In the weeks leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, NESN.com will be taking a closer look at this year’s quarterback class and how each player could fit with the New England Patriots. Next up: Florida’s Kyle Trask.
Kyle Trask, Florida
6-foot-5 1/4, 236 pounds, 10 1/8-inch hands
Projected round: 2-3
2020 stats: 68.9 percent (301-for-437), 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 10.9 yards per attempt; 45 carries, 185 rushing yards, three touchdowns (12 games)
Strengths: Ball placement, accuracy to all levels of the field, ball security, toughness, size, touch
Weaknesses: Arm strength, mobility, lack of experience
Testing numbers: 5.08-second 40-yard dash, 1.7-second 10-yard split, 31.5-inch vertical leap, 9-feet, 5-inch broad jump, 7.08-second 3-cone drill, 4.38-second short shuttle
Analysis: Kyle Trask will test some of the New England Patriots’ typical standards as it relates to drafting a quarterback.
The Florida quarterback is big, accurate, oozes leadership and toughness, played well against good competition and typically had the ball in his hands either as a passer or runner when the game mattered most. At the same time, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick — according to former NFL exec-turned-analyst Michael Lombardi — even asks his scouts about the high school backgrounds of quarterbacks.
“What was his high school win-loss record? Was he the best athlete in high school?”
Interesting fact: Trask didn’t start a single varsity game in high school. He played behind future Houston and Miami QB D’Eriq King (he’ll be a senior with the Hurricanes next season) in high school but still went 95-for-132 for 1,545 yards with 18 total touchdowns and no interceptions as a junior and senior.
Trask once again found himself at second-string behind an eventual NFL prospect at Florida when he backed up Feleipe Franks in 2017, 2018 and four games into the 2019 season when Franks went down and Trask took over.
Trask went 237-for-354 (66.9 percent) for 2,941 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior then took a massive step forward in 2020 as a senior when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Trask was viewed as the consensus No. 6 quarterback prospect in the draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones until a disastrous Cotton Bowl that saw Florida’s top three pass-catchers — wide receiver Kadarius Toney, tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Trevon Grimes — opt out of the game. The Gators’ No. 4 receiver, Jacob Copeland, also missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19.
Trask went 16-of-28 for 158 yards and threw three of the eight interceptions he registered during the 2020 season in that game against Oklahoma. Trask definitely missed Toney, Pitts, Grimes and Copeland. He also didn’t play well in that game, and it raised the question to what level he was helped out by his pass-catchers in 2020.
Now Trask is in the mix with other Day 2 quarterback prospects Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) and Davis Mills (Stanford) to be the sixth passer off the board. The Patriots, picking 15th, might not have a chance at one of the top five quarterbacks without giving up the farm to move up in the draft. So, they might be stuck taking a second-tier option in the second or third round.
Pitts (43 catches, 770 yards, 12 touchdowns) is the best tight end in the draft and could be a Top 5 pick. Toney (70 catches, 984 yards, 10 touchdowns) would likely be a first-round pick without some off-field issues. Grimes (38 catches, 589 yards, nine touchdowns) is projected to be a late-round pick. Trask was helped by his weapons more than any quarterback in the 2021 class other than Mac Jones. He finished first among the top nine quarterbacks (Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance, Jones, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Stanford’s Davis Mills and Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman) in the draft in catches that required adjustments, according to Derrik Klassen of Football Outsiders and NBC Sports Edge. That’s not entirely surprising, since Pitts (and Grimes to a certain extent) regularly pulled down circus catches. If Trask put it up there, Pitts likely came down with it.
Among the top 13 quarterbacks, however, Trask ranked fourth (behind Fields, Newman and Wilson) in air yards. Only 42.2 percent of Trask’s passing yards came after the catch. Florida’s rushing attack ranked 96th in the FBS, and its offensive line didn’t feature as many top draft prospects as Alabama, BYU, Ohio State, Stanford and Texas A&M.
Trask finished seventh in PFF’s adjusted completion percentage metric and sixth in average depth of target among the top 13 QBs.
We ran numbers combining accuracy rate, depth of target, turnover-worthy play rate and big-time throw rate (all data via PFF), and Trask finished fifth behind Wilson, Fields, Jones and Lance among the top 13 QBs in all of them:
Also, only 278 of Trask’s 4,283 passing yards on screens.
Trask is the sixth-best pure passer in the draft behind Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance and Jones (in some order). He does lack desired mobility, however. The Patriots like a quarterback who runs a 4.81-second 40-yard dash or better. Trask ran his 40-yard dash in 5.08 seconds. It didn’t really affect his play on the field, but it does potentially limit his upside in the NFL.
Trask finished sixth among the top 13 quarterbacks in sack rate. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 45 rushing attempts (subtracting sacks, which get counted in college football rushing statistics). There were certainly times when Trask looked a little slow-footed, but he showed good enough vision as a runner, certainly wasn’t what we’d call “statuesque” in the pocket and threw accurately on the move. Trask isn’t Lamar Jackson. He also isn’t Ryan Mallett.
Most NFL draft analysts have Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance and Jones No. 1 through 5 (in some order) in their draft rankings. Trask, Mond and Mills are most commonly in the second-tier, and how those quarterbacks are sorted out is a matter of preference.
There are plenty of reasons to like Trask. He’s big, he’s accurate, he’s not entirely immobile, he protects the ball well, and he competed like hell in Florida’s SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama. Seriously. Watch his performance. That’s definitely popping up on his Patriots scouting report inside Gillette Stadium. He also completed an eye-popping 55.1 percent of his deep balls for 1,269 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 139.6 passer rating. That was the second-best deep-ball passer rating among top QBs behind Franks.
Mond is definitely the more athletic option over Trask and Mills, though there’s a question of whether he harnesses it to its fullest extent in the pocket and with the ball in his hands. Mills comes with a five-star recruiting pedigree and more potential as a passer.
Despite Trask’s slow 40 time, and despite the fact that he wasn’t “the best athlete in (his) high school,” it certainly would not be surprising if the Patriots grabbed Trask. He was willing to compete for his spot in high school and college and didn’t waver or transfer. He was a team captain as a senior, and he put together the type of campaign that shows he might still have some growth potential. He wouldn’t be as mobile as Cam Newton, but he would come with more rushing ability than Tom Brady.
Trask has been compared, playing-wise, to Ben Roethlisberger. He’s also been likened to Mason Rudolph. The team that picks him has to be hoping he’ll turn out like the former.