Thousands of quarterbacks have cycled through the NFL, so when an anonymous scout considered comparisons for Mitchell Trubisky following his Pro Day workout last month, the net could have been cast wide.
Instead, it zeroed in on the biggest fish in the sea.
According to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, Trubisky earned a parallel to none other than Aaron Rodgers – he of the highest passer rating in history. If Trubisky truly ends up anything close to Rodgers-esque, that observer should shed his anonymity and bask in the praise.
“That’s a hell of a scout,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “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. I think 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.”
The issue with all of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft – Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer – is the wide range of possible outcomes. Trubisky is seen by many as the best of the bunch, but he’s not the surefire franchise guy like many saw in Andrew Luck or Cam Newton.
While Trubisky excelled last year at North Carolina -- throwing for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions -- it was the only season in which he started for the Tar Heels. He couldn’t wrest the job away from Marquise Williams the previous three years.
“We competed,” Trubisky said last month at the NFL Scouting combine. “I wasn’t given the spot even though I thought I was the better quarterback deep down and I knew I could do the same things, if not better, and help our team. But it wasn’t my call.”
Trubisky is projected to go in the top 10 picks, and could be out of the Cardinals’ range since they sit at No. 13. However, players regularly slip on draft day, and Arians also mentioned the possibility of trading up in this year’s draft with several compensatory picks waiting for the Cardinals in 2018.
It’s a big bite to a team’s draft capital to trade up in the first round, so the Cardinals would have to love the player they are targeting. Is Trubisky worth it? Arians called him “a really talented player” but also mentioned the warning signs.
“The growth potential is obviously there,” Arians said. “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.”
Trubisky doesn’t believe he needs to sit again to acclimate to the NFL game, and there are some early-pick destinations where he could compete to start immediately. But if he lands with the Cardinals, there would be at least one season to get groomed under
Trubisky said he found the understudy route beneficial with North Carolina.
“It taught me a lot of different things just about life and adversity in general,” Trubisky said. “Not everything is going to go your way, especially when you deserve something. So being on the bench taught me how to be a better teammate. I found other ways to get better. I found other ways to push my teammates and be a leader. … I think it’s helped build me into the person I am today.”
Whether it’s in 2017 or beyond, Trubisky will eventually get his shot as a starting quarterback, where he hopes to prove that Rodgers comparison wasn’t so lofty after all.
“I’m confident in who I am,” Trubisky said, “and I’m confident that I can be a franchise quarterback at the next level.”