Projections Top 10 NFL Draft Busts

2017 Potential Bust: Mitch Trubisky

Synopsis: Shortly after the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft, I offered my initial impressions of the first 10 overall picks. At that time, I commented that seven of those players raised red flags as potential underperformers. Out of those seven, I identified three as the most likely busts. Out of those three, I identified one as the most likely Top 10 Bust. Without further ado, I offer you Mitch “My Mom calls me Mitchell” Trubisky. 


2017 POTENTIAL BUST: MITCH TRUBISKY

Several months ago, I offered my initial assessment of the 2017 NFL Draft. Based on lessons learned from previous drafts, I expressed concerns about QB Mitch Trubisky, WR Corey Davis, and QB Patrick Mahomes. With respect to these three players, Trubisky stands out as the most likely Top 10 Bust. Of note, I doubt his career will warrant the sacrifice made by the Chicago Bears to trade up and take him with the 2nd overall pick. 

To start, the following table summarizes the top 10 overall picks from this year’s draft.

2017 NFL DRAFT: TOP 10 PICKS (SUMMARY)
                T10B
Pick Team Player Pos. School Class Height Weight Proj.
1 Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett DE Texas A&M Jr 6’4½” 272 1
2 Chicago Bears [1] Mitch Trubisky QB North Carolina rJr 6’2″ 222 2
3 San Francisco 49ers [1] Solomon Thomas DT Stanford rSo 6’2⅝” 273 5
4 Jacksonville Jaguars Leonard Fournette RB LSU Jr 6’0½” 240 4
5 Tennessee Titans Corey Davis  WR West. Mich. Sr 6’2¾” 209 N/A
6 New York Jets Jamal Adams S LSU Jr 5’11¾” 214 6A
7 Los Angeles Chargers Mike Williams WR Clemson rJr 6’3⅝” 218 10
8 Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey RB Stanford Jr 5’11¼” 202 N/A
9 Cincinnati Bengals John Ross WR Washington rJr 5’10¾” 188 N/A
10 Kansas City [2] Patrick Mahomes QB Texas Tech Jr 6’2″ 225 N/A

[1] Chicago and San Francisco swapped picks. SF also received Chicago’s 67th and 111th picks in 2017 and 1st round pick in 2018.

[2] Kansas City received the #10 pick in a trade with Buffalo. In return, Buffalo received KC’s 27th and 91st picks in 2017 and 1st round pick in 2018.

With respect to the previous table, the most interesting information relates to the footnotes (i.e. the trades). In particular, the Bears and Chiefs gave up a lot of value in an attempt to secure their futures at the QB position. If it’s not apparent, the last column summarizes the projected draft positions from my 2017 NFL Mock Draft. As clarification, it reflects the order in which I thought players would be taken.

In comparison, the following table reflects a summary of the order in which various analysts thought players should be taken. Additionally, I included numerous accomplishments of the top overall picks to help validate their rankings/grades.

2017 NFL DRAFT: TOP 10 PICKS (RANKINGS / ACCOMPLISHMENTS)
       Sporting   NFL.com   
Pick Player  Scout   News   Grade   Accomplishments 
1 Myles Garrett 1 1 7.63 1st Team All-America (15 TFL, 8.5 Sacks)
2 Mitch Trubisky 18 64 6.54 30 TDs, 6 INTs, 68% comp % (5th in country)
3 Solomon Thomas 60 6 6.85 Pac-12 Def POTY / 62 tackles, 15 TFL, 8 sacks
4 Leonard Fournette 3 3 6.95 1st Team All-America / 1,953 yds, 22 TDs (2015)
5 Corey Davis  48 20 6.26 97 rec / 1,500 yds / 19 TDs (1st in NCAA)
6 Jamal Adams 11 2 6.60 1st Team All-America / 4 INTs, 6 Pass Deflections
7 Mike Williams 7 19 6.32 2nd Team All-America / 84 rec, 1,171 yds, 10 TDs
8 Christian McCaffrey 27 24 5.99 Paul Hornung Award (’15) / 2nd Team All-America (’16)
9 John Ross 16 8 6.19 2nd Team All-America / 1,150 yds, 17 TDs (2nd in NCAA)
10 Patrick Mahomes 109 12 5.87 Sammy Baugh Trophy / 5,052 yds, 41 TDs, 10 INTs

