Cleveland Browns bowl watch: North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky
The Cleveland Browns will look to continue their rebuilding efforts during the 2017 NFL Draft. Could North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky be on the team’s radar?
There is only one week remaining in the 2016 NFL regular season and the Cleveland Browns still do not know their final draft position.
This much we do know: the Browns are guaranteed to pick no worse than No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and they hold a second first-round pick courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Where those picks fall will not be determined until after the final week of the season. If the Browns lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, or win and then hope the San Francisco 49ers upset the Seattle Seahawks, then the Browns will lead off the draft with the first overall selection.
As for the second pick in the first round, the Browns would currently pick at No. 10. But to hold onto that spot they need the Eagles to lose their final game to the Dallas Cowboys, who have already clinched home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
Since draft talk is always welcome in Cleveland, and bowl season is in full swing, this is a great time to get one last look at some draft prospects at positions of need for the Browns in game action.
The quarterback position has never been worse than it currently is for the Browns. Veteran Josh McCown is on the verge — or should be on the verge — of retirement, rookie Cody Kessler proved he has a solid career ahead of him as a backup quarterback, and it is abundantly clear to everyone that Robert Griffin III is no longer a viable NFL quarterback.
There will be plenty of debate — both internally and externally — between now and draft weekend about how the Browns should go about fixing the quarterback position once and for all.
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One name that is in the front of many fans’ minds is North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, who threw for 3,468 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing almost 69 percent of his passes in his first season as a starter for the Tar Heels.
Throw in that Trubisky is from Mentor and his “he’s get us” factor is off the charts, making him a popular option for many fans. (Although that will always be a horrible reason to draft someone.)
Trubisky’s numbers are impressive, but he still hasn’t decided if he will enter the draft. The other — and potentially more significant red flag — is that his experience as a starting quarterback has been limited to this season’s 12 games. He redshirted the 2013 season and then spent 2014 and 2015 as a backup to Marquise Williams.
“For all of Trubisky’s talent,’’ CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang told The Mercury News, “the fact that he was unable to earn a starting role until this, his third full season with the Tar Heels, is a bit disconcerting.
“He’s not as safe a prospect as any of the four quarterbacks taken with the No. 1 or No. 2 overall picks in the past two drafts. But need at the position could earn him this high of a selection anyway.”
The Browns can’t overdraft a player simply because he fills a huge void, but there is a lot to like about Trubisky, as Pro Football Focus points out:
As for Trubisky, Cleveland fans have already been keeping tabs on the first-year starter who shows the size, arm strength, and pocket movement to be a first-round candidate. He can drive the ball outside the numbers with velocity, and handled pressure well, leading the nation with an adjusted completion percentage of 68.6 percent when under heat.
Trubisky also has the desire to put in the work needed during the week to get better, a trait that will certainly appeal to head coach Hue Jackson as he works to change the culture around the team.
“I don’t know when it clicked for me, but it was just this realization that as a quarterback, you can decide how good you want to be, it all comes down to staying locked in at practice,” Trubisky recently told MMQB. “I’d stand behind the other quarterback taking the rep and go through it every single time. I thought, Where would I go with the ball? What footwork would I do? If I physically wasn’t going to take the rep, I was going to mentally take it.”
Trubisky has until Jan. 16 to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. If he does decide to leave college, expect the Browns to be interested and the debate over Trubisky’s fit in Cleveland to be pretty intense.
North Carolina will be in action on Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. when they take on Stanford in the Sun Bowl.