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College Scouting Notebook: Maybe, just maybe, Jacob Eason could be the guy?

Could 2020 4th round pick be the guy for the Colts?

Indianapolis Colts Training Camp Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

I started doing these quarterback centered College Scouting Notebooks a few weeks back with the thought that the Colts would be in the market for one in this upcoming NFL Draft. What continued to shock me with the first few I posted was the countless amount of comments mentioning 2020 4th Round Pick Jacob Eason and fans suggesting that he could be the guy rather than any of these 2021 draft prospects.

Eason didn’t slip my mind because he is an awful quarterback but I more so ignored the possibility of him being the future starter mainly due to the fact that day three quarterback picks have an egregiously low chance of ever becoming a backup in the NFL, much less a starter. There have been some hits like Tom Brady but there have been so many misses that I didn’t even consider him.

With the overwhelming amount of comments about him lately, I decided it is time to give the fans what they want and focus an entire piece on Eason and his potential. So I prepared this special, and fairly long-winded, Scouting Notebook on the polarizing yet talented Jacob Eason.

Addressing the Character Concerns

A pretty big talking point throughout the draft process, especially as we closed in on draft day, was the reported character concerns with Jacob Eason during his time at Washington. The reports, which ESPN insider Chris Mortensen and others spoke about, talked about a lack of accountability, work ethic, and overall attitude being issues that led to his draft-day slide.

I would like to state that I personally spoke to a few people around the situation and wasn’t able to find out anything negative whatsoever about Eason during his time at Washington. I also reached out to my good friend Justin Melo of Broadway Sports and The Draft Wire for his opinion.

Melo has interviewed hundreds of draft prospects in his career and I always respect his judgment when it comes to the character of the players he talks to. He provided me with this testimonial addressing Eason’s character concerns for this piece:

“I had the opportunity to interview Eason ahead of the 2020 draft. It ended up being an hour-long conversation. The first thing that jumped out at me was how polite he was. I had heard the rumors about his character and whatnot, but he came across as a very polite young man throughout our conversation. I call him, he picks up the phone and says “Hi Justin.” It’s something small, but the fact that he even took the time to know my name, it’s not something a lot of athletes do while being interviewed. He was so invested.

Outside of his personality which really impressed me, I thought his football IQ shone through. The transfer to Washington wasn’t always easy for him, but he took that year off to better prepare himself. He was a great fit in their offense. They gave him a ton of responsibility. As our conversation came to an end, he wanted to know about my hometown, where I came from, and whatnot. Just a great guy. The future of the QB position for the Colts is very much in question as Phillip Rivers isn’t getting younger. I’d love to see Eason get a legit shot”

The positive opinion from Media/QB Specialists

Melo wasn’t the only person I outsourced some opinions from for this article. I reached out to a few Draft analysts who had vastly different opinions on Eason come draft time last year. I asked them a simple question to answer for you all:

What was your opinion of Jacob Eason as a prospect and what does he need to do to be a starting NFL QB in your opinion?

Our first response comes from Mark Schofield of USA Today’s TouchdownWire. Schofield is, in my opinion, the very best in the business at breaking down the intricacies of quarterback play and gave an excellent and thorough opinion of his QB5 from this past class:

“Eason was not my top quarterback in the class, he graded out as QB5 for me. But his trait-set, combined with something we have seen this season from one of his peers, might illuminate a path towards becoming a starter. His easy velocity and impressive arm talent is part of his best group of traits. Eason certainly can spin it, and he has some of the best wow throws of any passer in this class.

What also works in his favor is the offense he ran at Washington. The Huskies did a lot with Eason working under center and running play-action using that deep drop into the pocket and turning his back to the defense. Those plays illustrate his ability to quickly read and react to the secondary because they compress the decision-making time for the quarterback. Another area where Eason deserves some credit is his willingness to attack the middle of the field and up the seams. He has supreme confidence in his arm — for good reason — and will challenge some throwing windows that other quarterbacks in this group will avoid.

The quarterback that I compared him to, in terms of the arm talent and easy velocity? Justin Herbert. Herbert’s success this year has shown that if a QB can identify leverage and throw against it, among other things, then he can be successful.

Another area where Herbert has grown is key to Eason’s potential development: Pocket management. Herbert struggled in that area in college and Eason was no different. He made some head-scratching decisions in the pocket and seemed to struggle under pressure. As noted above, Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of just 37.6 when pressured, second-worst in the Pac-12, and this is one of those occasions when the grade definitely matches the tape. That is a pretty big red flag. Magnifying this issue is that when pressured, he often looks to bail to his left, away from his throwing hand, thereby just making his situation worse.