Based on a cursory review of the last column, all of these players understandably deserved consideration as top 10 draft picks. However, at least one expert viewed four of them (i.e. Trubisky, Thomas, Davis, and Mahomes) as questionable first round picks. At the same time, one (McCaffrey) seemed more appropriate as a late instead of early first rounder.

POTENTIAL 2017 NFL DRAFT BUSTS: SOLOMON THOMAS / CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY / COREY DAVIS
SOLOMON THOMAS

As a Stanford fan, I watched Solomon Thomas play quite a bit last year. Of note, I remember many of the following highlights involving the Pac-12 Defensive Player-of-the Year. Most impressively, he dominated the 2016 Sun Bowl when lined up against future #2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky. In fact, the future #3 overall pick secured a victory for the Cardinal by sacking Trubisky on a potentially game-tying 2-point conversion late in the game. 

Despite Thomas’ undeniable upside, some analysts questioned his work ethic. Specifically, they noted that he gave up on too many plays. Even if that observation led to a lower ranking, I still can’t imagine finding 59 better college players. 

Interestingly, consensus #1 overall pick Miles Garrett faced the same criticism. Apparently, Garrett’s raw talent overshadowed that potential flaw. I believe that same comment applies to Thomas as well. In fact, I give it a low probability (<10%) that he’ll be considered a bust, much less a Top 10 Bust. 

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY

Speaking of impressive former Stanford players, RB Christian McCaffrey provided his share of highlights over the last two seasons. Despite appearing much smaller than virtually everyone on the field, his speed and agility made him seem like a man among boys. McCaffrey remains a very talented player; however, he’ll no longer be playing against boys. 

I’m excited to watch him continue to deke players and break long runs / returns at the next level. However, I don’t view him as an every-down player who can withstand the physical punishment of playing on Sundays. In fact, I shared this concern with my son while watching McCaffrey’s record-breaking 2015 season. At the time, my son couldn’t understand why I could be so negative about someone I apparently liked so much. I simply explained that I try to maintain objectivity. Still, he just saw me as a “hater.”

In my mind, the biggest downside to the Panthers’ selection of McCaffrey involves the risk of injury. Whether serving as a running back, slot receiver or kick returner, McCaffery offers a lot of versatility. Unfortunately, more touches does not bode well for staying healthy. 

COREY DAVIS

Similar to Thomas and McCaffrey, Corey Davis has a flair for the spectacular. However the former Western Michigan receiver drops too many routine catches. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think the phenomenon of hearing footsteps gets any better when playing against bigger, faster, and stronger players.

Depending on which of these traits become more prevalent, I view the Titans rookie as someone with the upside of 1x Pro Bowler Braylon Edwards and downside of Top 10 Bust Honorable Mention Troy Williamson. While this risk profile seems questionable for a #5 overall pick, Davis is unlikely to qualify as a potential Top 10 Bust. In particular, #4 NFL Draft Bust Charles Rogers set the bar extremely low with career totals of 457 yards and four TDs. I just can’t imagine Davis failing to exceed such low production numbers.

2017 NFL DRAFT: THE QUARTERBACKS

The remaining two questionable picks involve QBs Mitch Trubisky and Pat Mahomes. More than any position in any team sport, quarterback ranks as the most important. In response, NFL teams seem to act most irrationally when trying to secure a franchise-caliber play caller. This year appears to fit the rule given what the Bears and Chiefs gave up to take these players.

