What Should We Make of Mitchell Trubisky's Debut?

Making his first start, Trubisky lost to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. What did we learn about the rookie quarterback?

Chicago Bears fans got a glimpse into the future of their franchise on Monday night, as Mitchell Trubisky, the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL draft, made his debut against the Minnesota Vikings. What they witnessed was a quarterback with plenty of raw talent but one who still has a long way to go to become a consistent starter.

As with any rookie quarterback, it's wise to to temper our expectations. That's especially true in this case, with Trubisky starting off his career against some tough defenses. On Monday, the rookie flashed many of the tools which made him the second-overall pick, but he also made several key mistakes, including an interception in the fourth quarter which set up the Vikings' game-winning field goal. He provided reason for optimism as well, but there is clearly work to do.

Let's take a look at Trubisky's debut and find out if his outlook is any rosier for the rest of the season.

What to Make of Mitch?

The first drive of Trubisky's career started well enough. He was accurate on his first two passes, completing both to Kendall Wright for consecutive first downs. Trubisky's third pass was incomplete, and then on 3rd and 10, he rolled right and threw a perfect strike down the sidelines to Tre McBride for a 26-yard gain. That play was called back by a holding penalty, which eventually forced a punt.

Things didn't improve from there, with Trubisky -- who completed 70% of his passes in his final season in college -- completing 12 of his 25 pass attempts (48%). To be fair to the rookie, he has very few real weapons to throw to. Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson and Markus Wheaton have as many receiving yards combined in 2017 as Larry Fitzgerald does, and it's safe to say the Bears' wideouts aren't causing NFL defensive backs to lose any sleep.

However, it was encouraging to see the Bears use one of Trubisky's best assets -- his legs. Trubisky rolled out on several occasions -- usually to the right -- showing good mobility and accuracy on the run.

According to Pro Football Focus, Trubisky rolled out on 18.2% of his pass attempts in the first half of the game. The Bears were willing to play to his strengths and not force him to be a pure pocket passer, which is certainly a good sign.

There is a flipside to his mobility, however, and it may have cost the Bears the win on Monday night. Tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter, Trubisky appeared to feel pressure that wasn't there and instinctively rolled out right before tossing a game-sealing interception to Harrison Smith.

A Look at Efficiency

That interception was brutal in terms of helping the Bears win the game, and it didn't help him with our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, either.

NEP is our in-house metric, and it measures the value added or lost on each play relative to the historical expectation level. Passing Success Rate is the percentage of a quarterback's drop backs that result in a positive NEP gain. You can read more about NEP in our glossary.

Among quarterbacks with at least 15 drop backs this season, Trubisky ranks 37th in NEP per drop back, behind even his now-benched teammate Mike Glennon. For reference, the league average Passing NEP per drop back last season was 0.12.

Player Rank Passing NEP Passing NEP per Drop Back Passing Success Rate
Mike Glennon 33 -14.03 -0.09 45.95%
Jay Cutler 34 -20.52 -0.15 38.30%
DeShone Kizer 35 -31.36 -0.18 35.09%
E.J. Manuel 36 -9.12 -0.19 40.43%
Mitchell Trubisky 37 -9.07 -0.35 30.77%
Matt Cassel 38 -32.83 -0.66 30.00%
Tom Savage 39 -19.9 -0.99 30.00%
Scott Tolzien 40 -24.58 -1.12 27.27%

Of course, we're working with very small samples here. The season as a whole is a mere five weeks old, and we're talking about one start for Trubisky. But turnovers are a killer. In addition to the interception, he also fumbled once, and things could have been even worse. Tribusky's lone touchdown of the game was tipped off a defender's hand and could have been intercepted.

Unfortunately, with the Bears facing two top-10 pass defenses in the next two weeks in the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens, it will be a challenge to turn those numbers around anytime soon.

Projecting the Rest of Season

What can we expect from the Bears rookie for the rest of 2017? According to our projections, he's probably not going to be a starter on your fantasy football teams with maybe the exception of two-quarterbacks leagues. We have him scoring 150.5 fantasy points through the rest of the fantasy season.

Player Fantasy Points Completions Attempts Yards TDs INTs Rush Yards
Trubisky 150.57 208.1 374.43 2,401.11 13.51 11.48 173.4

A lot of that production is expected to come in the form of rushing yards, as we don't see the rookie cranking up his passing production with the receiving corps he currently has to work with. Our projections give him the 10th-most rushing yards among quarterbacks the rest of the way, and while his overall points projection is just the 27th-highest at the position, it's still ahead of the rest-of-season projections of fellow starters Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer.


Mitchell Trubisky's NFL debut was about what we expected -- some promise with some big mistakes sprinkled in.

While we can't pull too much from one game, Tribusky didn't do anything Monday night to dispel any of his advertised traits of mobility and accuracy, but don't expect to see a Deshaun Watson-like breakout. Trubisky simply doesn't have very good receiving weapons at his disposal right now, and the Bears are going to have to continue to lean on the running game going forward.

That said, given the flashes of athleticism we saw in his Monday night debut, there are reasons for optimism in the Windy City -- just don't expect to see the promise fulfilled in 2017.