2020 NFL Draft prospect Washington QB Jacob Eason
Photo Credit: 247Sports

According to the internet, the largest roller coaster in the state of Washington is a 75-foot ride known as the “TimberHawk.” But I’ve watched some tape, and watched some more. I’ve interviewed coaches, gathered quotes, and scoured the darkest parts of the web. And it’s through that extensive research that I’ve come to a definitive conclusion.  See, despite what the internet wants you to believe, the largest coaster in Washington isn’t actually the “TimberHawk.” It’s a 2020 NFL Draft prospect – Jacob Eason.

Beginning

Before Eason was a 5-star recruit out of Lake Stevens, Washington, he had always been in the limelight, even dating back to his middle school days.

“I remember him coming out of 8th Grade”, Lake Stevens Head Coach Tom Tri recalled. “Doing 7 on 7 at the Lakewood High School in late July going into his freshman year. That’s when we really found out he had this tremendous game. He was just a natural.”

And it turns out that natural ability applied to more than just football. Excelling as a three-sport athlete, Eason displayed dominance at both baseball and basketball during his adolescent years.

Standing six feet tall, he did all of this while having, as Tri would describe it, a “lackluster physique.” His dangly nature would even go on to inspire Eason’s social media handle, @SkinnyQB10, which showed off a bit of the quarterback’s humorous side. “He’s a really funny guy,” Tri remarked when I brought up the quirky nature of Eason’s personality. “Reserved at first and extremely quiet by nature, but a funny guy.”

Tri’s been the Head Coach at Lake Stevens dating back to 2004, and he’s adamant he’s never seen another player like Eason throughout that 15-year tenure.

“We’ve had some great guys here, and the thing about (Jacob) is that he’s still learning certain aspects of the game. But at the same time, and the appealing thing is, there’s not a throw that he can’t make. (He) knows how to rifle it in there, yet also knows how to put a little finesse on it and still get it in those tight windows. That’s where he really separates himself.”

Although the talent was apparent right away, the production didn’t come with it. At least initially. Playing multiple games for the Varsity team in his 9th Grade year, Eason only threw 4 touchdowns in limited reps. It was impressive for a 15-year-old kid, but he wasn’t your average teenager. And Eason knew it.

Transformation

That summer, his transformation from puny child to athletic behemoth truly began, and the QB’s height shot up through the roof once the new year started. Much like how Bruce Banner and the Hulk merged into Professor Hulk, the signal-caller used his mental advantage from his earlier years and combined it with his newfound vertical gifts for the best of both worlds. Compiling 3,000 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions, Eason proved his worth, getting the attention of the national media in the process.

The next two years were nothing short of domination out of the gifted prospect, as Eason essentially racked up every award known to man. In that 24 game span, he managed to put up over 6,400 yards, complete over 69% of his passes, and compile an astonishing 74-9 TD/INT ratio. Eason also managed to win the player of the game in (only) 10 of his last 13 high school games. It made for quite the hype train, as he would go on to become a Top 15 recruit and the top-ranked QB in the nation. And yet, despite the swarming buzz, Tri insists that Eason kept his priorities straight.

“Because he’s so even-keeled and laid back in his mentality, he was very faithful and congratulatory during that (recruiting) period,” Tri stated. “But at the same time, he doesn’t play the game for awards. I know he won just about all (of them) in High School, but ultimately he’s out there to go compete and try and win football games. That was his focus.”

Receiving offers from all around the country, Eason eventually spurned his hometown Huskies for the SEC and committed to Georgia.

Georgia

Beginning the year as the back-up, it didn’t take long for the true freshman to see some action. Thrown up against a ranked North Carolina team in the second half of the opener, he responded with a magnificent stat line and led the Bulldogs to a comeback win. Showing off his patented arm strength, it was a gutsy performance and one that inspired some massive confidence around the organization.

From there, Eason grabbed the starting reins and never looked back, leading Georgia to a respectable 8-5 record. It wasn’t necessarily the year Bulldog fans expected, but he showed off his potential and developed at a rapid rate. Sure, the signal-caller still needed work. A 55% completion percentage was evidence of that. But he provided Georgia with something they hadn’t seen at the QB position for what seemed like an eternity – hope. Perhaps a 2020 NFL Draft prospect.

Turbulence

September 2nd, 2017 – Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs play their season opener against a scrappy Appalachian State team. The expectations are sky high. A national championship is in sight. It all starts with Eason at the helm.

Rolling to the right on his fourth dropback of the game, Eason scrambles to avoid the rush. Gaining a few yards before being pushed out of bounds, the QB slips on the sideline and is noticeably hurt. Sure enough, he heads to the locker room and doesn’t return. In his absence, Georgia turns to Jake Fromm to finish the game. They come away with an easy 31-10 win, but the season potentially hangs in the balance.

That Monday, head coach Kirby Smart announces Eason has a sprained knee ligament. A week to week injury, it’s not good news, but it’s a better outcome than many expected. This leaves Fromm, a true freshman, to lead Georgia into a pivotal Week 2 contest against Notre Dame. Like Eason had just done a year earlier, Fromm takes advantage of the opportunity, going undefeated with a 5-0 record in his absence. The former little league star meshes extremely well with Georgia’s ground and pound approach, providing them with an elite game manager. Being the local underdog, Fromm grabs the hearts of an entire fandom in just a few short weeks, and Eason slowly fades into oblivion.