Of note, both teams relinquished numerous future picks in order to move up in the draft. Based on their rankings/grades, both players should have been available in Chicago and Kansas City’s original spots. However, neither team wanted to risk losing out.

In order to appreciate what teams give up when trading picks, I developed the following table.

TFI – Top10Bust Football Index (TFI)
  Round
Pick 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
1      100.0       50.0       35.0       25.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
2-3        95.0       45.0       35.0       25.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
4        85.0       45.0       35.0       25.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
5-10        75.0       45.0       32.5       22.5       17.5         15.0       12.5
11-13        70.0       42.5       30.0       22.5       17.5         15.0       12.5
14-16        65.0       42.5       30.0       22.5       17.5         15.0       12.5
17-19        60.0       40.0       27.5       20.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
20-24        55.0       37.5       27.5       20.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
25-32        50.0       35.0       25.0       20.0       17.5         15.0       12.5

With respect to my methodology, I determined the value of a future draft pick based on the production of players drafted with comparable picks. While Jimmy Johnson’s value chart focuses on what teams do, mine focuses on what teams should do. 

I can’t argue with Jimmy’s chart because it provides an accurate reflection of the secondary market for draft picks. Then again, I argue that it reflects the market because it is used to determine the market. In essence, it becomes a self-fulling prophecy. Instead, I believe that teams would be better served sticking to TFI values (i.e. the points in the table above).

PATRICK MAHOMES

With respect to the Chiefs’ trade that allowed them to take Mahomes 10th overall, the team gave up the #27 and #91 picks in 2017 and a 1st rounder in 2018. This trade falls right in line with the the value assigned to each draft pick by Jimmy Johnson’s inner circle many years ago. In particular, Kansas City received a pick worth 1360 points and gave up picks likely worth 1320-1420 points depending on how the team finishes this season.

While the trade may reflect fair value, it doesn’t imply that the Chiefs will get a good return. Based on my research, I believe the Chiefs gave up picks worth 120 points for a pick worth 75 points. As a point of reference, Jeff Blake finished his career with a TFI of 74 while Tony Romo just retired with a TFI of 115. The following stats should make the comparison more clear.

  • Jeff Blake: 8-yr starter with 22,000 yards, 130 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 78.
  • Tony Romo: 9-yr starter with 34,000 yards, 250 touchdowns and a passer rating of 97.

In essence, Mahomes would have to exceed Blake’s stats to be worth a #10 overall pick. However, he would need to eclipse Romo’s career to be worth all of the picks used to take him. 

PAT MAHOMES – COLLEGE HIGHLIGHTS
Better than Jeff Blake? Possibly. The next Tony Romo? Probably not.

With respect to a scouting report for the Chiefs’ rookie QB, I think Lance Zierlein of NFL.com provided a nice summary.

  • Point – Big, confident quarterback who brings a variety of physical tools to the part.
  • Counterpoint – Developed some bad habits and doesn’t have a very repeatable process as a passer.
  • Point – Ability to improvise and extend plays can lead to big plays for his offense
  • Counterpoint – Will have to prove he can operate with better anticipation and be willing to take what the defense gives him in order to win from the pocket.
  • Overall – Work in progress with high ceiling, but low floor.
While I don’t think the Chiefs will ever get fair value from the trade resulting in the selection of Pat Mahomes. I don’t think he’ll have the downside that will make him a memorable all-time bust. In particular, I predict he’ll have the cover of the only QB taken ahead of him in the 2017 Draft.
MITCH TRUBISKY

In order to move up one spot to take Mitch Trubisky, the Bears gave up their #67 and #111 picks in 2017 and a 3rd rounder in 2018. As before, this trade seems to follow Jimmy J’s Value Chart. Specifically, Chicago only slightly overspent by giving up picks worth approximately 2,750 points for a pick worth 2,600 points. On the other hand, I argue that the team drastically overspent by trading picks with a TFI of 184 points for a pick with a TFI of 95 points.

