If the 2017 NFL Draft was re-drafted today, you probably wouldn’t expect Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to go in the first round.
At least that’s the attitude I had as the NBC Sports Chicago team simulated a 2017 re-draft this week. And I kept that attitude until I had to make back-to-back picks for the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs at No. 26 and No. 27.
But after sending undrafted running back Austin Ekeler to the Seahawks, I realized… the best pick for the Chiefs was probably Trubisky.
See, in an extremely fictional world where NFL teams can get a do-over on a draft, trades are pretty much useless. With hindsight being 20/20, those teams know with certainty which players are good at the NFL level and which ones are not. For example, I had the San Francisco 49ers pick at No. 2 overall. With Patrick Mahomes obviously off the board to the Browns at No. 1, there was no way I was trading the No. 2 pick to Bears general manager Ryan Pace when Deshaun Watson was still available. Remember, the 49ers didn’t have Jimmy Garoppolo at the time.
Thus, the big losers appeared to be the Chiefs, who no longer could trade up to draft Mahomes at No. 10 and probably don’t go on to win Super Bowl LIV as a result.
RELATED: In '17 re-draft, Bears don't get a QB...or Khalil Mack
But a funny thing happened as the re-draft kept going. It got really hard. There weren’t 32 players worthy of going in the first round. And then I thought about the Chiefs’ situation back in 2017. They were committed to finding their next franchise quarterback, but they were also convinced that any of the quarterbacks available had to sit for a year behind Alex Smith. And even though we were re-drafting with the knowledge of Trubisky’s first three NFL seasons, I’ve always been of the mindset that Mahomes entered an extremely advantageous situation in Kansas City. He sat behind Alex Smith, not Mike Glennon. He had Andy Reid and Matt Nagy, not John Fox. He truly got to sit and soak in the same system that was eventually thrown at Trubisky a year later.
Plus, Trubisky isn’t as bad as he’s made out to be. He certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he also shouldn’t be the punching bag he’s become by many critics in Chicago and across the country. Trubisky is not a bust. Cade McNown was a bust. Trubisky puts in the work, is genuinely respected by his teammates and, despite the situation he entered into in Chicago, is still a backend starting quarterback in the NFL – one who is rightly being pushed for his job.
But what if Trubisky ended up in Kansas City? Any reasonable person would conclude he wouldn’t have become what Mahomes now is, but it’s also completely conceivable that Trubisky would be a more consistent quarterback had he entered a situation with more support, more time to develop and less pressure on him as a late first-round pick.
So Mitchell Trubisky to the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 27 overall? Sure, sign me up.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.
Three years later, it's clear some teams made mistakes in the 2017 NFL Draft. That's easy to say with hindsight, of course. The Browns probably wish they had Patrick Mahomes right now, and the Bears just had to trade for a quarterback to potentially replace Mitch Trubisky.
So we here at NBC Sports Chicago wanted to re-run the 2017 draft knowing what we know now. Mahomes is a superstar. Over 100 picks wouldn't pass before George Kittle goes off the board. Alvin Kamara doesn't slip past every team multiple times. Eddie Jackson doesn't either.
Here's how we did it. Each of our four Bears experts picked for two divisions. I took the NFC/AFC North, Adam Hoge had the NFC/AFC West, Cam Ellis picked for the NFC/AFC South and Bryan Perez went with the NFC/AFC East. We used the initial draft order, so the Bears still picked at No. 3 and the Chiefs and Texans were not able to trade up (though the Saints still picked at No. 32, having traded Brandin Cooks to the Patriots before the draft).
There were a ton of far-reaching implications from this we'll get into later here on NBC Sports Chicago. For now...
Patrick Mahomes revealed something on HBO’s “The Shop” that raised a few eyebrows — especially eyebrows of those around Chicago who’re still waiting for Mitch Trubisky to become a “master of coverages.”
“I didn’t understand how to read defenses until like halfway through last year,” Mahomes said. “I understood how to read coverages, but how to pick up little tendencies defenses do, something Brady and them have done — they know. I was just playing.”
Here’s the clip:
You can look at this two ways. First: Maybe it’s not so bad that Trubisky still isn’t the “master of coverages” Matt Nagy said he needs to be back in January. We’ll give the benefit of the doubt here to Nagy that he meant Trubisky needs to know how to read defensive tendencies on top of coverages. That’s fine, and if Mahomes only got it halfway through 2019, then maybe Trubisky isn’t far behind.
Or: Mahomes won the MVP — the MVP! — while he was “just playing” in 2018. That’s proof you don’t need to be a true master of reading defenses to have success as a quarterback. Talent comes first; coaching comes second. The Mahomes-Andy Reid pairing, then, was good enough to produce arguably the greatest season a quarterback has ever had while said quarterback didn’t totally know what he was doing yet.
But what Mahomes said isn’t as surprising as it might seem on first glance. Veteran quarterbacks will tell you it takes two or three years for someone to truly understand how to read defenses. It’s a process for a young hotshot: A rookie bursts on to the scene, defenses adjust to his tendencies and skills, and he then has to manage those adjustments.
What we saw in 2018 was Mahomes have immediate success, then figure out how to stay successful in 2019 despite defenses adjusting to him. That’s what quarterbacks in Year 2 or Year 3 should be doing; instead, Trubisky regressed hard his third year in the league.
The Bears can continue to bank on Trubisky's developmental timeline being different than the instant gratification provided by Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. But it's an increasingly difficult bet to justify.
Or maybe the better thing here is to stop comparing Trubisky to Mahomes. One quarterback threw 50 touchdowns without having enough experience to truly read the defenses in front of him; the other has a precarious foothold on his starting job entering Year 4 in the NFL. Mahomes is on track to be an all-time great; Trubisky has at best been about league average.
But we all know that won’t happen. So every time something like this happens — or Mahomes counts to 10 at Soldier Field — it’ll whip up another round of these comparisons. None of which will be favorable to the Bears’ guy.