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There will be no overreaction in NFL circles to quarterback Kyle Trask’s worst game of his career in Florida’s Cotton Bowl blowout, we promise.
How do we know? The reaction to his mostly terrific 2020 season, at least in NFL scouting circles, was remarkably ambivalent.
It’s not that NFL scouts hate Trask, who officially declared for the draft Thursday morning. They don’t seem to, anyway, at least not the ones we’ve spoken to about him. Finding someone who loves him, however, might require some real sleuthing. We have yet to uncover one who does.
When Trask was in the midst of a scorching statistical run, we placed him in the middle of Round 1 of our first mock draft. After we sent the mock out to a few NFL people, two of them immediately rained on our parade: Trask won’t go Round 1, they said.
In his first nine games, Trask completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 3,243 yards, 38 TDs and only three picks. Still you had to look beyond the numbers to see what scouts weren’t enamored with.
For the rest of the season, it has been one of those ambiguous images (Is it an old lady? Or a boot?) you see in Trask: great production, limited NFL appeal. Once you spot the latter, it’s hard to unsee it.
Wednesday’s game could serve as confirmation bias for those reasons, too, and we’re by no means trying to excuse away his three first-quarter interceptions. On all three, Trask carried some measure of blame.
Those 3 interceptions
On the first, he stared down his target — against zone defense, with eyes in the backfield — for what ended in a pick 6, even if the wideout could have done more to help Trask.
The second wasn’t egregious, but Trask’s throw to tight end Kemore Gamble was late and behind him, deflecting off his hands.
The third pick was a bad decision and an underthrown ball in the end zone, although it appeared the receiver didn’t properly finish his route.
Despite Florida’s later efforts to make it a game, it was essentially over at that point at 17-0.
Let’s give Trask some credit. The player who waited his high school career (when he was D’Eriq King’s backup) and two years with the Gators for a chance to start didn’t give up another shot at playing. He competed for his school despite his four leading targets — TE Kyle Pitts and wideouts Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and Jacob Copeland — sitting out the game.
Trask was the captain who went down with his ship. There’s nobility in that for sure.
Gamble, who most certainly is not Pitts, was targeted eight times; that netted one 13-yard catch and four drops, including the pick that glanced off Gamble’s hands. WR Rick Wells entered the game with career totals of nine catches and 110 yards. Wells was Trask’s most targeted receiver Wednesday, with nine passes in his direction.
There were seven dropped passes. Pressure was a problem, too. Florida’s defense and special teams were big problems, too. Trask hung in there despite the Gators being in a huge hole early and him having to cede snaps to Emory Jones throughout.
Kyle Trask’s realistic NFL outlook
In essence, our evaluation of Trask today is the same as it was coming into the Cotton Bowl, despite it being the worst outing of his two years as a starter.
That’s because it’s hard not to wonder how Trask would operate on an NFL team lacking in elite skill-position talent or in a system that doesn’t have a masterful play designer or caller. Wednesday’s game gave us a stark view of his play without a slew of playmakers, and a careful viewing of some of Trask’s most prolific games will see that there were ample risky throws and poor decisions in those ones as well.
At the same time, Trask has enough of the good stuff — tight-window accuracy most games, unquestioned toughness, no tangible fear of incoming pressure — to not project as some NFL burnout.
How much can he really add to a team?
We’ve put him on the Chad Henne-Nick Foles-Mason Rudolph spectrum as a prospect. The first two have made nice careers as low-end starters/high-end backups who are ready at a moment’s notice, and the third will be starting Sunday as a playoff-team replacement.
A Southeastern-area scout and I have a running joke about Trask. He’s called him “Vitamin K” — you know, the group of supplements that quietly do a lot of good things for you that you never see nor really think about. Also: No one seems to ever really die from Vitamin K deficiency. (If a loved one of yours did perish from this affliction, we certainly meant you no harm.)
If we had to guess, Trask will perform reasonably well at the Senior Bowl, interview and work out well during the pre-draft process. He’ll end up somewhere between our 70th and 90th ranked prospect for the 2021 NFL draft. And our best bet is that he’ll eventually hear his name called somewhere in Rounds 2 or 3 (although Round 4 wouldn’t be a shock).
If that feels low given Trask’s mostly outstanding 2020 performance, don’t forget that Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and Andy Dalton — nearly 400 career starts between them and counting — all were taken on Day 2 of the draft. And if that feels too high, we may remind you that Christian Hackenberg, Sean Mannion, Garrett Grayson, Davis Webb and Will Grier all heard their names called in that range as well.
Trask’s NFL career will fall somewhere between those two poles. He profiles as a very respectable college football player who will always be the NFL starter who leaves you wanting more and the backup who likely deserves more praise than he’ll get.
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