After the 2016 NFL season, the Bears released Jay Cutler in order to open the path for their future quarterback. Interestingly, Cutler subsequently retired with a TFI of 89, which is approximately what the Bears should have expected from its original draft position. Instead, they used picks with a TFI similar to Ben Roethlisberger’s current total. Said differently, Mighty Mitch would have to match the career of Big Ben for the decision to make sense.

The following career stats for these players may provide a better perspective.

  • Jay Cutler: 10-year starter with 32,000 yards, 210 touchdowns and a passer rating of 86.
  • Ben Roethlisberger: 13-year starter with 47,000 yards, 300 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 94.

Oh yeah, the longtime Steelers’ signal caller also has two Super Bowl rings.

MITCH TRUBISKY – NFL COMPARISONS
Mitch Trubisky
Better than Cutler? Doubtful. As good as Big Ben? No chance! Equivalent to Mark Sanchez? Now we’re talking.

As indicated by the caption below the previous photo, Trubisky reminds me more of former Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez. To start, both players were high draft picks despite having limited experience as one-year starters in college. Arguably, Sanchez had to wait his turn to take snaps given USC’s depth at the position during the early to mid-2000s. On the other hand, Trubisky couldn’t unseat a QB whose claim to fame is beating out Vince Young for a starting job in the Canadian Football League. 

Furthermore, they both have signature Not Top 10 moments that will follow them throughout their careers. Click on the links below the pictures to see the actual plays.

MITCH’S FUMBLE
Mitch Trubisky Sun Bowl Fumble
The Ref Fumble
MARK’S FUMBLE
The Butt Fumble

Granted, I didn’t get a chance to watch Trubisky much in college. However, I saw his schizophrenic performance in the 2016 Sun Bowl. In addition to the embarrassing fumble seen above, he also threw a pick 6 after getting confused by Stanford’s coverage. At the same time, he led the Tar Heels on an impressive last-minute TD drive. Fortunately for Cardinal fans, the comeback fell short when Solomon Thomas sacked Trubisky on a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game with 25 seconds remaining. 

CONCLUSION

In case you haven’t connected all of the dots presented in this post, I’ll repeat them because they will provide an interesting backstory in case Trubisky becomes a bust someday.

  • The Bears gave up three draft picks simply to move up 1 spot in the 2017 NFL Draft.
    • Chicago likely could have taken Trubisky with their original pick given that San Francisco seemingly would have taken Stanford DT Solomon Thomas at #2 anyway.
  • Thomas and Trubisky will always be linked together.
    • Each player was selected with the pick originally slated for the other.
    • Thomas overshadowed Trubisky in the 2016 Sun Bowl.
      • Thomas won MVP honors and secured the victory with a last-minute sack.
      • Imagine if Thomas overshadows Trubisky in the NFL as well.
  • Chicago gave up on Jay Cutler in anticipation of drafting a franchise quarterback.
    • After initially retiring after getting released earlier this year, Cutler is now starting for the Miami Dolphins.
      • As a 34-year old, Cutler still could have a few good years ahead of him
      • Imagine if the unretired quarterback puts up better numbers from now than the heralded rookie.
  • Mitch and Mark are teammates.
    • Both one-season wonders in college, the players have a similar flair for unflattering plays.
    • Even though the Jets traded up to get Sanchez, they “only” gave up picks worth approximately 100 TFI points.
    • In contrast, the Bears gave up over 80% more value to select Trubisky.
      • Just remember, Mighty Mitch vs. Big Ben. 

Trubisky played high school football less than 30 minutes from where I live. Given his local ties, I truly am rooting for him. However, I value the objectivity of my analysis over my subjective wishes. Then again, if you ask my son, he’ll tell you something else. Perhaps he’s right; I’m really just a hater.   

2017 POTENTIAL BUST: MITCH TRUBISKY
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