Entering the 2016 season, North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky had zero career starts under his belt, and only 125 pass attempts. However, eight games through his third season in Chapel Hill, the redshirt junior is one of the most talked about collegiate quarterbacks (aside from Lamar Jackson) this season, and increasingly is looking more and more like a potential first round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
Trubisky was a highly regarded high school athlete out of Ohio who for his career threw for over 9,000 passing yards.
In his first two seasons at North Carolina he was primarily a backup who saw limited action. He entered 2016 as the starter and has led the Tar Heels to a 6-2 mark so far throwing for over 2,300 yards, 18 touchdowns, completing 71% of his passes, with just two interceptions.
He has led North Carolina to two last minute victories over Florida State and Pittsburgh this season. In the win over Pitt, the Tar Heels overcame a 13 point fourth quarter deficit, and on the game’s final drive Trubisky converted on 4th and six - or more - three separate times for first downs.
Trubisky is an athletic quarterback who possesses the size and mobility to hurt a defense in the pocket or outside it. His ability to scramble or move around once a play breaks down makes him a dual-threat as he has scored seven rushing touchdowns, so far, over the last two seasons. He also possesses a strong arm and can make NFL type throws.
Trubisky stands tall and balanced in the pocket bouncing on his toes, and is able to get rid of the ball quickly with a tight throwing motion. He has displayed good accuracy both from the pocket as well as on rollouts, placing the ball on his receivers and allowing them to pick up additional yardage after making the catch. Trubisky has also demonstrated the accuracy and touch on deeper throws and is able to “drop it into the bucket” on go and post routes.
While Trubisky presents a number of exciting traits there is also plenty that will concern NFL scouts about the young signal caller.
First off, he plays in a hybrid spread system, utilized by Carolina’s head coach Larry Fedora, where he’s predominately in the shotgun (as opposed to taking snaps under center) with predetermined reads and is rarely ever asked to go through a progression. The change is offensive systems along with the fact that Trubisky only has eight (possibly 13 by the end of the season) career starts under his belt would lead you to believe that there will be a major adjustment period for him as a rookie.
Secondly, with such limited playing experience, Trubisky has a number of bad habits that need to be coached out of him. Trubisky pocket presence and awareness as to where the pressure is coming from is below average. He takes a number of unnecessary big hits as he is late to see the rusher coming and doesn’t pick him up in time. Over the course of his career, those hits will add up and eventually take their toll. Scouts will also like to see Trubisky do a better job of extending plays within the pocket by sliding or shuffling his feet to avoiding pass rushers and allow time for those downfield routes to develop.
Fundamentally, Trubisky relies heavily on the strength of his arm and has gotten away with not following through in his motion, throwing a number of balls off his back foot or not stepping into his throws and throwing a number of passes flat-footed. With the windows in the NFL being much smaller, sloppy mechanics will most likely wind up getting Trubisky in trouble more often than not.
With that being said, Trubisky has undoubtedly played himself into first round consideration.
If he maintains his play, and his health (assuming he forgoes his final season of eligibility) he has the size, arm-strength, and mobility that teams are looking to have at their quarterback position.
With only a handful of NFL teams set at quarterback, and this being a quarterback driven league, not only will Trubisky get drafted in the first round, but he has a chance of being selected much higher than many would have imagined before the season started.