Hindsight is 20/20. Especially when it comes to the NFL Draft. And it's particularly true with the 2017 NFL draft.
There was much debate about who the top quarterback prospect in 2017 was. It centered around Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and even DeShone Kizer. In fact, Kizer was considered a first-round prospect for much of the run-up to draft weekend and was rated ahead of Mahomes by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah just three weeks before the first round kicked off.
We know how it all played out. The Bears traded up from No. 3 to No. 2 overall to draft Trubisky, while the Texans and Chiefs made aggressive moves up the first round to grab their guys, too. Houston for Watson, Kansas City for Mahomes. We also know how the first three seasons as pros have worked out for these guys. Mahomes and Watson have become perennial MVP candidates while Trubisky may be fighting for his job in Chicago this offseason.
General manager Ryan Pace has taken more than his fair share of criticism for his selection of Trubisky, especially now that there's an established body of work to compare his pick against the other guys. Barring a miraculous career turnaround, Trubisky will remain a distant third when it comes to the hierarchy of quarterbacks from the 2017 first round.
Sunday night's game against the Chiefs will bring this painful narrative to the national spotlight. It won't be fun for Bears fans. It's a painful truth that will take many years for Chicago's football faithful to recover from. But the selection of Trubisky over Mahomes wasn't the byproduct of football negligence or front-office incompetence. In fact, many respected NFL draft analysts -- who now criticize Pace for his decision -- probably would've made the same call.
"Trubisky is a high-end quarterback prospect who possesses NFL size, a big arm and the ability to throw with accuracy from the pocket or on the move," NFL Network's Lance Zierlein wrote in his scouting report. "Despite playing in a spread-based offense, he's a full-field reader who does a very good job of getting an early read on the safeties before crafting his course of action. Trubisky will have to become much more pocket aware and do a better job of recognizing and attacking blitzes to back NFL defensive coordinators off. He hasn't put all the pieces together yet, but the puzzle is all right in front. Trubisky projects as a good starting quarterback with a high floor and the potential to be great. NFL Comparison: Matthew Stafford."
Mahomes, meanwhile, was given a Jay Cutler comp by Zierlein:
"Mahomes is a big, confident quarterback who brings a variety of physical tools to the party, but he's developed some bad habits and doesn't have a very repeatable process as a passer. Mahomes' ability to improvise and extend plays can lead to big plays for his offense, but he 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. Mahomes will be a work in progress, but he's a high ceiling, low floor prospect."
The Bears were fresh off a disappointing Cutler era the season before picking Trubisky and certainly weren't going to take another quarterback who had a similar volatile skill set entering the league. We know now that the risk was one worth taking, but that's that hindsight thing again.
But this isn't to say there weren't warning signs flashing all around Trubisky. Take these notes from NFL Network's Bucky Brooks, who polled several league scouts about Trubisky prior to the draft:
- "Call me crazy but I see a little Derek Carr in his game. From the poise, decisiveness and quick delivery to the precision passing and athleticism, he looks like the real deal. ... The inexperience bothers me and I can't stop wondering why he couldn't beat out Marquise Williams (for the starting job in 2014-15)." -- AFC senior personnel executive
- "He has all of the tools. I like his arm talent, arm strength, and athleticism. He is the prototypical quarterback that you draw up. ... I just worry about the one-year wonder deal and the fact that he couldn't beat out Marquise Williams for two years. I don't care what anyone says. If he was (that good), he should've been able to win the starting job. There's something wrong with that!" -- AFC scout
- "I like Trubisky's skills. He can make all of the throws and move around. I'm a little worried about his lack of experience, though. He hasn't played in enough games to really know what he will become as a pro." -- AFC college scouting director
- "He definitely has skills. He can make all of the throws and do everything that coaches want to see. Plus, he is athletic enough to make things happen on the move. ... My main concern is the inexperience and his leadership skills. I don't know if he has the 'it' factor. I've never really seen him display any emotion or rally his guys when I've been at games." -- AFC scout
Concern about Trubisky's inexperience was very real, and that inexperience has revealed itself through his first 39 regular-season starts in the NFL.
Still, Trubisky's raw talent was appealing. Sports Illustrated compared him to Ryan Tannehill, who's managed to have a productive career and has reinvented himself this season in Tennessee.
As for Mahomes? SI predicted he'd be a Matthew Stafford-type.
The Godfather of the NFL Draft, Mel Kiper, may have had the most accurate take of all the draft analysts leading into draft weekend that year.
"If you're going to draft Trubisky, you have to feel like this," Kiper said. "If he had gone back (to school) he would have been the No. 1 pick (next season) lock, stock and barrel. We know that. We know he's not ready, we wish he had another year but we have to develop this kid. We don't have to let him sit for three or four years like Aaron Rodgers, but we gotta develop him - redshirt him - not force him in there. If you handle Trubisky well, you may have something. If you expect him to be Dak Prescott and go out there and play well as a rookie, forget about it. It isn't happening."
As for Mahomes?
“He can sling it,” Kiper said during a conference call on April 24. “He has a heck of an arm. He’s adept at throwing the deep ball. He can move around. He has very underrated mobility. He has no conscience about him. I always say, you can’t fear interceptions. You can’t fear making mistakes. The only way to make big plays is taking some chances downfield. The dinking and dunking makes you sick. The way he plays is invigorating."
Invigorating. Yep, that pretty much sums up Mahomes' game.
There's nothing the Bears can do about the 2017 draft now. It's over and done with. Trubisky, who has a career record of 22-17 as a starter, hasn't been a total bust (yet) and will more than likely get another year to prove he was at least a reasonable choice by Pace. He'll never be the 'right' choice, but a reasonable one? That's the best Chicago can hope for right now.
Buckle up, Bears fans. Sunday night won't be fun. There will be a lot of old wounds re-opened and a whole lot of salt thrown in them with every Mahomes touchdown pass.
But as we're seeing this season with Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who was the fifth quarterback selected in the 2018 draft, evaluating the most important position in sports is never easy. Teams get it wrong. And unfortunately, the Bears got it wrong in 2017.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.