NFL draft profile: No. 16 — North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky, one-year standout with strong upside

Shutdown Corner

North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
6-foot-2, 222 pounds

Key stat: In 13 starts in 2016 — the only starts of his college career — Trubisky completed 68.2 percent of his passes and threw for 3,748 yards with 30 TDs and six INTs, with an 8-5 record.

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North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky has very good potential but might not be instant coffee in the NFL. (AP)
North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky has very good potential but might not be instant coffee in the NFL. (AP)

The skinny: Mr. Football in Ohio but chose to go to UNC — despite recruiting attention from Big Ten schools and SEC schools such as Alabama and Tennessee — because of the hard recruiting of former Tar Heels offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, who is now the Arkansas State head coach. Trubisky redshirted in 2013 and backed up Marquise Williams for two years before earning the starting job in 2016. Took the job and ran with it, although he was only named third-team all-ACC at quarterback because of the presence of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson ahead of him.

After a long deliberation, Trubisky declared early for the 2017 NFL draft. At the NFL scouting combine, he stated his preference to be called “Mitchell.” Trubisky turns 23 in August.

Best-suited destination: Trubisky cut his teeth in a spread system at UNC and likely would assimilate best in the NFL to a finesse, precision offense that emphasizes the short and intermediate passing game. Although he has good potential, some NFL evaluators wonder whether he’d be ready to face live bullets against NFL defenses right away. Among the teams that could be most interested in Trubisky’s services include the Cleveland Browns (the team he grew up rooting for), San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals.

Upside: Despite one year of starting, Trubisky put up strong numbers (averaging 288 passing yards per game) and had an exceptional TD-INT ratio of 5-1. He delivered clutch, late-game victories against Florida State and Pitt in consecutive weeks and had a strong first season despite losing weapons on offense along the way. Very good athleticism — testing numbers and size compare very favorably to those of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in some cases. Can move around the pocket, escape pressure and gain first downs with his legs. Sneaky, creative runner. Keeps eyes up while scrambling and can throw on the move.

Appears to have taken to good coaching and has a nice, sculpted, quick release. Can flick it with ease and looks born to throw a football. Throws with nice touch and timing and can smell opportunities downfield when they present themselves. Has shown toughness — will stand in the face of the rush and deliver strikes outside the numbers, as Trubisky did against North Carolina State:

Mitchell Trubisky delivered a strike to the right receiver against pressure here. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Mitchell Trubisky delivered a strike to the right receiver against pressure here. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Can challenge all three levels of the field, and he was lethal on deep comeback routes. Short and intermediate accuracy is excellent. Refined in the pocket. Will work through his progression and find singled-up receivers. Clean medical history. Clear and obvious potential to improve by leaps and bounds over time.

Downside: One year starting is a big hangup for some talent evaluators. Couldn’t beat out Williams, who was a camp body with the Green Bay Packers last season and currently a free agent. Worked in offense that called for lot of passes parallel to the line of scrimmage, high-percentage screens and many predetermined reads. Spread offense used simpler terminology that will be dissimilar to many NFL systems. Operated almost exclusively from center. Has a good but not great arm and adequate but not great size.

Hasn’t been exposed to creative blitzes consistently and will need time to develop his recognition. Still learning complex coverages, both pre- and post-snap. Can make some head-scratching throws, as he did in this game-ender against Duke, which appeared to be a case of Trubisky trying to make an off-script play where he was not on the same page as his receiver:

Mitchell Trubisky makes a bad decision and a worse throw against Duke. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Mitchell Trubisky makes a bad decision and a worse throw against Duke. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Cost his team at least nine points in 25-23 Sun Bowl loss to Stanford, taking a sack to knock UNC out of field-goal range and also throwing this bad INT, which appeared to be a misread of the Cardinal defense (watch the safety creep down from two-deep into man coverage):

Mitchell Trubisky appeared fooled by the coverage on this pick-6 against Stanford. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Mitchell Trubisky appeared fooled by the coverage on this pick-6 against Stanford. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Scouting hot take: “The place I used to work, we couldn’t have drafted him until the third round. That was just the rule: one year of tape [for a quarterback], that just wasn’t happening early. Now, I’ve changed my stance on this a little bit … But take [Ohio State S Malik] Hooker — I can look at 13 games of a one-year starter at safety and project what he’s going to be a lot easier than I can a quarterback. They all said [Virginia Tech QB] Logan Thomas would be a top-five pick after his sophomore season, and now the guy is trying to make it as a tight end. I like some of what I have seen from [Trubisky], but it’s 13 games and a few of them — the opener [vs. Georgia], the Duke game, the bowl game [vs. Stanford] — just aren’t that good. Throw out the game in the monsoon [against Virginia Tech], and you’re giving me, what, five, six, seven decent games to look at? That’s still not enough for me to use a first-round pick, or at least a high one, on him. I like him, but I would not go there whatsoever.” — AFC college scouting director

Player comp: Shares some athletic and quarterbacking traits of Ryan Tannehill, with better short-to-intermediate accuracy but slightly less impressive physical traits

Expected draft range: First-round pick

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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