A prime example of his struggles against pressure, as well as his questionable situational awareness, comes at the end of that game against Cal. On a second-and-8 play with just over two minutes remaining, the Huskies were trailing by a single point. Eason looked to throw a smoke route to the right, but it was read perfectly by the defense, so he pulled the ball down. So far, so good. But he bailed the pocket to the left, and instead of throwing the ball away, he slid to the turf for a loss of three yards. Thankfully, his field goal kicker converted a 49-yard field goal after a third-down incompletion, but that was not the best of decisions. —-Here is that play for a visual—-

Herbert got better at handling pressure as a rookie, if Eason is going to have success, he’ll need to do the same.”

Now to the Negative opinion from Media

Along with reaching out to Schofield, I also reached out to Emory Hunt of CBS Sports and Football Gameplan. Hunt is one of the more knowledgeable guys in the business and I swear he watches film on all 2,000+ Seniors in college football. He also sits down with plenty of college coaches so I trust his knowledge on a lot of topics regarding the game.

Hunt was one of the harshest critics of Eason’s game and had him as his QB18 in the draft. He was generous enough to share with me his grade sheet and report on Eason for this last draft:

In regards to improvements to make, here is what Hunt had to say to me:

“Tighten up his mechanics, becoming more consistent in that regard. Become a lot better in ‘hitting his free throws’, similar to what we saw Josh Allen do this season”

Time for my film opinion of Eason

Now we get to the moment you all have been waiting for.. my opinion on the young Indy quarterback. I honestly didn’t watch too much of his film pre-draft but I sat down for a few hours before writing this to watch 9 of his Senior games I had on film. I think I am a bit on the lower side of liking him but let’s go through the film a bit.

Starting with the positives, I completely get taking a shot on a player like Eason on day three. The velocity and arm talent are elite and honestly, if I had only watched his games against Oregon and Hawaii, I would have taken him in the first round. He can make every throw an offense would ask of him and fit it into tight windows that are needed to start in the NFL.

On top of that, I do want to echo a bit of what Schofield said above. I was pretty impressed with how Eason attacked down the field in multiple ways that college quarterbacks rarely do. From hole shots vs zone to back shoulder fades to the slot, I think he can be an aggressive starting quarterback one day with the right offense. This is an underrated part of his game that is a big plus for his development in the NFL.

Unfortunately, we now come to the many negatives in his game and the true reasons why he fell to day three. The biggest issue in his game and the biggest detriment to his future in this league is how he handles pressure. Way too often did he bail from clean pockets or fail to step up in good pockets. When defenders close in on him, his mechanics fail him and he becomes very inaccurate. When he is knocked off-script, it can be a disaster for the offense.

On top of that, his accuracy is way too inconsistent for my liking. We talk all the time about natural accuracy with NFL QBs and I don’t see that when I see Eason. When everything is lined up and perfect, he can deliver a nice pass. When he is off his base, it becomes a lot worse. Even when everything is perfect, he still has moments of dreadful accuracy and sails some passes. Like Hunt said above, he needs to start hitting the lay-ups with more consistency.

The highs and lows in his game were tough to watch. The quarterback who played against Oregon, Hawaii, and Eastern Washington is a first-round player. The quarterback who showed up against Cal, USC, and Oregon State should never take an NFL snap. Some of this variance is likely due to his inexperience and lack of playing time but that inconsistency is scary as an evaluator.

Final Thoughts

I totally get why fans love Jacob Eason. The highlights are super fun and he has the talent to be a high-level NFL starter. To me though, I think there is a lot of work to be done to get there. He struggles mightily with pressure, misses reads, has inconsistent accuracy, and needs work on his mechanics to name a few issues.

However, he is in a perfect situation. Learning from a fringe Hall of Fame QB in Philip Rivers and a great Head Coach in Frank Reich would benefit any young quarterback. It also helps that he ran a pro-level offense in college that is similar to the Colts’ system and he was able to have a lot of control in what that offense did (much like Rivers has control in the Colts’ system).

There is a lot of variance as to what Eason could be. Statistically speaking, he is probably more likely to end up having a career similar to Ryan Mallet or, at best, Mike Glennon. However, outliers do exist and I wouldn’t completely count Eason out yet. He has a good head on his shoulders and can definitely beat the odds to be a starting NFL quarterback.

My final thoughts on Eason are that he is like a 20 dollar lottery ticket for this team. That ticket may not prevent you from actually investing in something tangible (aka a first-round quarterback) but it would be incredible if that ticket were to hit big.

Maybe Eason is making incredible improvements behind the scenes and becomes a star for this team. I think we can all agree that is the best-case scenario for everyone here. For right now though, we should operate and act like he has no impact on the future until new information is available.