After a disrupted process, just six Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) players were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is the star FCS name in the 2021 NFL Draft class, but Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere is a name to get familiar with as an under the radar prospect.
Despite the all-time low number of “small school” prospects being drafted in 2020, the FCS has seen recent success in sending players to the NFL, especially at the quarterback position. Lance is hotly tipped to follow fellow NDSU Bison Carson Wentz as a first-round selection, joining the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Easton Stick, and most recent FCS draftee Ben DiNucci in the NFL.
With all the focus on Lance, several FCS quarterbacks are flying under the radar. PFN’s Nick Farabaugh highlighted Jacksonville State’s Zerrick Cooper earlier this year, and Eastern Washington quarterback Barriere is another who has every possibility of hearing his name called in Cleveland next year.[sv slug=”mocksim”]
Barriere is an exciting prospect
As a true dual-threat quarterback, Barriere is one of the most exciting players to watch at the position in the FCS.
Despite humble beginnings at the program, Barriere could cement himself in the EWU football record books with a stellar season in 2020. He has gone from redshirt to a backup, to leading the Eagles to an FCS national title game and one of the top passers in the FCS.
Those humble beginnings started as he came out of La Habra High School. Barriere had posted a 30-8 record, and 9304 total yards and 130 total touchdowns, in his time at La Habra. He showcased his ability as a dual-threat, racking up 940 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground as a senior, while also demonstrating a big game mentality with 36 touchdowns in eight playoff games for a successful program in the CIF Southwest Division.
Plenty of success in high school but it took time to solidify a role
Despite his production and talent at the high school level, Barriere was only a two-star prospect by Rivals.com and was lightly recruited. He committed to Eastern Washington, redshirting in 2016, and seeing limited game time in five appearances during 2017.
An injury to starting quarterback Gage Gubrud in 2018, transformed Barriere from backup to a prolific starting quarterback in the FCS. While putting up 2450 passing yards with a 24:9 touchdown to interception ratio, he pounded out 6.2 yards per carry with eight touchdowns on the ground, and he took the Eagles to the FCS National Championship. Although Eastern Washington would lose a close fought game to NDSU, Barriere had secured the starting job for 2019 with his performances.
Barriere continued to improve his game in 2019
Barriere was twice voted as the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week. He was voted to the All-FCS third-team by Hero Sports and finished fifth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the best player at the FCS level.
Proving his ability as a true dual-threat quarterback in 2019, Barriere’s 3712 passing yards were good enough for fourth in the FCS, while he accounted for another eight rushing touchdowns and 558 rushing yards.
Barriere’s 522 passing yards against Lindenwood were just 27 yards short of Gubrud’s single-game passing record. With only 13 rushing yards in 2020, he will break Vernon Adams Jr.’s school record for career rushing yards by a quarterback.
Barriere is truly a dual-threat.
In the tweet below, you can see how he can impact a game on the ground, with this example coming from the FCS Championship.
NOT SO FAST!
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) January 5, 2019
How does Barriere compare to other FCS QBs?
Although his completion percentage dropped from 2018 to 2019, he cut down on his interception numbers, showing an improvement in decision making. In the process, Barriere set a school record 31:4 touchdown to interception ratio. That ratio compares favorably to the Dallas Cowboys’ latest FCS draftee quarterback, DiNucci, who had a 29:6 ratio through 2019 for James Madison.
Barriere also threw for more passing yards than DiNucci, but the former Duke impressed NFL teams with his accuracy, leading the FCS in completion percentage (70.9%) and finishing second in passer efficiency behind Lance.
Barriere is carrying momentum into the 2020 season. After cleaning up his decision making in 2019, he has made 239 passes attempts without throwing an interception, dating back to the early October matchup with Sacramento State.
It is reasonable to assume that Barriere’s best football is yet to come. His 2020 redshirt senior season will be his second full season as Eastern Washington’s starting quarterback, and he showed improvement in his game in 2019.
Will that be enough for him to be drafted?
Barriere faces an uphill battle. No quarterback from Eastern Washington has ever been drafted. Their last draftee was Cooper Kupp, who was taken in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Kupp is another shining example of a player being able to translate success at the FCS level to the NFL after a 1000 yard season for the Los Angeles Rams in 2019.
One of the main criticisms of FCS quarterbacks is that they can rack him impressive statistics due to the lower level of defensive competition at the FCS level. However, Barriere has already proven himself against a high caliber FBS defense that has produced NFL talent when taking on the Washington Huskies last season.
Barriere put together a clean game against Washington, despite an overwhelming defeat. He completed 21/35 passes for 211 yards with no interceptions and a touchdown.
Barriere has shown traits that NFL teams look for in a quarterback
There is no doubt that Barriere has a strong arm. His awareness in the pocket is very good, and due to his mobility, he can evade pressure and extend plays. Sometimes his off-platform throws can look a little unorthodox, but somehow he seems to make it work.
There is also no doubt that Barriere is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the FCS. He may be under the radar right now, but if he can lead Eastern Washington into the national spotlight of the FCS playoffs once again, then there is every chance he puts himself into the third-day conversation of the 2021 NFL Draft.