Some people believe North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky could be selected as high as second overall to the San Francisco 49ers, although there’s a lot of time before the draft for the 49ers to evaluate quarterbacks or make another move at the position.
Here’s what the 49ers (or any other team that looks at Trubisky in the draft) will have to evaluate: Trubisky will have a big learning curve, because 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a very technical and precise offense that starts with the quarterback under center. Right now, Trubisky wouldn’t be ready to run a precise NFL offense from the pocket. What I see on film from Trubisky is a quarterback who could make plays outside of the structure of the offense both throwing and running, but with limited efficiency within the pocket right away. The question will be whether he can develop as a pocket quarterback within the structure of the passing game. That can be tough to evaluate. And it will be a challenging transition in an offense that requires precision.
I don’t see Trubisky as a high-level NFL prospect, but I think he could become a quality starting quarterback in the right system. Here’s what I see as his strengths and weaknesses:
There are a lot of positives for Trubisky. I think right now he’s more refined and polished as a pocket quarterback than Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (who I broke down here). One thing that stands out about Trubisky is his mobility and movement within the pocket. His ability to make plays outside the pocket running and throwing is a plus. He has very good overall athleticism. He has good awareness on the move, as well.
Trubisky throws with good velocity inside the numbers (like Jimmy Garoppolo) and plus accuracy. He also made some outstanding throws to the outside void against zone coverage. This is a good example of that, a 27-yard pass to Bug Howard against Miami. Trubisky squeezes it in between the safety and cornerback in the void of the zone coverage. That’s the type of throw he’ll have to make in the NFL.
This is an impressive play from Trubisky. On third-and-7 against N.C. State, Trubisky read man coverage, stood in against the rush and beat an unblocked blitzer with the timing of his throw. He threw an accurate pass with good touch as he got drilled delivering the ball. It was completed for 28 yards, and that’s a big-time play.
There’s a physical and mental toughness to Trubisky’s game. I like that he showed good field vision both in the pocket and while moving and re-setting. He showed a willingness to make stick throws into tight windows, and had a sense of progression reading within the context of North Carolina’s passing game. He can also give you some read option and quarterback run game dimensions in certain down-and-distance situations, and in the red zone.
We’ve seen some good throws from Trubisky, and here’s one that I did not like to see. It’s a 39-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins against Pittsburgh, but if you watch it on film it’s not the right throw. He threw it with too much arc and air under it, the result of opening his hips and getting no weight transfer to his front foot. The ball lost energy on the back end and Hollins had to wait for it. He could get away with this in college, but it is not an NFL throw. This would be knocked down or picked off by an NFL secondary.
I see some issues with Trubisky’s mechanics. He throws with a locked front leg sometimes, and is a bit of a pusher with a low-angle delivery. He has a tendency to coil and lower his body on his delivery, which dropped his release point. He would unnecessarily change his arm slot, which impacted velocity and accuracy. He did not consistently throw with core torque and weight transfer, as we saw above, which made him much more of an arm thrower. That leads to questions about his ability to drive the ball with velocity. You could see his deeper throws had a tendency to lose energy. He had to work too hard to throw the ball down the field at times. He also needs a lot of work with his footwork and balance in the pocket, as he had a tendency to drift and fall away on many throws. There are things mechanically that will have to be cleaned up.
TRANSITION TO NFL
What has to be mentioned with Trubisky is he was just a one-year starter in college. In North Carolina’s bowl game against Stanford he threw two interceptions that you have to chalk up to inexperience. On this fourth-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown, Trubisky doesn’t read the defense well enough.
You have to expect some learning curve for a player who didn’t play much in college, and you’ll have to live with some mistakes like these. Trubisky will need the right infrastructure to develop into a quality starter. The team that drafts Trubisky will also have to address the flaws in his mechanics that I described above. Can that be fixed with coaching? Some would say in the crucible of the NFL pocket those flaws and inconsistencies will break you down and prevent you from being a consistent quarterback.
Trubisky will make some plays early in his career. Then the next step will be getting him to develop as a pocket quarterback within an offensive structure. No matter if he goes No. 2 to the 49ers or to some other team in the first round, there will be some work to do.
Previous Greg Cosell draft previews
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.