Mitch Trubisky could be the first quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft later this month. Like every college quarterback that has preceded him, he’ll begin his professional career with plenty of questions. That’s the nature of this evaluation process, one that often takes years to play itself out fully.
Given the financial investment involved, not to mention job-security implications, it’s easy to understand why coaches and front-office types are hesitant to pull the trigger on high-upside high-risk quarterback prospects. There’s something to gain, yes, but there’s much more to lose. Which brings us back to Trubisky, who was impressive in 13 starts last season at North Carolina, which also happened to be the only 13 starts of his college career.
This isn’t necessarily a red flag, but it does raise concerns. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who is in the market for a quarterback to replace Carson Palmer, perhaps after the 2017 season, is among the skeptics.
“A really talented player. The growth potential is obviously there,” Arians last week, via Cleveland.com. “The question is why wasn’t all that talent starting for the last three years? That’s always bugging me. So you have to go and answer those questions with him, with his coach, but the physical talent is there.”
Earlier this month, former NFL coach Jon Gruden said pretty much the same thing but was a tad more diplomatic in his delivery. “I’m no different than a lot of coaches that say ‘I want a three-year starter,” Gruden told Cleveland.com. “I want a minimum of 24 victories. I want two bowl wins.’ (But) I want a good quarterback. That’s what I want. I got kicked out of the league because I had a hard time sustaining at the quarterback position. Trubisky is one of the top quarterback prospects in this draft, period. I wish I had more to study but that’s the way it is.’’
Arians also wasn’t buying the comparison between Trubisky and Aaron Rodgers made by one scout to ESPN’s Todd McShay.
“That’s a hell of a scout,’’ said Arians. “I don’t know how you can compare those two. When Aaron was coming out, he was in a totally different offense. I’m old enough to know when Aaron came out because I evaluated him.
“Mitch probably has a stronger arm coming out than Aaron did. But to say anybody reminds you of somebody, to me it’s just physically, stature-wise or just arm-strength wise. I wouldn’t put that much pressure on a guy to say he’s Aaron Rodgers.”
Depending on who you ask, there are three or four quarterbacks likely to go in the first round: Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes. Arians wouldn’t name names, but he did say that only one quarterback is ready to start as a rookie.
“All the rest, there are some really talented arms that need a year of learning how to play the position especially at this level,’’ he said. “If you’re plug-and-play then this draft is very small, but if you have time to bring them along, then this draft is large because the talent level is there.’’
Arizona Sports’ 98.7 FM reported that Arians was referring Kizer. Others have pegged Kizer as needing a year or two of seasoning, and CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang ranks Kizer 37th on his big board, noting, “Kizer has the arm, size and intangibles to project as a future starter (which makes him worthy of first-round consideration) but he showed a frightening lack of technique at the combine.”
Meanwhile, in the most recent round of CBSSports.com mock drafts, four experts have the Browns taking Trubisky at No. 12, another has him going to the Texans at No. 25, and another thinks the 49ers will grab him with the second-overall pick.