It made me real nervous in 2012 when the Miami Dolphins spent the No. 8 overall draft pick on Ryan Tannehill, a guy who had started just 19 games at quarterback in college.
Now there’s a guy with fewer college starts, 13, who could go even higher to some NFL team on Thursday night.
Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina might just be that good. In the one game I saw him play live, the Tar Heels’ 20-13 October win over Miami at Hard Rock Stadium, he looked like a natural fit for the pro game.
He threw 46 passes against the Hurricanes that day and got sacked just once, casually stepping or rolling out of trouble on several occasions while keeping his focus downfield and delivering the ball with such uncanny accuracy that the Tar Heels converted 14-of-23 third downs.
Trubisky threw a couple of touchdown passes against Miami, too. Each of those came on third-and-goal, and one of them came with 18 seconds left in the first half.
Getting touchdowns and not field goals in situations like that is the sign of a decisive, intelligent quarterback and in this case it made the difference between North Carolina upsetting the Hurricanes or letting them off the hook.
Oh, and Trubisky is sturdy at 6-feet-3 and 222 pounds. That doesn’t hurt, either.
Throw in a sensational career ratio of 41 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions and a 67.5 completion percentage and you’ve got a quarterback who might go to the Browns or the 49ers or the Jets at the top of the first round, possibly ahead of Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, whose touchdown pass with 1 second remaining beat Alabama in January’s national championship game, and ahead of Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, too.
If that happens, Larry Fedora won’t be looking too sharp. He’s the North Carolina coach who liked another of his quarterbacks, Marquise Williams, a little bit more and made Trubisky wait until his junior season to become the starter.
Of course, college stats and fluid college situations don’t tell everything we need to know about a pro prospect.
Dan Fouts, for instance, threw 37 touchdown passes and 54 interceptions during his college career at Oregon.
Dan Marino was close to a wash with 79 touchdowns throws and 69 interceptions at Pitt.
Joe Montana threw 25 of each at Notre Dame.
Last, Tim Tebow was an absolute stats machine at Florida, throwing 88 touchdown passes and only 16 interceptons.
Trubisky doesn’t look exactly like any of those guys, but if he winds up with a decent team in a trade-down and not one of the pitiful outfits at the top of the draft, he could become a real star.
Think of Aaron Rodgers, who got just 22 college starts at California. He came there as a junior-college transfer who had received no major-college scholarships coming out of high school. Still, Rodgers decided to forego his senior season in college, just like Trubisky did, and wound up going 24th overall to the Green Bay Packers, a team that was set at quarterback with Brett Favre and could afford to work with the kid a while.
It’s a fantasy to think that the Dolphins, drafting 22nd overall in Thursday night’s draft, might get a similar chance to draft a talent like Trubisky.
If by some miracle, however, he fell that far, or even came close enough to make a draft-day trade feasible, Miami would be foolish not to take him. Can’t have too many quarterbacks on your roster with the potential to be great.
Tannehill’s potential will be played out in the next few years, it appears, and he’s coming off the first serious injury of his career.
Weird that I would be more excited about taking a quarterback with 13 college starts than I was about Tannehill with his 19 but, hey, people keep telling me that I’m a little weird to begin with.