Kyle Trask has always been tough. He's always been talented and driven. A quarterback battle dating back to his days at Manvel High School in Texas, where he'd go head-to-head every day with current Miami Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King, would forge Trask into who he is now.
King, one of the best quarterbacks to play in the state of Texas in the last decade, was a walking highlight reel and legend in the state. He was also in front of Trask on the depth chart. Trask left high school with limited tape but a perfect 16-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio while spelling King in the team's blowout wins.
Trask left Manvel with a 3-star rating and the No. 92 ranking among 2016 pro-style quarterbacks, per 247Sports' composite. He was the 262nd-ranked player in the state of Texas—which is why offers didn't come in from the University of Texas, Texas A&M or even TCU.
In fact, the other three offers listed for Trask were from Houston Baptist, Lamar and McNeese State.
For three years, Trask sat and watched at Florida while nursing injuries suffered outside of the regular season that kept him from working his way into the starting lineup. Once Florida's incumbent starter, Feleipe Franks, was lost to an ankle injury, it was Trask's turn and his time. He took the starting job and hasn't looked back since.
Now the Heisman Trophy front-runner with his team controlling its own destiny for a College Football Playoff berth, Trask is outshining Franks. And it's the adversity he's overcome that has scouts impressed each week.
"You don't want to compare anyone to [Joe] Burrow, but he's doing a lot of Burrow-like things this year. And that toughness and competitiveness is really on par," said one NFC area scout who covers the SEC and has seen both quarterbacks up close in the last year.
And Trask is doing Burrow-like things with his 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season. He's looking like a future first-rounder.
At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Trask has the size NFL teams want at the position, but he also has the pocket presence and enough mobility to thrive. Teams want quarterbacks who can at least evade pressure and keep the play alive, and that's something Trask does well. Like a thicker Matt Ryan, he can survive in a messy pocket without being an elite athlete.
With at least seven NFL teams—NY Jets, Jacksonville, Washington, Atlanta, New England, San Francisco, Chicago—likely to entertain drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, Trask will have plenty of evaluators watching the rest of his season. Last year, Burrow turned it on as the season progressed, and by the time LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, he had risen to the top of most draft boards. Trask hasn't had that moment yet—and there might not be anything he can do to top Clemson's Trevor Lawrence—but he's definitely pushing his stock higher with each impressive outing.
For teams that value experience, toughness, an ability to overcome adversity and a modern skill set, Trask is shining.
In Atlanta, with a new front office coming in, Trask's ability to play a brand of football similar to Matt Ryan's should be intriguing. Ryan turns 36 years old before next season.
The same goes for the San Francisco 49ers, who could move on from Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason and give Kyle Shanahan a quarterback like Ryan, who won the 2016 MVP while Shanahan was his offensive coordinator. And while Trask might not move the pocket as well as some believe Shanahan would like at the position, he offers a big arm to push the ball vertically and has proved through two years at Florida that he's able to protect the ball—two things Garoppolo has struggled with.
Another solid option for Trask is the New England Patriots. Neither Cam Newton nor Jarrett Stidham is the long-term answer. Could Trask, with his ability to win from the pocket and his total field vision, be the type of quarterback Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels want to build around?
There are endless options with the rest of the season yet to play out, but as of now Trask doesn't appear likely to fall out of the top 20 picks of the draft.
The Scout's Report
—Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields struggled on Saturday as his Buckeyes narrowly escaped the Indiana Hoosiers. In the game, Fields threw three interceptions—two of which should be accredited to poor throws and decision-making—which matches his total number of picks from all of last season.
There will be a rush to judgment as evaluators and analysts want to trash a quarterback after a bad game, but in doing so they'd miss the fact that Fields also accounted for 378 yards of total offense and three touchdowns while continuing to show improved athleticism and mobility.
Underneath coverage tends to be an issue for Fields, but that can be improved and worked on. The scouts and fans who question him because of the Ohio State scheme are going to do that whether he has a perfect five-touchdown day like he did against Rutgers or an uneven performance like he did against Indiana.
The real test of evaluating Fields will come largely after the season ends when teams can spend time with him to gauge his maturity, football IQ, aptitude and work ethic. Two bad throws against Indiana will be forgotten if teams value his mental makeup and take in the whole of his career.
—The Las Vegas Raiders (6-4) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, but they managed to split the series on the season—a fact that shouldn't be at all disappointing. Credit is owed to general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden for the job they've done building a tough, deep roster and also how they've helped change the game of quarterback Derek Carr by identifying the right weapons for his strengths.
The move to hire Mayock from the TV booth was not widely praised by those working in the NFL, but the results have been inspiring. Mayock knows what he wants in a prospect—toughness, leadership and players from winning programs have been prioritized—and it's working. If they make the playoffs, they'll be a handful for whomever they match up with.
—Allen Robinson II is set to become one of the NFL's most sought-after free agents in quite some time when he hits the market this offseason. There is, of course, the chance the Chicago Bears place the franchise tag on the talented wide receiver, but if Robinson does become a free agent, there will be a line of suitors longer than the one seen last week at the opening of an In-N-Out in Colorado.
When he hit the open market in 2018, Robinson was rumored by NFL insiders to have opted for a larger contract over the best team fit. Robinson, understandably, wanted to cash in. But now the 27-year-old can pick the best fit and perhaps a winning team for his third NFL deal.
—The New York Jets are winless at 0-10, but they have bright spots. Notably, first-round tackle Mekhi Becton and second-round receiver Denzel Mims. When healthy, both have looked like future building blocks. Mims is putting some DK Metcalf-type plays on tape. Once the two 2020 draftees are surrounded by more structure and a better supporting cast, they could break out.
