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2017 NFL Draft: Mitchell Trubisky Scouting Report

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Matt Weston starts watching and reviewing the 2017 NFL Draft’s top quarterback prospects.

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

In 2013, the Texans probably should have begun their post Matt Schaub succession plan. In 2014, the Texans needed a quarterback. In 2015, the Texans needed a quarterback. In 2016, the Texans needed a quarterback. And now, in 2017, the Texans still need a quarterback.

The idea is they are going to find one. They sold a 2018 second round pick to Cleveland to get rid of Brock Osweiler’s cap hit. Since then, they have sat on their hands with $30 million in cap space, presumably so they could get their man once the market cleared up. Tony Romo? Kirk Cousins? Jay CUTLA? Who knows? The idea is if Houston fills that hole in their heart, they’ll finally climb over 9-7 and became a title contender.

Even if these dreams come true and Romo hops on a plane, watches an episode of Lost, and ends up in Houston, the Texans should draft a quarterback in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. If terrible, terrible, nightmares arise and the slow brained Tom Savage starts this season, Houston should draft a quarterback in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. If Jay CUTLA brings his Pall Malls to the carcinogenic corner, Houston should draft a quarterback in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Texans should draft a quarterback early on in this year’s draft to bring young talent to the quarterback position, no matter who is penciled at QB1 come August.

The best part is that this is a perfect draft for the Texans to snag a quarterback. The top of the draft is “loaded” with talent at defensive line, running back, linebacker, safety, cornerback, and tight end. Quarterbacks are going to fall. They are going to be available later on. It’s an opportune time to snag one in the first, trade back up in the second, or wait until Pick #57 to find their potential quarterback of this season/the future.

Most likely, this won’t happen. This will definitely end very badly. Houston will do none of these things. They will draft none of these guys. They will roll out Tom Savage and run back another version of the same season we have seen for the last three years. I’ll have fallen in love for nothing to materialize.

But I won’t be defeatist. I’m going to put myself out there and watch the top five “expert” pegged quarterbacks. I’m going to find me a man. Mitchell Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, Pat Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Davis Webb, and maybe a few others depending on the calendar. Over this upcoming batch of time, I’ll bust out the GIFs and let you rummage around the wrinkles of my brain.

When I first started watching Mitch Trubisky, I didn’t like him. I thought he was everything I disliked about quarterback scouting. He has a big arm. He’s strong. He moved around the pocket. He’s straight-line fast. I thought he played quarterback well at the college level while missing the subtleties of the position like anticipation, pocket presence, awareness, quick decision making, touch, and footwork.

Like most first impressions, this notion of Trubisky was shelved as I watched more of him. Yes, at times nuances were lost and led to ill-advised sacks and wide open incompletions. But it happened less often. His his arm strength, strength in the pocket, speed, and accuracy on intermediate and sideline throws were so great that it made up for the occasional mistakes and errors that plagued Trubisky throughout the season.

From the first game I watched, his two biggest problems were his feet and slow reaction time. He completed 68% of his passes last season. The staples of North Carolina’s offense were screens and that same old fake hand-off and throw the post that’s open every single time in college football. The Tarheels’ offense simplified throws for him that inflated his completion percentage. The reason for Trubisky’s inaccuracy isn’t because of his arm. It’s because of his feet. When Trubisky drops back, sets his feet, and throws at the end of his drop back with anticipation and perfect delivery, he puts the ball in the perfect spot. He’ll split defenders, make some beautiful sideline throws, and occasionally hit passes down field.

Here, against Miami in the red zone, Trubisky is in the shotgun as always. His slot receiver is matched up against the outside linebacker in zone coverage. Trubisky reads the field from right to left and sees his receiver wide open on a slick post route. The linebacker is chasing. The throw comes low and right over the linebacker’s inside shoulder. It gets there quickly enough and falls in the perfect spot for his receiver to plop both feet down for the score.

Pay special attention to Trubisky’s feet. He takes a step back. Bounces in the pocket. Sets his feet. Points his front foot at the receiver and delivers a square and compact throw. It’s all so very nice.

Or how about this play action pass, where he places the pass right over the cornerback and into the pocket for the score?

His feet are the key here again. He sees a little bit of exterior pressure, but rather than overreact or scamper to the outside, he climbs it gradually and drops a bomb.

