The Florida Gators are one of the most surprising early high achievers in college football. At 5-1 and ranked sixth in the country, the Gators have taken a big jump under Dan Mullen. A big reason why is the breakout of senior quarterback Kyle Trask.
Trask was mentioned in my “next Joe Burrow candidates” piece from this past summer because he had similar traits to the LSU star. Though Trask isn’t the same level of playmaker or as accurate as Burrow proved to be, that bar was basically unprecedented. Trask has still taken a leap from a decent starter in a good system and Day 3 pick to Heisman Trophy contender and likely Day 2 pick.
That’s a big jump in NFL terms. Sometimes quarterbacks are earmarked early for their pedigree and teams talk themselves into justifying poor play. One-year breakouts have been more accepted lately due to improved transfer rules but there’s still some stigma against them.
Trask has 28 touchdowns through six games, eclipsing 2020 first-rounders Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa for the SEC record. It’s even more impressive that he’s accomplished this against an all-conference schedule. He’s completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 1,815 yards, 22 touchdowns, and three interceptions.
He’s coming off his best game yet against Arkansas. He completed 23-of-29 passes for 356 yards and six touchdowns before sitting for the majority of the fourth quarter. More importantly, he was sticking tough throws that were impactful plays instead of making easy open passes that any decent quarterback is expected to execute.
Can Kyle Trask crack the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in a deep QB class?
After breaking down every pass from Trask’s senior season thus far, he needed this type of performance. His raw numbers are great, but looking at overall accuracy (what’s reasonably catchable) and situational play, he’s only an average prospect when compared to similar data I’ve charted for 90 prospects since 2012. Translation: the system, surrounding cast and playcalling has been helping him more than the other way around.
The numbers often reflect the film. Trask is a high-level executor, but deals with significant physical limitations as a passer. His arm is below average for a quality NFL prospect. Though this isn’t a death knell, a Kirk Cousins-comparison immediately springs to mind when watching Trask’s passes flail when he’s not perfect with mechanics.
Taking out throwaways, Trask has been accurate on 69 percent of his pass attempts, and has dealt with 11 drops. Some of his passes have been inaccurate and caught still, but those are uncommon. Compared to his peers from the last eight draft classes, he ranks similarly to Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Rosen and Blake Bortles.
That’s not great company, even if Garoppolo is an average starter and I’d argue Rosen has upside to be better than the nothingness we’ve seen from him. But the numbers aren’t awful and don’t tell the full story. Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill and Dak Prescott are also in the same general range and have had some high-level success in the NFL.
Trask is highly competent in Mullen’s spread system, favoring the near-side quick throws that are given to him. He balances the field well and is above-average throwing beyond 10 yards. Though he’s not the precision passer that consistently hits guys in stride like Tagovailoa and Burrow, he’s also not missing targets like Mitchell Trubisky.
His deep passing accuracy of 64 percent is absurdly good and not representative of his ability to lead receivers downfield. He’s often throwing to a spot and this causes his receivers to slow or stop, and in the NFL that doesn’t consistently work. His core strength and consistency driving into throws must improve for his upside to rise.
We see issues on broken plays or when under pressure. He tends to swing his back leg forward to help quicken his release time, and this costs him accuracy and power. It’s not uncommon for fringe-arm prospects like him to do this. Jake Fromm was a regular offender of this in last year’s class, though he was a lesser prospect than Trask.
There’s way to overcome this with the right level of pre-snap identification and post-snap reaction level. Trask does a good job of winning here with the Gators. He was excellent against Arkansas with his ball placement and anticipation of where the defender’s leverage would be. We have to see more of it, but he’s at least been flashing this type of foresight to this point.
Watch as the ball comes out of his hand before Kyle Pitts is turning towards the sideline. Pressure forces this action, but the ball is perfectly delivered despite the defender’s arrival and Pitts’ positioning.
It’s not Trask’s fault that his highly-talented set of pass catchers make life easier on him. Six of his touchdowns have been on passes behind the line of scrimmage and a handful of others have been on ones anyone with a functional arm could hit. So the records themselves don’t factor into the evaluation, but his mental processing and physical execution do.
Thus far, he looks like a high-end backup to mid-level starter on the right team. That’s not ideal in such a loaded quarterback class that already has Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance penned into first-round picks, and Zach Wilson and Mac Jones pushing their way into the mix. Even Liberty’s Malik Willis has a good argument to be over Trask.
But if you’re a team like Las Vegas, Minnesota, Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Dallas and you need a potential starter or better backup, Trask makes sense on Day 2. He’s smart, experienced and hits the throws he needs to. With some physical tweaks and improvement, he could be an average starter on a good team.
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