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Know Your Chiefs Draft Crush: Mitch Trubisky

I’ve never been this sure the Chiefs are going to select a quarterback early since John Dorsey and Andy Reid came to town. That probably means they won’t draft anyone and will actually release all the quarterbacks they currently have, but oh well.

There are four quarterbacks you hear referenced as the best of the 2017 draft (which isn’t considered a great QB draft): Mahomes, Watson, Trubisky, and Kizer. Some guy named Davis Webb is starting to get some press (and the Chiefs have met with him), but those are “the guys” as of right now.

I’ve already reviewed Patrick Mahomes pretty extensively (please look here for that because clicks feed my family) and walked away more than happy at the idea of the Chiefs grabbing him with their first round pick (or even by trading up, I was that impressed). Next on the list? Mitch Trubisky.

If you’re interested in the grading system and stats I’m tracking here, the Mahomes article explains that in depth. For now, just know I watched six games of Trubisky on Draft Breakdown (which has limitations as it’s not all-22 film) and tracked accurate throws, inaccurate throws, multiple read snaps, bad decisions, and franchise QB throws. Some of this is subjective (as in, a lot of it) and there’s a lot of info we don’t have, but we do the best we can.

As I’ve said before, what I value the most in a QB are accuracy, pocket presence, and progressions. If you’ve got a guy who can throw the ball accurately, moves well in the pocket to buy time, and can quickly move through progressions when his first read isn’t open, he should be OK. Yes, there are other VERY important traits (like being able to read a defense pre-snap and pick the correct first read, arm strength, etc.), but those are my main traits. And so, that’s what I gauge the most when watching college quarterbacks. Incidentally, those are three areas most college quarterbacks struggle.

Let’s talk about Trubisky’s numbers, then his film.

So there’s a few things to note there. The first is that, over the course of six games, Trubisky only made eight bad decisions (by that I mean being baited into throwing to a covered receiver, chucking it up blindly, etc). He’s a guy who generally speaking avoided mistakes very, very well. That’s a big plus for a quarterback, especially a college quarterback, though Chiefs fans are perhaps a tad sick of hearing about that as a talent.

It’s worth noting that Patrick Mahomes, in just four games, made 14 decisions I’d call bad decisions. You’re talking a difference of barely more than one bad decision per game against more than three bad decisions per game. In the NFL, with defenses less likely to drop bad throws and more likely to break on mental errors and take them back the other way, that’s a big deal.

On the flip side of things, Trubisky only made 17 throws I’d call franchise QB throws over that same time span. That’s a little under three per game (so less than what Alex Smith often has, though not too much less). On the flip side of that, Mahomes had nearly eight per game (a ridiculously high number). Trubisky just didn’t make a lot of wow throws.

One area I wish Trubisky had shown out just a bit more was inaccurate throws. While his overall number (a little over six per game) isn’t terribly high, the ratio of accurate throws vs inaccurate throws (3.58 accurate throws for every inaccurate one) isn’t that great for a quarterback whose hallmark is supposed to be accuracy. In comparison, Mahomes, a player some people view as undraftable because of his mechanics (which, in theory, will lead to a lack of accuracy), had a 3.98 accurate throws for every inaccurate throw. If you’re not making wow throws, you need to be more accurate consistently.

If it seems like I’m starting off more down on Trubisky than I was on Mahomes, well, I am. But let’s talk about what he does well.

Like I said, Trubisky doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s a guy you can trust (generally) to not hurt your team and often seemed to make the correct decision as to where the ball needed to go on the first read. There’s a lot of value in those two traits.

Additionally, Trubisky demonstrates solid mechanics pretty consistently. Honestly, his bad snaps are better than Mahomes’s average snap in this area. He uses his feet appropriately, keeps a wide base, and has a pretty quick release to get the ball out before any pressure can begin to come his way. That last trait in particular is one I like, especially when a quarterback can still drive the ball with a quick flick release.

While Trubisky doesn’t have the cannon Mahomes possesses, he definitely has a decent arm and can make any throw you want from your quarterback. He also shows good “zip” on the ball on short and intermediate routes to put the ball into tight windows.

