Gabriel: Patience Vital For Bears In Developing Talented Mitchell Trubisky

By Greg Gabriel–

(CBS) The Bears surprised the football world Thursday evening by trading up from No. 3 to No. 2 to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the first round of the NFL Draft. To move up just one slot, the Bears gave up a third-rounder and fourth-rounder this year and a 2018 third-rounder.

Based on the reaction of fans on social media and callers on the draft postgame show, it seems a fair number are upset with the move.

Using the NFL trade chart, the Bears paid a fair price. It was in line with what you’d expect. It cost 400 points to jump from No. 3 to No. 2. The Bears’ outgoing third-rounder (255 points) and fourth-rounder (100) in this draft added up to 355 points. It’s then important to note that a pick in the following year doesn’t carry the same value as one in the current year. It’s discounted because you don’t get an immediate return and there’s not yet certainty where it will fall in the round. A 2018 mid-third-rounder has a value of about 70 points, meaning the Bears paid around 425 points to make the trade.

As for feelings about Trubisky, I believe some fans are upset because the Bears were never tied to him leading up to the draft. The quarterback that was associated with the Bears was Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Trubisky was more often tied to the Browns, with some chatter as late as Thursday afternoon indicating Cleveland could take Trubisky at No. 1 overall.

During the pro day season, it was thought that the Bears had no private meetings or workout with Mitchell. It was generally known that the Bears showed interest in Watson, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer, who brought in twice to Halas Hall for private workouts. Over the last two weeks, I made contact with several people trying to find out if the Bears had any contact with Trubisky. I couldn’t find one person who knew the answer. It’s tough to keep anything quiet in the NFL, but the Bears did an outstanding job keeping their interest in Trubisky unknown

The Bears did have a private workout and dinner with Trubisky at North Carolina, general manager Ryan Pace said late Thursday night. So they did their due diligence.

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Trubisky was the least experienced of the top quarterback prospects in this class. He only started 13 games while at North Carolina, becoming the starter in 2016 after receiving limited playing time as a backup in 2014 and 2015. Not many quarterbacks with Trubisky’s lack of experience have succeeded in the NFL. The one with a somewhat similar background is Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who only started one year while at Auburn.

Trubisky had an excellent 2016, throwing for 30 touchdowns against six interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes.  Those numbers match up well when compared to the other quarterbacks in this class.

Trubisky also has the needed physical traits. He’s 6-foot-2, 222 pounds and ran a 4.67-second 40-yard dash, and he’s built with speed and overall athleticism. His arm strength is excellent, and he throws a tight ball. In windy conditions like those in Chicago, the ability to throw a tight ball is important.

What jumps out on tape about Trubisky is his ability to keep plays alive with his feet and avoid pass rushers. He can buy time for his receivers to get open or pick up yardage when he runs. He’s accurate with good ball placement and has shown that he can make all the required NFL throws.

That being said, Trubisky isn’t ready to step in and be a starter in 2017 — as is the case for most rookie quarterbacks, who need to learn and adjust to the NFL game.

Trubisky played in a mostly half-field read spread offense at North Carolina. He will be playing from under center with the Bears in a sophisticated full-field offense. It takes time to make the adjustment. The former first-round quarterbacks who have failed in the NFL have done so because they were forced to play before they were ready.

Intangibles often play a large part in whether a quarterback is successful. There’s no doubting Trubisky’s character, leadership, intelligence and work ethic to play the position. He strives to be a top quarterback. That “want to” is half the battle. Going forward, he has to take all the necessary time to fully make the adjustment to the NFL.

General manager Ryan Pace made clear late Thursday that Trubisky won’t start in 2017. The plan is to bring him along slowly, and that’s the ideal plan. The Bears would be wise to stick to it. Following the 2014 draft, the Jaguars claimed they would utilize such an approach with quarterback Blake Bortles. After a poor start, the plan changed and Bortles became their starting quarterback. He wasn’t ready, and it showed in his play. Bortles picked up bad habits that have never gone away.

If Trubisky is to be successful with in Chicago, the coaching staff and front office need to stick to the plan and not play him until he’s ready. Trubisky has excellent upside, but he needs time to develop.

Pace — who is betting his career on this move — knows that.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.

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