Can Kyle Trask Be Buccaneers' Successor to Tom Brady?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 1, 2021

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (11) throws the ball during the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered Day 2 of the 2021 NFL draft in the most enviable of positions as a team with no glaring needs coming off a blowout win in the Super Bowl. Even Tampa's first-round pick (Washington edge-rusher Joe Tryon) was more about adding depth at a premium position than addressing a hole that needed to be filled ahead of their title defense.

Even so, a few eyebrows went up when Tampa general manager Jason Licht used the team's second-round pick to draft the sixth quarterback off the board in Florida's Kyle Trask. Critics argued that a Buccaneers team led by a 43-year-old quarterback and 68-year-old head coach should be all about living in the now.

But the league's best GMs walk the tightrope between getting better in the present and planning for the future. It can be argued that Licht did both on Friday evening; by adding an accurate pocket passer with the NFL floor of a longtime backup, the Buccaneers purchased some insurance at the game's most important position.

And with a couple of years to learn from the greatest to ever play the game, Trask could develop into a capable NFL starter—and a potential successor to Brady under center.

Prior to the 2019 season, most draftniks would have said it was more likely that Trask would be working an office job after college than hearing his name called on Day 2 of the draft. But after throwing for 2,941 yards and 25 scores two years ago for the Gators, the 6'5", 239-pounder opened some eyes.

Those eyes widened as the 2020 season unfolded…to the size of saucers. Playing with a couple of NFL-caliber passing-game weapons in wide receiver Kadarius Toney and superstar tight end Kyle Pitts, Trask set the SEC ablaze, completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,283 yards with an FBS-leading 43 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Trask averaged 9.8 yards per attempt and 10.9 air yards per attempt and finished his collegiate career as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

John Raoux/Associated Press

Other than that, he was just OK.

To say that Trask took the road less traveled to the NFL is an understatement. A backup quarterback in high school, Florida was the only Power Five offer he received. He didn't start until his redshirt junior season.

However, as Tony Pauline wrote in his profile of Trask at Pro Football Network, that patience and ability to overcome adversity should help him in the NFL almost as much as his prototypical size, pinpoint accuracy and ability to read defenses as well as any signal-caller in his class.

"Trask has the ideal size for an NFL quarterback and has competitive toughness. The journey that the Florida quarterback has taken to get to this point is evidence of his mental toughness. Trask has excellent football intelligence and uses this to make good decisions on the field, as evidenced by his consistently low interception numbers throughout his career. NFL teams should love that element of Trask’s game combined with his accuracy. Trask also has the advantage of having played under center, out of the shotgun, and in the pistol. A large percentage of college football quarterbacks have never taken a snap under center and many struggle to adjust. Teams won’t have that problem with Trask."

Of course, there are reasons why Trask was the sixth quarterback drafted and not the third. The biggest is that he just doesn't have the pure arm talent of Trevor Lawrence. Or Justin Fields. Or even Kellen Mond. Look at tape of Trask, and you won't see a boatload of 65-yard seeds. It's more short and intermediate routes, accurate throws and yards after the catch.

John Raoux/Associated Press

"Because of his lower-half deficiencies, Trask faces obstacles with his arm immediately matching what his eyes/mind diagnose," Jordan Reid of the Draft Network wrote regarding Trask's arm strength. "In the short-to-intermediate areas of the field, there isn’t much life or juice behind his throws. His ability to anticipate targets eventually coming open has helped mask some of his arm limitations, but during field throws or ones down the field, there’s a rainbow-like trajectory to them. A clear sign of average arm strength, field throws and vertical passes down the field have often turned into sinkers."

There's also the matter of Trask's status as a "pure pocket passer," which is a nice way of saying he's slow. He broke the five-second barrier at Florida's pro day, but just barely; per Demetrius Harvey of All Gators, he ran a 4.98.

The reality is that relative to his peers in the class of 2021, Trask's ceiling isn't especially high. He's all but certainly not going to shock the league and go from Day 2 pick to superstar a la Russell Wilson.

That's OK though, because his floor is also significantly higher than his Day 2 counterparts. With his ability to survey the field, work through his progressions and deliver an accurate ball, Trask is likely at worst a solid backup who will play in the pros for a decade. He may not be Russell Wilson, but he also isn't Garrett Grayson.

That accuracy and vision could also (in the right situation) help Trask develop into at least a serviceable NFL starter. There was more than one quarterback who started an NFL game in 2020 who entered the pros amid concerns about his arm strength and athleticism (or lack thereof), including the guy Trask will be backing up in Tampa.

No, I am not comparing Trask to Brady. That would be ridiculous. I am simply saying that predraft assessments of a quarterback's limitations are not necessarily the kiss of death.

Especially when a youngster gets to learn from the all-time king of exceeding expectations.

It's a movie we've seen before. Back in 2014, scouting reports on Jimmy Garoppolo questioned his arm strength and mobility. The New England Patriots took him at the back end of Round 2 anyway. Garoppolo spent most of his first three seasons in the league holding a clipboard for the Golden Boy before getting his chance to be a full-time starter.

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

At the conclusion of the 2019 season, he very nearly led the San Francisco 49ers to a victory in Super Bowl LIV.

This isn't to say that Trask's story will play out the same way. Bucs fans shouldn't necessarily want it to. Garoppolo's chance to start came after Brady reportedly all but forced him out of Beantown.

(As an aside, it's hard to fathom Tampa making this pick without Brady's blessing. Like, unfathomably hard to fathom.)

What it does show is that it's possible for a quarterback with a certain skill set who has studied under Brady to have considerable NFL success in an offense that accentuates what he does well. And if Garoppolo can do it, so can Trask.

It's understandable that Buccaneers fans don't want to think about the future. The present is a lot more fun—when Brady inevitably leaves (and Arians likely follows) the party's over. The rebuild is coming.

But part of Licht's job is to consider that unpleasant reality. And the possibility the team could have to navigate a period of time with Brady on the shelf with an injury.

At worst, the Buccaneers got some insurance against such an injury and an upgrade over Ryan Griffin behind Brady. But it's possible that Tampa got much more than that. That they drafted a young quarterback with the potential to develop into the player who could lead the Buccaneers into the post-Brady era—or at least bridge the two.

Licht did what the best general managers do.

He walked the tightrope.