book on the junior quarterback.
What I'm hearing
"Call me crazy but I see a little Derek Carr in his game. From the poise, decisiveness and quick delivery to the precision passing and athleticism, he looks like the real deal. ... The inexperience bothers me and I can't stop wondering why he couldn't beat out Marquise Williams (for the starting job in 2014-15)." -- AFC senior personnel executive
"He has all of the tools. I like his arm talent, arm strength, and athleticism. He is the prototypical quarterback that you draw up. ... I just worry about the one-year wonder deal and the fact that he couldn't beat out Marquise Williams for two years. I don't care what anyone says. If he was (that good), he should've been able to win the starting job. There's something wrong with that!" -- AFC scout
"I like Trubisky's skills. He can make all of the throws and move around. I'm a little worried about his lack of experience, though. He hasn't played in enough games to really know what he will become as a pro." -- AFC college scouting director
"He definitely has skills. He can make all of the throws and do everything that coaches want to see. Plus, he is athletic enough to make things happen on the move. ... My main concern is the inexperience and his leadership skills. I don't know if he has the 'it' factor. I've never really seen him display any emotion or rally his guys when I've been at games." -- AFC scout
What I'm seeing
Trubisky is a big, athletic passer with all of the tools that scouts covet in a QB1. He's one of the few field generals in the 2017 class who's capable of picking a defense apart with a surgeon's precision from the pocket while also displaying enough athleticism to execute designed quarterback runs or zone-read concepts. Trubisky's underrated skills as a dual-threat playmaker could serve him well at the next level, where coaches place a premium on talented passers with enough mobility to buy time within the pocket or make plays on the move on bootlegs or sprint outs.
As a passer, Trubisky is like a MLB pitcher with a vast repertoire of pitches. He can make every throw in the book with zip, velocity or touch while consistently delivering the ball within the strike zone. Trubisky's unique ability to use different speeds and trajectories on his throws allows him to throw with excellent anticipation and timing, particularly on out-breaking routes like comebacks, post-corners and bench routes (10-yard outs from slot WR) outside the numbers. He has an outstanding feel for delivering the ball to a spot well before his receiver makes his break at the top of his route. With NFL coaches known to covet quarterbacks with pinpoint accuracy and exceptional anticipation skills, Trubisky's spectacular talents as a passer put him near the top of the charts.
From a critical standpoint, Trubisky's limited experience is a major concern. The Tar Heels' QB1 finished his career with only 13 starts in four seasons (three seasons plus a redshirt year), which is well below the standard most teams prefer in franchise quarterback prospects (Bill Parcells' rule states that quarterbacks should be college graduates with at least 30 career starts, 23 wins, and a completion rate of 60-plus percent). Without enough game reps, Trubisky isn't prepared to deal with complex reads or exotic pre-snap disguises. This showed up late in the season when he tossed a few interceptions after being fooled by the defense following the snap (see INTs against Stanford in the Sun Bowl).
Trubisky's quiet demeanor will lead to some questions about his leadership skills, but scouts will also take issue with his inability to unseat Marquise Williams as the Tar Heels' QB1 in 2014 and 2015 despite possessing superior arm talent and passing skills. Sure, Williams was a terrific college quarterback, but a field general who's considered a "lock" as a first-round selection should've been able to beat out a guy who kicked around the league as an undrafted free agent.
Overall, Trubisky is an outstanding quarterback prospect with all of the skills needed to blossom into a high-level starter at the next level. He is a superb timing and anticipation thrower with the potential to carve up defenses with pinpoint throws to every area of the field. In addition, he has flashed enough athleticism and running skills to function in a movement-based offense that puts the quarterback on the move on bootlegs, sprint outs and designed quarterback runs. With the North Carolina star also displaying confidence and poise in clutch situations (game-winning drives against Florida State and Pittsburgh), there's a lot to like about Trubisky's potential despite his inexperience.
The comparison to the Chiefs' QB1 will elicit eye rolls in some circles, but Trubisky's athleticism and efficient game reminds me of the 12th-year pro. Although the North Carolina standout has a little more pop in his passes, he strikes me as a quick-rhythm thrower adept at working the ball between the numbers on a variety of timing and anticipation throws.
Smith has made a living working the seams in the Chiefs' version of the West Coast offense, yet he has also used his legs to add a dimension to the offense on quarterback-designed runs and option plays. With Trubisky possessing similar skills, it's easy to envision a team using a similar blueprint to help the young passer make an immediate impact as a possible first-year starter.
Where he should be picked
Teams are certainly smitten with Trubisky's talents as a passer. He has been called the best pure passer in the 2017 class by some evaluators despite his inexperience at the position. With several teams in desperate need of a QB1, the North Carolina star could skyrocket up the charts with teams valuing potential over experience at the position. It's possible that Trubisky could hear his name called as early as No. 2 overall or as late as the top of the second round. As a virtual lock to come off the board as a first-round selection, I believe teams like the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs could have legitimate interest in his services. While I still worry about his inexperience leading to a rough start to his career, Trubisky definitely has the tools to blossom into a solid starting quarterback at the next level.