2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#10 Mitch Trubisky / QB / North Carolina: 6’3” 220lbs

The Good:

– Great Football IQ and understanding of defensive schemes
– Great Decision Maker
– Showed toughness in the pocket: stood tall in the face of heavy pressure when making throws
– Good anticipation
– Throws very catchable passes and is generally accurate, especially on out-breaking routes
– Decent Throwing Mechanics and fairly quick release (he sometimes lets the ball kick out too far away from his body, which increases his release time; however, this is nit-picking)
– Functional mobility when scrambling behind the line of scrimmage – not the fastest QB, but he gets the job done

The Bad:

– Sometimes struggles to feel incoming pressure
– Limited Experience: Only started one season at North Carolina
– Tends to throw behind on in-breaking routes
– Average Arm Strength; often floats the ball on deep throws
– Average athleticism
– Never took snaps from under center
– Average accuracy when throwing on the run
– Ball placement can improve (to clarify – he IS accurate in that he consistently throws catchable passes to his receivers; however, he doesn’t always put them in the best position to make a run after the catch)

Bio:

– 2016 Passing Stats: 13 Starts (8 wins, 5 losses), 67.5% completion rate, 3,748 yards (avg. 288.3), 30 TD 6 INT, (also had 5 rushing TD and 1 receiving TD)
– 2015 Passing: Did not start any games; however, he appeared in nine games, completing 40 of 47 passes (85.1 percent) for 555 yards and 6 TD 0 INT. He also rushed 16 times for 101 yards and three scores
– Awards: Davey O’Brien Award Semifinalist (2016), Maxwell Award Semifinalist (2016), Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Finalist (2016), All-ACC Academic Team (2014)
– Ranks fifth at UNC in career passing touchdowns (41), passing yards (4,762) and seventh in total offense (5,201)

Film Breakdown:

Unlike some of the other top quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft (such as Deshone Kizer or Patrick Mahomes), Mitch Trubisky does not dazzle with elite arm talent or supreme natural athleticism. Instead, he earned his high draft value by demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of opposing defenses and by exhibiting excellent decision-making ability. Although he must improve his ball placement on in-breaking routes, as well as his pocket awareness, Trubisky’s ability to identify defenses and work through full-field progressions make him, arguably, this year’s most pro-ready prospect.

Because Trubisky’s success is largely predicated on his keen understanding of defensive schemes, many of his great plays were relatively subtle. For example, in this first clip, Trubisky relies on his intellect to outmaneuver Virginia and pickup 17 quick yards. Specifically, North Carolina is running an RPO (Run-Pass Option) against a (pre-snap) Cover 2-Man alignment. The defense has the numbers to the field-side (making the bubble screen option unattractive), while the corner to the boundary-side is in press coverage and has inside-leverage (making the slant-route unattractive). Despite these pre-snap reads, which should indicate that the run-option is the better call, Trubisky demonstrates his situational awareness and doesn’t fall for the defense’s bluff. Instead, he understands that there is a heightened threat of boundary-side corner-blitzes when the ball is on the hash, and reacts to this threat by keeping his eyes on the corner during his play-action fake. When the corner does in fact bring pressure, Trubisky is ready. He calmly sets his feet and throws the hot-route to the vacated area. Textbook play:

Next, Trubisky again showcases his understanding of defensive schemes by recognizing, and taking advantage of, Florida State’s coverage disguise. North Carolina was trailing 34-35 with nine-seconds remaining, but Trubisky nevertheless sets up a game-winning field goal with a great read and throw. (Note – the broadcast angle didn’t capture the full play, so screenshots from the wide-angle are used below):

Pre-Snap: Florida State is seemingly playing Cover 2-Man pre-snap. Although the free safety is deep and is keeping his eyes outside, the strong safety hints at a possible coverage roll by slowly creeping towards the middle of the field as Trubisky yells his cadence:

First-Step of the Drop back: As soon as Trubisky catches the snap, he gets his eyes to the strong safety to confirm the coverage. The SS has realigned and dropped deep in the middle of the field, signaling that Florida State is now playing Cover 1. In response, Trubisky shifts his vision and locates the free safety, who now has his eyes across the field on the inner-most trips receiver, indicating “robber” coverage:

Top of the Drop back: At this point Trubisky has all the information he needs to make a play. He quickly processes the defense and identifies its weak point. The free safety has planted his foot and is driving on the inside trips receiver; while the strong safety is still in his backpedal and is gaining depth. Moreover, because Florida State is in Cover 1-Robber, Trubisky knows that the back-side post route is a great option, since his receiver only has to beat a one-on-one match-up and has tons of field to work with inside:

