The first round of the 2017 NFL draft showed that many teams are obsessed with finding the next big thing right away
The future face of the Chicago Bears strutted into a giant tent behind the NFL Draft stage on Thursday night. Mitchell Trubisky, with all of one college season as a starter, wore a gray three-piece suit, a Bears cap and a smile. Inside the tent was a row of radio and television interviewers. All had the same question:
Was he surprised?
Was he surprised to be picked second overall by the Bears, a team forever built on meat-grinding football, who had just rid themselves of the wild-armed failure of Jay Cutler, who but months ago bequeathed a $45m contract to Mike Glennon to be their quarterback for the next three years? Was he surprised the Bears traded four picks to jump one position to take him?
It was a huge surprise, Trubisky said.
Chicago, he said, wanted to be secretive. The teams general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox barely interviewed him. They did not bring him for countless visits to their headquarters, Halas Hall. That they wanted him to be their next great quarterback was as much a mystery to him as it was the rest of the NFL.
But Trubisky had recovered well by the time he left the stage and entered the tent. Though he grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, Ohio, he said his favorite player growing up was Bears legend Walter Payton. Payton retired seven years before Trubisky was born. One suspects that if the New York Jets had drafted Trubisky he would have said Joe Namath was his favorite player.
This felt like a tremendous reach, one of those attempts by a team to be too clever. Then again, the whole night felt like a series of stretches when it came to picking franchise quarterbacks. Cleveland, the one team that desperately needed a quarterback of the future wouldnt take one while Chicago and Kansas City two teams that didnt paid heavy prices to get one (or a shot at one, anyway).
Im a little taken aback Chicago traded up to get him, Hall of Fame quarterback and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner said.
One season as starter is not much to gauge the readiness of a quarterback for the NFL. The record of quarterbacks with such brief starting runs in college is not great. There are too many things that defenses do, situations that arise, that quarterbacks cant see in just one starting season. But at least Trubisky went 8-5 in that one starting year. Patrick Mahomes II, the Texas Tech quarterback the Chiefs traded three choices for including their 2018 first round pick to select 10th on Thursday was just 13-16 in college.
College records do not mean everything. There are many reasons, out of a quarterbacks control, that a team did not win. But as DeShone Kizer, the former Notre Dame quarterback whose team went 4-8 said Wednesday: Youre supposed to be an elite quarterback, youre supposed to win games.
The word people often associate with Mahomes is gunslinger. Some of this, no doubt, is because he played his college football in the heart of Texas. But he is also the embodiment of the swashbuckling passer who scrambles around, heaving throws 60 yards downfield. Kansas Citys current starter is Alex Smith, who is one of the leagues most deliberate quarterbacks. He is not an exciting player but he is 79-56-1 in 11 NFL seasons.
Maybe Mahomes will become a great quarterback, but is he worth giving up a first-round pick? With Smith having just led them to a division title, they have time to develop Mahomes and yet a team does not trade away a future first-round pick if they arent intending to make the player a starter very soon. Thursdays trade was an awfully big gamble.
Houston also traded a 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland to move into position to select Clemsons Deshaun Watson, who is more experienced than Trubisky and Mahomes, and has won a national title. He seems a smarter choice but has a lot of flaws to be the quarterback the Texans need.
All of them are mighty gambles.
There is an obsession in the NFL now with finding the next great thing right away. Trubisky, Mahomes and Watson may be the answers but they could also just be players who looked great in college. Last year two quarterbacks went in the first two picks but the star passer of the draft turned out to be Dak Prescott, who was chosen in the fourth round.
As Trubisky walked around the plaza behind the draft stage on Thursday, he got a sense of what lies ahead. The Bears fans were stunned by his selection, someone told him. There were video clips of them watching, with mouths agape. They had figured that with Glennon signing they werent going to chase a quarterback of the future. Especially because this draft didnt seem to have that quarterback. They thought they were getting a defensive star, someone who could carry on the Bears tradition of pummeling opposing offenses.
Im glad they are passionate about football because so am I, Trubisky said. He may regret his enthusiasm if he does not become Chicagos Aaron Rodgers.
Most telling on this night when three teams traded up for big quarterback chances is that the Browns wound up with three picks and did not use any of them on a quarterback. Usually the Browns are the leagues most-confounding team. Maybe this time they were the smartest.
NFL draft first-round selections
1) Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett (DE);
2) Chicago Bears Mitchell Trubisky (QB);
3) San Francisco 49ers Solomon Thomas (DE);
4) Jacksonville Jaguars Leonard Fournette (RB);
5) Tennessee Titans Corey Davis (WR);
6) New York Jets Jamal Adams (S);
7) Los Angeles Chargers Mike Williams (WR);
8) Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey (RB);
9) Cincinnati Bengals John Ross (WR);
10) Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes (QB);
11) New Orleans Saints Marshon Lattimore (CB);
12) Houston Texans Deshaun Watson (QB);
13) Arizona Cardinals Haason Reddick (LB);
14) Philadelphia Eagles Derek Barnett (DE);
15) Indianapolis Colts Malik Hooker (S);
16) Baltimore Ravens Marlon Humphrey (CB);
17) Washington Jonathan Allen (DT);
18) Tennessee Titans Adoree Jackson (CB);
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers OJ Howard (TE);
20) Denver Broncos Garett Bolles (OT);
21) Detroit Lions Jarrad Davis (LB);
22) Miami Dolphins Charles Harris (DE/OLB);
23) New York Giants Evan Engram (TE);
24) Oakland Raiders Gareon Conley (CB);
25) Cleveland Browns Jabrill Peppers (S);
26) Atlanta Falcons Takkarist McKinley (DE);
27) Buffalo Bills TreDavious White (CB);
28) Dallas Cowboys Taco Charlton (DE);
29) Cleveland Browns David Njoku (TE);
30) Pittsburgh Steelers TJ Watt (LB);
31) San Francisco 49ers Reuben Foster (LB);
32) New Orleans Saints Ryan Ramczyk (OT)