Inside the Panthers

2017 NFL draft: How UNC's Mitch Trubisky could end up as the No. 1 pick

When the smoke clears Thursday night, could North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) end up as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft? Don’t rule that out yet.

Though most analysts and mock drafts put Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett at the top of the board heading into Thursday’s NFL draft, at least one source says the Cleveland Browns still are seriously considering former Tar Heels quarterback Trubisky for that top spot.

The Browns hold two first-round picks, No. 1 and No. 12, which Cleveland acquired in a trade with Philadelphia.

Time could be right for Browns to find QB of future

Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com reports that her sources reveal that the Cleveland front office feels that the Browns are “ready to draft their quarterback of the future” and might not want to risk losing Trubisky.

Her sources also relay that San Francisco, which holds the No. 2 pick, feels enthusiastic about Trubisky as well. The New York Jets, at No. 6, may also covet Trubisky.

So the Browns would have to trade up to the No. 2 pick to make sure they could nab the 6-3, 220-pound Trubisky.

In a perfect world for a Browns fan, the team gets both Garrett and Trubisky.

Cabot offers a full report with in-depth analysis, including why this might the right time for Cleveland to take a chance on a quarterback high in the draft again. She also offers reasons why the Browns are likely to stick with Garrett at No. 1, among them that head coach Hue Jackson wants him, which she detailed last week.

Browns, Trubisky likely a good match

If the Browns get Trubisky, who only started 13 games at UNC, his Ohio roots should go over well with Cleveland fans. Trubisky played high school football in Mentor, Ohio, where he was named the state’s Mr. Football.

And Trubisky apparently would love to end up in Cleveland as well. His freshman year, Trubisky told UNC quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf he dreamed of ending the Browns’ revolving door at quarterback. Since the franchise was revived in 1999, 26 quarterbacks have started in Cleveland.

The drama is likely to build leading into the NFL draft, as Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown has promised he won’t reveal Cleveland’s first-round pick until Thursday night.

The Panthers, of course, are set at quarterback, so don’t look for Trubisky to wind up in Charlotte.

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Why Trubisky did not start

Mitch Trubisky spent four years at UNC. He sat out his freshman season and redshirted. The next two years, he served as the backup to Marquise Williams, who led UNC to an 11-win season in 2015. And then came last season, Trubisky’s lone as a starter.

Trubisky answered the question of why he did not beat out Williams last month at UNC’s pro day, the way he answered it at the NFL Combine and during meetings with curious NFL personnel types – general managers and coaches. The short version of that answer: Trubisky believes the starting job should have been his, all along.

“Obviously me and Marquise competed here,” Trubisky said. “I felt like I won the job and I should’ve been the quarterback. But coach (Larry ) Fedora, it was his decision, he did what he thought was best for the team. Even though I hated being a backup as a competitor, I embraced my role and I found ways to get better on my own.

“... We won a lot of games with (Williams). But I thought if I was in there I could’ve done the same thing and maybe even better, just having that confidence in myself.”

Fedora acknowledged last month that the decision was more about about preserving team chemistry than it was anything else.

“For me to answer the question, it’s we had pretty good chemistry with (Williams),” Fedora said, looking back on why Williams won the job. “He did a great job of leading the team. Things were going well. I didn’t want to shake that up. And so I thought I did what was best for the football team.”

-- Andrew Carter

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