When Trubisky’s feet are good, he’s good. When he’s composed in the pocket, pointing his foot at his target, and throwing forward, the ball is nearly always on the receiver in the perfect spot. When Trubisky’s feet are bad, he’s bad. When he overreacts to exterior pressure, throws before his feet are set, or is Git-R-Done sloppy, he’ll miss wide open throws that he would otherwise make.

In this instance, Trubisky misses a possible touchdown by overthrowing his receiver. In the pocket, he makes one false step forward and overextends himself. Then he brings his foot back and looks to the other side of the field. From there, he takes another false step. When he makes his throw, there is no stepping into it. He’s spread out. He’s already extended. Trubisky throws the ball forty yards without any real lower body strength. Off one foot, he has his receiver reaching for something more unattainable than true happiness while the cornerback chases.

This miss against NC State on 3rd and 20 has Trubisky again taking a false step, leading to him missing long.

Or how about this miss, where the blitz gets him on his back foot? He again overthrows the pass and fails to give his bigger receiver a shot to make a play on the ball.

Too often, positive plays are incomplete because of Trubisky’s footwork problems. But when his feet are perfect, he does some great things. His arm is spectacular. The ball spins across the field, the air ripped apart by the ball, my heart palpitating, and the Earth quaking.

This deep fade route down the right sideline was the best deep throw I saw Trubisky make. Although he had issues with deep passes because of a lack of anticipation and putting too much air under the ball, he absolutely nails this one. He holds the safety with his eyes, ensuring one-on-one coverage for his receiver. His throwing motion is perfect. This 50 yard throw plops right over the cornerback and squeezes in between the defender and the sideline.

Against Miami’s Cover Two, he rockets a pass past the linebacker and completes it before the safety can deliver his raucous hit.

He completes this dig route against Georgia even with a linebacker on his receiver’s back, mocking drapes in every Good House Keeping certified window in America.

This throw against Stanford does the same. Trubisky splits the linebacker and safety with a throw that lands in between both of them. As the ball bursts across the field, it leaves defenders seeping crimson from their ears.

These throws are why Trubisky may be the first quarterback taken in the upcoming draft. This kind of arm strength isn’t taught or molded by doing lat pulls and curls. This ball placement and accuracy isn’t created by playing 7-on-7 football. It’s an innate thing.

This is why Trubisky had the success he had in college. He was able to get away with things because of his arm. He had an enormous margin of error. Trubisky was able to still complete passes even when seeing things late because of his great arm.

This lack of recognition and reaction was particularly an issue when throwing downfield. It allowed beaten cornerbacks to get back into the picture and safeties to make an impact on plays they shouldn’t have.

Here against Georgia, Trubisky attempts to complete a deep post pass to his slot receiver against Cover One.

At the snap the free safety, who has the deep zone, bites way too hard on the play-fake. Both the slot receiver and the left wide receiver get open immediately. With this separation and no one playing the middle of the field, Trubisky has a perfect chance to capitalize on a big play. Instead he holds onto the ball. Quarterbacks have to anticipate their receivers. It’s usually too late when they attempt passes after the receiver is open. This ball needs to either be gone now or on the way out of his hand. Instead, Trubisky sits back, thinking about what to do.

Because of his late release, the cornerback can run the receiver down with the ball ballooning through the air. At the catch point, the corner leaps and creates an incompletion, erasing what should have been either a touchdown or a new set of downs in the red zone.

In the same game against Georgia, against Cover Two man, Trubisky makes the same mistake. He doesn’t see his wide receiver open until he’s nearly twenty yards down the field. This pulls the safety into the play and takes away a straight ahead throw. As a result, Trubisky has to throw this ball away from the safety and pull his receiver towards the sideline—creating a difficult catch and an overthrow.

Sometimes, it still worked out for him. For example, here Trubisky’s receiver finds the hole between Miami’s cornerback and safety. He sits and scans. When his eyes finally reach the other side of the field, his eyes light up. Trubisky completes a pass from the left hash to the right sideline, on the numbers, without allowing the safety to chase back into the play.

Like his footwork affecting his accuracy, a similar dilemma faces Trubisky when he’s in the pocket. Rather than “good feet = good throw,” “climb pocket = good play” for Trubisky. Mitch “My Mother Calls Me Mitchell” Tribusky is great in the pocket when he stays strong back there and steps up into it. There are problems when he’s running outside away from exterior pressure when he shouldn’t.

