2017 NFL draft prospect countdown, No. 36: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
What you need to know: One spot in front of Taco Charlton on our countdown lands a QB nicknamed “Mr. Biscuit”. At least, that's what North Carolina says is Trubisky’s nickname. He can call himself whatever he wants if he proves to be a franchise quarterback. Trubisky saw action in a combined 10 games during the 2014 and ’15 seasons, but he did not make his first start until Sept. 3 of last year, as a redshirt junior. After a sluggish opener against Georgia, he ripped off 13 TDs and zero INTs over his next four games, a run capped off by a win at Florida State. For the 2016 season Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was named third-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches and was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Strengths: What stands out about Trubisky, above all else, is his feel for the pocket. He manipulates the pocket with controlled footwork, sliding left or right to find a throwing lane. Defenses have to account for his scrambling ability, but he is patient looking for a pass against pressure. He was sacked 20 times during the 2016 season—a number that would have been much higher had Trubisky not dodged so much trouble.
The athleticism is a plus, too. North Carolina drew up designed runs (or read options) for him, and he doesn’t dawdle when he does decide to scramble. He picks up what he can moving north-south.
“Most people think I’ll just sit in the pocket the whole time, but I can create some plays with my feet,” Trubisky said at the combine. “I’m obviously a throw-first guy, but I think that’s one of my assets that teams really like and when you watch the film you’ll be able to see that.”
Trubisky ranked sixth in the nation last season with a 68% completion percentage. While he can thank the Tar Heels’ spread offense for the high success rate, it was a timing-based attack that required Trubisky to be on his marks. He’s quick getting the ball out and can squeeze passes into tight windows.
There’s a lot to work with here.
Weaknesses: The lack of experience is the easiest target. Trubisky started 13 games and attempted 446 passes last season, but he was a backup prior to that—he had 78 and 47 pass attempts in 2014 and ’15, respectively. NFL.com also had him taking 98% of his snaps from shotgun, so even though he displayed excellent movement in the pocket he faces a challenge if his next team wants him under center.
Also on the to-do list: establishing more consistency in his mechanics. There are a handful of instances per game where Trubisky missed high because he stayed planted on his back foot, rather than stepping into the pass. He doesn’t need to be in perfect position on all of his throws—he’s dangerous winging it on the move, for instance—but he also can’t continue to fly open. His high completion percentage is better than that come-and-go delivery might hint.
There will be decision-making issues that can only be fixed by playing. In North Carolina’s bowl game, Stanford picked Trubisky off twice, both on bad reads. He’s going to need time to develop into an NFL starter, mentally more so than physically.
NFL player comparison: Ryan Tannehill