The backstory on Eason is well-known and it’s part of what makes him such an intriguing pro prospect despite pedestrian college numbers. Eason was the top QB recruit in the country in 2016, the National Gatorade Player of the Year, and an a 5* signee for SEC powerhouse Georgia. He started as a true freshman at Georgia and put up respectable stats- 2430 passing yards and 16 TDs against 8 INTs. A knee injury early in his sophomore year allowed Jake Fromm to Wally Pipp him out of a job and Eason headed westward to his home-state Huskies.
Jacob Eason has this quick of a release being 6’6” (Played HS Baseball) pic.twitter.com/D8JpThshmx— Quarterback Film Room (@QBFilmRoom) April 11, 2020
With the Dawgs, Eason started every game after sitting out a year following his transer. Despite nearly two years without game action, he flashed the raw talent that made evaluators drool over his high school performance. Still, he didn’t put together enough consistently strong performances to carry the team. His stats for UW were a step forward from his lone season at Georgia. He totaled 3132 yards with 23 TDs and 8 INTs. Another encouraging development was the progression from a 55% completion rate to a 64% completion rate. On the other hand, he put up efficiency numbers that were nearly identical to Jake Browning’s senior year, and Browning went undrafted.
Ultimately, most Husky fans were disappointed with the 8-5 records Eason posted as the starting QB. Whether the regression was his fault or not, Eason led a team that took a step back after three straight 10+ win seasons and New Year’s Day Bowl Games. Eason’s offense had some letdowns that prevented the team from having a considerably more satisfying season. He put up 206 yards on 36 attempts in a loss against a bad Stanford team and another 206 on 34 attempts in a loss to a similarly lackluster Colorado team. He had strangely pronounced home/road splits- 8.2 y/a and 15/3 TD/INT at home against 7.3 y/a and 7/5 away.
How to beat zone: have an arm like Jacob Eason's. pic.twitter.com/BY6DXcVEpP— Sam Sinclair II (@SamSinclair96) April 12, 2020
Eason’s college stats are subject to interpretation. For those fixated on his stature and arm strength, the numbers are encouraging enough to suggest a baseline from which he can grow. For those who saw a disconnect with his receivers and sub-optimal decision-making, he deserved his middle-of-the-conference finish in most key QB stats (7th in adjusted yards per attempt, 7th in efficiency rating).
One likely reason Eason was willing to turn pro after a single non-elite season at UW is that he knew he would have several months for NFL execs to salivate over his measurables before the draft. He could not have anticipated that a global pandemic would limit his ability to conduct private workouts, but Eason has enough numbers on paper from the combine that his physical prowess will continue to help him.
Eason has the type of build that qualifies him to play Gaston as much as it does to play QB in the NFL. He’s 6’6, 231 lbs with a strong enough arm to throw the ball over them mountains. With his herculean physique, Eason only needs passable speed and agility, and he did not embarrass himself in either category at the combine. Although the prototype of an NFL QB has evolved over the last 20 years, many front offices still have an affinity for players who cut the figure of a young Johnny Unitas in the pocket. Even if Eason’s performance at UW was no better than what he did at Georgia, his measurements would still get him a look.
Watching Eason play QB is a study in polarity. On one hand, he’s a player with obvious and clearly-defined strengths. Few humans alive can throw a football harder or farther than Eason. His physical size allows him to see over his linemen and quickly deliver bullets to open receivers.
On the other hand, he struggles with almost all the technical things a QB has to do to succeed. He struggles mightily with pressure, which manifests itself in throwing passes into coverage and spinning in the pocket to suffer an even bigger loss. His footwork in and out of the pocket leaves a lot to be desired. He does not appear to have the ability to vary the power, trajectory, or angle of his throws, which can make short passes unnecessarily difficult to catch. Unless a play goes exactly as scripted, he struggles with decision-making. When the defense blitzes or his first read is well covered, Eason frequently appears to be thinking through the play a beat slower than the defense, which leaves his entire offense at a deficit.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described Eason thusly, “His elite size and arm talent are reminiscent of Carson Palmer, but issues with pocket poise and getting through progressions cleanly are more reminiscent of Brock Osweiler.” It’s a great summary that quickly gets to clear strengths and weaknesses of the player. A player like that can still succeed in the NFL if he’s surrounded by playmakers, a good defense, and a coaching staff dedicated to the play-action passing game. Joe Flacco falls somewhere close to Eason in the Palmer-to-Osweiler continuum, and he rode that formula to a Super Bowl ring.
To his credit, Eason appears willing to adapt to different styles. He played in a run-heavy offense at Georgia and never complained in games in which UW threw the ball less often. Of course, this scenario begs the question of whether an NFL team should invest the pick it will take to get Eason in order to get a QB who can possibly get your team to the playoffs if everything else in the organization is just right.
Here's a breakdown of NFL draft prospect Jacob Eason's production by depth of target in 2019 pic.twitter.com/T3Wo7LqzqW— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) April 6, 2020
Eason’s relative inexperience is another element of his resume worth noting. Even though he finished high school four years ago, he has only started 26 collegiate games. He played for excellent college coaches in Kirby Smart and Chris Petersen, but neither coach has a Lincoln Riley-type of resume at preparing QBs for the NFL. Some of Eason’s weaknesses, like his pocket presence and footwork, seem like coachable, technical flaws that he could overcome through repetition. Could the combination of technical improvement and system stability be enough for Eason to overcome his weakness in reading defenses and making decisions? That’s the kind of very difficult question that NFL GMs will have to answer.
Four years ago, Eason looked like the kind of big, skilled QB prospect that would follow in the footsteps of the likes of Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan from the top of the HS rankings to the top of college football to the top of the NFL Draft. Lots of prospects fall much harder than Eason has fallen, but the question remains whether his ability to mentally process the game at high speed will ever unlock his size and arm strength. He can have a career as an NFL backup even if he never closes those gaps. Nobody wants to draft a career backup in the first three rounds, so Eason’s draft status will ultimately depend on which team is most confident it can make the most of his prodigious physical tools.