—The Cincinnati Bearcats are undefeated, and head coach Luke Fickell's stock is rising among the coaching ranks. Fickell, who was at Ohio State with Urban Meyer before taking his first full-time head coaching job at Cincinnati in 2017, has built the Bearcats into a powerhouse in the AAC with back-to-back 11 win seasons before this year's perfect 8-0 start.
Fickell's name will be red-hot on the rumor mill.
—The 2021 running back class is shaping up to be a good one with Alabama's Najee Harris and Clemson's Travis Etienne by far the most recognizable names, but keep an eye on these two as well—Buffalo's Jaret Patterson and Memphis' Kenneth Gainwell. Both players have Day 2 grades from multiple scouts polled this week. Patterson, especially, has been dominating statistically each week and could make an argument as the best Group of Five player in the country.
—Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore made his debut on Saturday after missing the beginning of the season with an undisclosed injury, and he reminded folks of the excitement he brings to the field. With 15 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown added on the ground, Moore was electric. There will still be questions about his size (5'9", 180 lbs) and durability with time missed in 2019 and 2020 due to injuries, but with the ball in his hands Moore is among the best in the nation.
—If you like offensive line play, make sure to catch Ohio State's Wyatt Davis. The right guard is among the most graceful and powerful players I've seen at that position in a long time. Rarely do interior offensive linemen find themselves drafted in the top 10, but Davis' play and potential could push him up there.
The Big Board
Here's a look at my updated top 32 players for the 2021 draft. Given the staggered start to the season for many teams, some players have been evaluated more than others, but we still have enough tape and prior campaigns to consider.
1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
2. OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
3. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
4. LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
5. WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
6. QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
7. CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
8. WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
9. WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
10. EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
11. DL Jordan Davis, Georgia
12. QB Zach Wilson, BYU
13. CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
14. EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas
15. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
16. TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
17. WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
18. CB Derion Kendrick, Clemson
19. OT Samuel Cosmi, Texas
20. G Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
21. QB Kyle Trask, Florida
22. QB Mac Jones, Alabama
23. OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
24. S Jevon Holland, Oregon
25. EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
26. OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
27. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
28. WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
29. TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
30. OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
31. G Trey Smith, Tennessee
32. OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
1. Stock Up: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
It might seem hard to go stock up when you're already a top-10 player, but another fantastic performance by DeVonta Smith has him inching closer to the top of the wide receiver board. Smith plays so much bigger than his 6'1", 175-pound frame would suggest and is dominating both as a sure-handed possession receiver and also as a playmaker. In the absence of Jaylen Waddle due to injury, Smith has claimed the spot as the best wide receiver playing this season. It could result in him being the first receiver drafted in April.
2. Stock Down: CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State
What do we do with Shaun Wade? The Ohio State redshirt junior has been billed as a future first-rounder for years now, but his play continues to be concerning when he's asked to venture outside of the slot. Wade has been pushed around and out-maneuvered too often over the last two seasons when asked to match up with Big Ten receivers. Wade could carve out a nice NFL career as a slot cornerback or an outside starter in a zone scheme, but he should not be confused for a man-coverage player. His NFL success will largely be about fit.
3. Sleeper: WR Whop Philyor, Indiana
Whop Philyor has more than just one of the best names in college football. The senior is also impressing weekly as the Indiana Hoosiers are one of the surprise teams of the season. Syncing up with redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and fellow senior receiver Ty Fryfogle, Philyor has been part of an explosive offense in Bloomington. A late-round prospect when the season began, Philyor is putting out the type of tape that could get him into the early-to-mid-Day 3 range.
4. "Any team, any time, any place" they tweeted from the BYU football account on Saturday afternoon. Then, one day later, The Athletic's Bruce Feldman reported BYU turned down an offer to play the University of Washington.
Don't worry, @FreezingColdTakes was alerted.
5. We've been waiting for this since he transferred and pushed Jamie Newman out of the job, but JT Daniels finally made his Georgia debut after missing time due to injury, and he impressed, going 28-of-38 for 401 yards and four touchdowns. Daniels, a redshirt sophomore who is draft-eligible, is a rhythm passer with good middle-field accuracy and timing. He's also 6'3", 210 pounds and is a perfect fit for the offensive system at Georgia. While he's not expected to be a 2021 draft prospect, Daniels is someone to keep an eye on for the future.
6. Hugh Freeze and the Liberty Flames lost their first game of the season to North Carolina State on Saturday, but the team's 8-1 record has many in the football world thinking that Freeze could be in the running for a Power Five job this offseason.
Freeze was previously the head coach at Ole Miss (2012-16) but resigned in the summer of 2017 amid a scandal involving paying recruits and using a school phone to make calls to an escort service.
Ole Miss would go on to lose 27 of Freeze's wins during his tenure after the NCAA punished the Rebels for fielding ineligible players.
Freeze is a good coach, but he will need to prove he can responsibly run a program before NCAA presidents are willing to sign off on him.
7. Wild Stat of the Day: Jim Harbaugh hasn't had a losing season as a head coach since 2008, his second year at Stanford.
Harbaugh never had a losing record with the San Francisco 49ers and hasn't at Michigan (yet) but is considered to be a coach on the hot seat due to expectations at his alma mater. This isn't me advocating for Harbaugh, but it's wild that one of the most hated coaches in college football by his own fanbase hasn't had a losing season.
8. Well-wishes to one of my favorite draft prospects of the last decade, Joe Burrow, who tore his ACL, MCL and suffered other structural issues in his knee in Week 11. Here's hoping one of the NFL's bright young stars is healthy for 2021 and has a better offensive line in front of him.
9. Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you're staying home or traveling, thank you to my readers who make all of this possible. My 10th Thanksgiving at Bleacher Report has been made possible by your support and dedication.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.