By Greg Gabriel–
Editor’s note: You can read Gabriel’s other scouting reports on highly regarded NFL Draft prospects by clicking here.
(CBS) One of the more interesting players in this year’s NFL Draft is North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky — not because he may lack talent but because he lacks experience.
Going back years when scouts and coaches evaluated quarterbacks, one of the first comments they would look at is the number of games the player started and how many passes has he thrown. Looking at those two areas, the magic numbers were 25 games started and 900 passes thrown.
In today’s pass-happy spread offenses that we see in college football, getting to the 900 passes thrown number is rather easy. Usually, so is the 25 games started. In the case of Trubisky, he hasn’t reach either of those minimum standards in his career, with only 13 starts and 571 pass attempts.
There have been a few cases of quarterbacks with such little experience having success in the NFL, the notable latest one being Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who originally started out at Florida, transferred to a junior college and then transferred to Auburn, the last two stops of which he started at for a year each. Trubisky has more major college experience than Newton but not as many starts.
Trubisky is a fourth-year junior who entered the draft as an underclassman. He redshirted his freshman year, was the primary backup in 2014 and 2015 and became the starter in 2016. In 2014, he was 42-of-78 for 459 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. In 2015, he was 40-of-47 for 555 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. In 2016, he competed 304 of 446 throws for 3,478 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions.
The 22-year-old Trubisky has completed 68 percent of his career throwns, which is an excellent mark. As a runner, he rushed for 308 yards on 93 attempts in 2016.
Physically, Trubisky is just what NFL scouts are looking for. He will measure about 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and will most likely run around 4.70 in the 40. He’s really athletic with quick feet, strength, power and body control. He has a quick overhand release with a very strong arm. Trubisky can easily make all the NFL-type throws.
At North Carolina, Trubisky played in a in a fairly easy spread offense with a lot of half-field reads. He wasn’t asked to do much at the line of scrimmage. For the most part, he’s a good decision-maker, throws with accuracy and has good-to-very good ball placement skills. Trubisky knows how to protect the ball, as his six interceptions in 446 passes in 2016 indicate. On the down side, as well as he played, he lost three of his last four games and looked ordinary in his final college appearance against Stanford in the Sun Bowl. He threw two of his six interceptions in that game.
No one is going to question Trubisky’s physical skills to play in the NFL. He easily has those. It’s going to be all about his experience. Because of that, the next two months will be important for him.
How Trubisky does in interviews and classroom sessions with coaches will have a lot to do with how high he gets drafted. There’s no question that he’s an intelligent person (he was academic all-ACC) and a strong leader. It will be his understanding of NFL offensive concepts and how quickly the coaches feel they can get him on the field that makes the difference.
If NFL coaches feel Trubisky will be a project and another year before they feel he’s ready to start, then he might not get drafted in the top half of the first round like many believe. On the other hand, if he excels during the interview process and follow-up private workouts, then he could go very high.
Put another way, Trubisky remains a wild card at this time. That could change in the next six to eight weeks.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.