Benched once he returns, Eason holds a clipboard for the rest of the year. It’s not necessarily indicative of his ability, but more so a “don’t mess with what isn’t broken” scenario. Nevertheless, he’s now out of a job, just 15 months after being the hottest QB in the nation.

The roller coaster has reached its lowest point.

The Reason

Once it became clear that he wasn’t in Georgia’s future plans, Eason announced his intention to switch schools. The choice sparked a ton of backlash, but he was confident in his decision, and rightfully so. See, entering the transfer portal meant a clean slate. It was like a palate cleanser between meals. Most importantly, it meant he could get back to what got him here in the first place – football.

Unlike his original commitment, the recruiting process was much quieter this time around. According to Tri, Eason’s always wanted it that way.

“Jacob just wants to be one of the guys.”, he stated. “Whether he’s going fishing, bowling, (playing) 3 on 3 basketball, going to the lake and getting on the boat, he just likes hanging around with the guys, and I think that’s what really draws him to football. That comradery and the relationships you build with your teammates. He has to take that leadership role because he’s a QB. He’s the guy. But naturally, he just likes hanging out and doing what everyone else wants to do.”

Washington

Ironically it’s those same childhood connections that had the biggest impact on Eason’s next step, as he made the decision to join the Washington Husky program. A strong contender for his services back in 2016, choosing Washington now meant he was less than an hour away from his childhood home, Lake Stevens. Unfortunately, it also meant Eason would have to sit out an entire season to fulfill NCAA regulations. However, he wasn’t rattled by the forced absence. He didn’t pout. He didn’t whine. Instead, he used those 365 days to get better than ever.

“The greatest thing to see was how (Eason) responded (to sitting out),” Tri explained. “He was voted by his teammates and coaches this past year as the scout team player of the year. To me that tells me he’s still locked and loaded, ready to compete. Making the team better in any capacity. Not about me, but about us. And that selflessness has always been in his personality.”

Of course, this didn’t just mean Eason was content. Sitting out meant he’d have to watch from the sidelines for a 2nd consecutive year, and it ultimately killed the QB inside. But he stuck to the grind and stayed patient. It’s that cool and collected mentality that’s allowed him to stay on the right path.

“He’s always had this calm demeanor from the time I remember him coming up from Peewee and on through High School,” Tri continued. “He doesn’t get real high. [He] doesn’t get real low. He’s just even-keeled. And I think that’s part of what allows him to excel. When he throws touchdowns, he obviously gets a little bit excited but understands he has to do it again. And when he makes mistakes, he says how do we fix this and let’s fix it right now. He doesn’t let it fester. That’s been a real bonus for him.”

The Future

He’s served his time. He’s paid his dues. Now Eason’s ready to reap the rewards. Still, Washington Head Coach Chris Peterson is trying to temper expectations coming into the season, much to the QB’s benefit.

“(Jacob) hasn’t played real football in a long, long time. That’s the thing,” Peterson stated back in spring camp. “This is a college guy who played one year of college football and I just think it’s a disservice to him for you guys to put all this pressure on him. I’ve seen what is out there and all that kind of stuff. He’s a college guy, has played one year of football, (and has) some really good talent. But our other guys do as well, and it’s not being talked about like it is with him. I think that’s unfair.”

The quote may be a bit concerning on the surface, but by all accounts, Eason will receive the starting reigns come September. Every coach preaches competition, especially at the collegiate level, so this is a normal response. Urban Meyer took forever to name Dwayne Haskins his starter last year. At one point Lincoln Riley even said that Kyler Murray would “have to fight like crazy” to beat out Austin Kendall. These things happen. And Eason is simply too talented to not come away with that coveted role. Eyes are already upon him for the 2020 NFL Draft

Speaking of competition, Eason is sure to get a lot of “he couldn’t beat out Jake Fromm” takes come next April (should he declare to the 2020 NFL Draft). These remarks aren’t only lazy, but are filled with major holes. The college game is vastly different than the NFL, and different types of traits are prioritized in each. It just so happens that Georgia coveted a QB with game manager type abilities, a role Fromm is much more comfortable filling.

Eason might still prove himself as the “worse” prospect of the two, but the point is that it’s not some type of foregone conclusion. Alvin Kamara was a back-up on an average Tennessee squad. Russell Wilson was forced to transfer from N.C State after his job was snatched up by Mike Glennon. Texas A&M botched Kyler Murray so bad that he lost out to Kyle Allen. So if Eason doesn’t succeed at the NFL level, it won’t be because of some benching two years ago. It may be from things like his raw footwork, inconsistent mechanics, or spotty deep accuracy, but not a teenage demotion. He is a solid 2020 NFL Draft prospect.

NFL Draft

As far as draft aspirations go, Eason enters the year with a legitimate first-round shot. If guys like Josh Allen and Daniel Jones can get picked in the Top 10, don’t think for a second that Eason’s skillset can’t allow him to have a similar shot. It’s not a coincidence he’s continually been compared to Matthew Stafford. Sure, the long, flowy hair doesn’t hurt, but he’s the real deal. And NFL scouts know it.

Conclusion

A ride with many twists and turns, the Jacob Eason roller coaster has completed its first loop. With his seatbelt fastened and his buckles clipped, there’s no reason to think it stops there. After all, the 2020 NFL Draft is still to come.

He’s ready to shake off the rust, answer Washington’s playoff aspirations, and prove to the world that Georgia made one massive mistake.