The Throw: Trubisky hangs in the pocket and makes a safe and accurate pass to the open part of the field. The Florida State defender got beat inside on the Post-route and was forced to commit pass interference in order to prevent the catch. Regardless, Trubisky’s quick thinking and great throw is what ultimately caused the penalty and allowed North Carolina to secure the victory:

The next clip illustrates Trubisky’s ability to calmly survey the entire field and work through a full progression. He does a good job of moving his feet synchronously with his eyes/head, which allows him to stay balanced throughout the play:

Here is an example of Trubisky’s toughness in the pocket and ability to throw an accurate pass under pressure. This is an NFL-caliber throw that he will certainly be asked to make at the next level:

On the negative side, Trubisky tended to react very slowly to pressure within the pocket, almost as if he was too calm and too relaxed while surveying the field. He actually has good pocket mobility and can evade the rush when he sees it coming; however, his main problem is that his overall awareness in feeling the pressure can be poor at times. For example, in this clip against Duke, although he has time to throw and although the rusher slowly advances directly in front of him, Trubisky fails to sidestep or react in any meaningful way. Consequently, he is hit as he throws, leading to a game-ending an interception:

In this final clip against Virginia Tech, Trubisky again fails to have a good sense of incoming pressure and nearly costs his team a safety. He has to either be smarter and throw the ball away, or he has to develop better awareness of the rush. Given that he had a terrible offensive line which can account for some of his struggles, he still too often took sacks that should have (and could have) been avoided. This play is just one example:

Overall, Mitch Trubisky was a very good college quarterback who has a big head start in the mental aspect of the game compared to some of his NFL Draft classmates. His playing style reminded me of former New York Jets and Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington. Like Pennington, Trubisky is a pocket-passer with relatively average arm strength and who tends to float the ball on deep passes. However, he also is courageous in the pocket, shows consistent accuracy, and has a great understanding of defensive schemes.  As a result, if Trubisky can continue to expand on his football knowledge and develop a little bit more pocket awareness, he too can have a very productive NFL career.

Projection: Day 1

Games Watched: vs Pittsburgh, at Florida State, vs Virginia Tech, at Miami, at Virginia, at Duke, vs NC State, vs Georgia

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-Tawo

About the Author

Sean McKaveney

Sean McKaveney is currently a student at the UCLA School of Law and was formerly the starting Quarterback and Team Captain for Claremont McKenna College, a Top 10 Liberal Arts school in Los Angeles. Although he grew up in Southern California, Sean was raised as a diehard Steelers fan by his father, a Pittsburgh native. The Steelers are undefeated in games that Sean has attended.

  • Cwallace

    I’m an FSU fan and watched this kid get it done against them. Ain’t scared of pressure and looked NFL ready when I saw him. 1st round. ..nah. please pass.

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    While I like the idea of drafting early for Ben’s replacement, I’m not sure I’d want the Steelers to go for someone who can best be compared to Chad Pennington. No thanks. I’ll pass on finding Ben’s replacement until next year.

  • PaeperCup

    Colin Sowherd ripped into Trubisky, citing his inability to beat out last years starter and his 8-5 record as a starter. But this is a pretty fair assessment of his abilities. Where record might be more indicative of team performance, you can’t argue that 67.5% completion rate. His 2015 numbers are astonishing. Part of the system? perhaps, but seems like he’s got some great tools.

    Still a weak QB draft though.

  • NinjaMountie

    I like this guy better than the crop, but you are correct, it’s a weak class.

  • Spencer Krick

    This QB class is wacky.

  • jconeoone C

    Mike Mayock said that many scouts have fear that he is actually 6’1” ……whether that’s a big deal is debatable, just thought i’d share

  • steelburg

    I 100 percent agree. I’m a FSU fan also and I saw him beat up on them. But that is a easy read offense they ran. It didn’t look like he did a whole lot of reading the field. It looked more like a Chip Kelley offense. Teams are normally weary about a player coming from that system but Mariota has opened the door up for some guys. People are forgetting that Mariota played in a ton of games and didn’t sit behind a guy like Marquise Williams who isn’t even good enough to be on an NFL teams practice squad right now. Like you said I will pass.

  • Applebite

    I wouldn’t mind Mitch being a pick, but he’s not a 1st rd pick. Just barely a 2nd rd guy to me. These schools need to do better with developing QBs. They’ve gotten too lazy for their own good. That’s how Brady lasted til the 6th rd. I been checking out the QB from V-Tech. Jerod Evans. He looks like a better bet to me to develop into a good starter.

  • Steve

    Nice write up Sean. Mitch looks like another Landry Jones to me and why waste a pick on someone who will never be a starter, just a backup QB. If mitch is picked by a team before the 3rd round, they must be hard up for a QB.