Jacob Eason, Indianapolis Colts:
Bare with me here, as a lot of this section may sound like a rerun to you if you’ve read the piece we published on Eason a few weeks ago. The former Washington (and Georgia) passer is one of the most intriguing players from this year’s draft, as his pure arm strength is on par with both Jordan Love and Justin Herbert, and he has also displayed keen leadership abilities as a starter for both of the programs he played for during his collegiate career.
As a true freshman for the Bulldogs in 2016, Eason looked like an emerging star, throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns. While he struggled mightily with his accuracy at times (55.1% completion rate), the young gunslinger displayed all the tools you look for in a potential franchise quarterback, leaving many draftniks to gush about his growth potential as the 2017 season kicked off.
Unfortunately for Eason, fate had other ideas, as he suffered a serious knee injury in the team’s season-opener against Appalachian State. In his absence, the program turned to Jake Fromm as the starter, and the rest was history. Eason went from a highly regarded former super prospect to ‘the other Jake’, prompting a transfer to the University of Washington, located just a few hours from Eason’s childhood home.
While he was two years removed from significant playing time, Eason was firmly on the draft radar heading into the 2019 season as the Huskies starter. The results were mixed, as Eason finished with 3,132 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions while completing 64.2% of his passes. It was clear that the former Gatorade Player of the Year had grown as a passer between his time with Georgia and his lone season with the Huskies, as his numbers improved significantly across the board. Yet even with the improvements he made, Eason failed to dominate the Pac-12 as many hoped he would.
The advanced metrics depicted Eason as a very middle of the road passer, as he finished 22nd in the nation with a 74.9% adjusted completion rate, 54th in ADOT (9.3 YPT), and most importantly 2nd to last among qualified passers in passer rating when pressured. Considering the impressive arm strength he has displayed on occasion, Eason did not tap into his biggest strength with just 23 big time throws compared to 12 turnover worthy plays. While Eason was never a perfect fit for Washington’s offense, his skill level should have transcended the limitations of the scheme a bit more, if in fact he was the first-round talent that many had talked him up to be. The NFL experts tended to agree with this assessment, as Eason found himself waiting til day three of the draft to hear his name called.
Many would give up on a passer who saw his stock take such a drastic hit, yet in this case we believe Eason to be most fortunate, as he could not have landed in a more perfect situation, based on his needs. Drafted by Indianapolis to backup veteran Philip Rivers, there may not be a better mentor for Eason to shadow. At 6’6, 235 lbs, Eason is built in the mold of the prototypical pocket passer that became the standard of excellence in draft prospects during the mid-90’s. A statue in the pocket, Eason is a player who was truly born in the wrong decade, as even 10 years ago he would have been taken first overall based purely on measurements. Yet as the Colts build an offense tailored to Rivers (perhaps the least mobile passer of all time), Eason may very well have found the ideal situation. While he certainly did a lot of sitting during his collegiate career, it’s clear that he will need a significant amount of time on the sidelines before he’s ready to lead an NFL offense. With Rivers expected to lead the charge for the next season or two, Eason will be provided with the necessary learning time while also being taught the tricks of the trade by a guy who knows what it takes to succeed in the pros.
Should anything happen to Rivers, Eason would not necessarily be thrown into the fire, as the team still has reliable spot starter Jacoby Brissett under contract. However, if called upon, the run-heavy Colts offense would certainly maximize Eason’s upside, as he would be protected by one of the league’s elite offensive line units while being able to checkdown to a variety of reliable options. Like Dak Prescott before him, Eason is an understudy who is in a prime position to succeed should he be forced into action.
Even on a team that checks all the boxes, there are some huge concerns about Eason as a player. His lack of mobility is quite alarming, as we have seen similarly limited athletes get eaten alive in recent years (Josh Rosen, Mason Rudolph). Moreover, passers who have garnered cumulative college passer ratings below 140 from this last decade have been very underwhelming NFL players, with a 61% bust rating. The only notable success stories from this group have been Josh Allen (an elite rushing QB) and Daniel Jones (not far behind Allen as an athlete), two players who have still struggled with accuracy as professionals. When he’s in rhythm, Eason will look as good as any passer from this class. But when the chips are down, he will often disappear and occasionally self-destruct, as we saw in Washington’s game against the Utes.
It’s tough to find a good comp for Eason, as he is so clearly gifted, yet exposes many flaws that could seriously side track him from finding success in the NFL. PFF has compared him to Davis Webb, a passer who you might remember as the guy who stole Baker Mayfield’s starting role at Texas Tech, only to lose the role to Patrick Mahomes. Take a look at these eerily similar numbers from the two passers:
- Overall Passing Grade: 73.2
- Average Depth of Target: 9.98
- AIR%: 49.6%
- Adjusted Completion Rate: 69.5%
- Overall Passing Grade: 74.0
- Average Depth of Target: 9.26
- AIR%: 48.2%
- Adjusted Completion Rate: 68.4%
I don’t love this comparison, as Webb played in two offenses that employed Air Raid schemes, while Eason was left at the mercy of the Pro style scheme run by Georgia and the West Coast inspired Washington offense. Had Eason been placed in a scheme that asked him to be more than a game manager, I believe we would have seen some really incredible numbers.
While he may never start a game for the Colts, I still believe that Eason is a worthwhile flyer in any superflex league, as he could defy expectations if inserted into the lineup. We saw Frank Reich bring out the best in Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, and Andrew Luck. Eason may very well be next.
Ceiling: Nick Foles, Chicago Bears
A traditional pocket passer who maximizes his strengths as a downfield passer when paired with play callers who understand how to use him. A QB2 at best for fantasy, but a guy who can get you points if you need a bye week starter.
Floor: Christian Hackenburg, N/A
A big name in college with almost no ability to play the position as a professional. Flames out in 1-2 seasons, bouncing around practice squads until every GM realizes what a flop he is.
Median: Mike Glennon, Jacksonville Jaguars
A big body with a big arm and not much else. Physical gifts will get him more opportunities than he deserves, but the occasional 50 yard bomb will make you remember why he was once so highly regarded.