This sack against Virginia Tech shouldn’t have happened. His left tackle gets beat around the edge. Trubisky sees it a bit late, but he sees it. He should step directly up in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. Instead, he pulls the ball down and bounces to the right, bringing him closer to the rusher. He then runs into a spying linebacker who picks up a garbage sack.

Exterior pressure again comes from the left side here. When the end reaches Trubisky, he pulls down the ball, fails to reset his feet, and overthrows it into the end zone. He’s fading to the left as he throws. His feet are gross. Even if this is a throwaway, his route to the left takes him to the interior rusher instead of allowing him to extend the play and look for an open man.

As the year progressed, Trubisky got better at stepping up in the pocket and keeping his eyes up. He wasn’t perfect. He still fell onto those unpolished habits occasionally. There was some beautiful stuff when he did the right thing.

This dump-off turned touchdown pass is the quintessential example of good things happening when a quarterback steps up in the pocket. The left defensive end splits the right guard and tackle and has an inside path to Trubisky. He tucks the ball and runs in between two defenders. His eyes are on the first down marker. When he sees the safety come up to make a tackle on him, he turns his sprint into a flip like he’s running a two-on-one fast break. The running back takes this simple pass and turns it into a touchdown.

Regarding pressure, the other aspect Trubisky got better at as time went on was staying in the pocket and making throws with pressure in his face. He progressed and stopped leaking outside when pressure came around. He began standing his ground, making crisp and zippy throws with slobbering men surrounding him.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t or shouldn’t leave the pocket. Quarterbacks do and should. Trubisky really understands his athleticism. He knows what he can and can’t do when it comes to scrambling and escaping. He’s a strong boy. He is a natural thrower on the move going both left and right.

He’s in No Man’s Land here against Florida State. There is interior pressure screaming directly at him after the defensive end breaks through the center of the line. Trubisky thinks he can outrun what he assumes is a defensive tackle. He knows about the other defensive end. So rather than go down for the sack, he spins to the left and runs away from his throwing arm. He outruns the defensive end and delivers a perfect throw to the sideline for the first down, turning a possible sack into a death defying escape and 2nd and 9 conversion.

Escaping and making nasty throws on the move are just things that Mitchell Trubisky does.

Close to Florida State’s end zone, he makes an even more spectacular play with his wheels. Both defensive ends beat North Carolina’s offense tackles with great get-offs and one rips while the other swims. Trubisky throws a pump fake to get the right defensive end to jump. He cuts up field and then seeps out of the pocket to the right. He looks for an open receiver as his momentum carries him to the sideline. Nothing. Rather than throw it away, he gives a slight shoulder fake and extends the ball briefly to get the safety to pause for an instant. This lapse in movement allows Trubisky to beat the defender to the sideline. From there, he uses his strength in the form of a stiff arm and leaps to score. While not being elusive as a runner, Trubisky has great vision and can create extra time with subtle body movements.

Aside from being 6’2”, Trubisky is the usual quarterback that leaves scouts all crusty. He has great arm strength, accuracy, and athleticism. He has the measurable and easy to see qualities that every coach thinks they can do something with. Surprisingly, he progressed dramatically as the season progressed and started to grasp more of the nuances of the position: manipulating and climbing the pocket, throwing into pressure, tossing sharper deep passes, and improving his footwork.

I like Trubisky because of the combination of above, the natural physical strengths and the subtleties of the position. Yet, I am still wary of him as a NFL quarterback because of a few things. One, he started only thirteen games in college. Two, he played in a fast-paced offense that had him play entirely in the shotgun. Three, the majority of this throws were quick passes, screens, or needed only one read. Four, he never got much better at anticipating his throws and attempting passes before his receivers were open. Five, he showed examples of real quarterbacking, but wasn’t consistent enough.

I know it’s a cliche and is such an easy thing to fall back on, but Trubisky is the perfect quarterback for a team to draft and stash. He shows all of the traits you want in a quarterback. He just doesn’t do it consistently enough. That, and the murky reality of his background is why whoever drafts him should give him time to perfect the more specific aspects of the position, to learn what will be a much more complicated offense. I would love to take him at the end of the first or the second round of the draft. Then I’d use him as a succession quarterback of the future, or have him sit and cultivate on a team that is no hurry to be any good. I wouldn’t, however, use an early first on him and toss him out of the treetops.

I like Mitch Trubisky.