A big part of Trubisky’s ability to throw accurately and with power is, in my opinion, based on his aforementioned mechanics. When you do things the right way (whether you’re on the run or in the pocket), you’re always going to be able to drive the ball to the best of your arm’s capabilities. Trubisky looks the same, snap after snap, and that’s definitely to his credit.

Trubisky also demonstrates some good athleticism. He was asked to run fairly frequently at North Carolina, and I would put him right up there with “good running Alex” in terms of athleticism. He’s also willing to run tough, which I respect (though don’t really WANT) in a quarterback.

Now, about those bad traits. As I said earlier, one of the biggest traits I look for in a quarterback is pocket presence: the ability to move around appropriately in the face of some (or heavy) pressure. This is a skill that most college QB’s don’t have, and even many NFL quarterbacks struggle in this area. For me, I want a guy who is an upgrade over Alex Smith in this area, as it’s one of his weak spots consistently (he’s very hit and miss as with pocket presence and keeping his eyes down the field).

And that’s a problem with Trubisky. Now, to be sure, sometimes he does this.

That’s what I want out of a quarterback when there’s pressure (which is going to happen in the NFL on approximately a third of the snaps or more unless you’re quite lucky and have a great OL). Keep scanning the field, move to where the pressure isn’t (and not into more pressure, as some QB’s do), and don’t panic.

The problem is I saw this just as often (if not more) from Trubisky.

That’s the kind of thing that drives us all crazy with Alex at times. Trubisky bails in the face of what is essentially phantom pressure (the tackle wasn’t REALLY beaten yet), doesn’t move to an open space in the pocket, and instead runs to a place where he’s MORE likely to get sacked. It’s just all-around rough, and results in him eating a safety and costing his team points and possession.

The vast majority of quarterbacks are going to have snaps where they fail the pocket presence test. The problem for me with Trubisky is that from what I saw, there was more bad than good. That’s a real issue. Unlike footwork, throwing motion, and other mechanical issues, pocket presence isn’t something I’ve seen quarterbacks make large strides forward (though I’ve seen QB’s improve on it). So you end up with a quarterback who might be overly reliant on his offensive line, which in my opinion the Chiefs already possess.

Another issue I see with Trubisky is that he doesn’t control the velocity of his throws as much as I’d like. By that, I mean when Trubisky had to fit the ball into a tight window 20 yards away he FIRED the ball in... and when he had an open receiver facing him from under 10 yards away he FIRED the ball in. That’s not necessarily a good thing. It seemed like whatever the throw was, Trubisky was always (except for deep, deep bombs) trying to put it on a rope. Again, there’s nothing wrong with throwing the ball hard, but at times it messed with his placement.

One final issue that makes me hesitate on Trubisky is his habit of staring down receivers. This was pretty consistent, and more than a few times resulted in ugly plays like this one.

Imagine him playing against a ball hawk safety or corner. That issue can be worked on, but I don’t like the idea of the most ready QB in the draft coming with work to be done in such an important area. This weakness also bleeds a bit into his ability to go through progressions. He does it, for sure, but it’s often a little slow, with Trubisky getting hung up on the first read rather than firing off 1, 2, 3 to find the open receiver.

Overall, I can see why certain analysts like Trubisky. He’s got a size, a solid arm, generally very good mechanics and a quick release. He also seems to make very good decisions the majority of the time and can largely be counted on to throw the ball accurately. But his pocket presence and habit of staring down receivers really spooks me.

The problem for me when watching Trubisky is I see a lot of the same weaknesses I see in Alex Smith (worse pocket presence than Smith, better deep ball, way worse about staring down first receiver). While the hope could be that he’d be a similar but IMPROVED version, I don’t know if that’s what I saw from him. Instead, I see a guy whose ceiling might be the version of Smith we currently have, just a little better down the field (still not at all consistent) and a little worse going through reads. That’s not ideal in my mind.

I trust Andy Reid, but Trubisky isn’t a quarterback I’d take in the first round. And because of that, I wouldn’t take him in the second either.

Next will be the oft-debated Deshaun Watson, whose most common comparison ALSO happens to be Alex Smith. So that should be fun. Be gentle.