Look back at Jacob Eason’s college career and potential in the NFL

Jacob Eason possesses an NFL arm but with a transitional college career, just what is his potential in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts?

The Indianapolis Colts will be attempting to solve a quarterback question on Sunday when Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger take the field. After an injury to starting QB Carson Wentz required surgery, Indianapolis will trot out Eason and Ehlinger with a total of 0 NFL snaps to their credit. For Ehlinger, his career success at the University of Texas brings hope with him. Eason, however, has less success that follows his lofty recruiting pedigree after multiple college stops.

Jacob Eason’s path to the NFL

The fifth-rated recruit from the 2016 class, Eason was one of the nation’s most sought-after high school players. He finished his recruiting cycle as the second-ranked pro-style quarterback, the top-ranked player in the state of Washington, and had offers from about any school imaginable.

After being named the Seattle Times Offensive Player of the Year, Eason’s national awards started piling in. He was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year during his senior season at Lake Stevens High School in Washington. Eason found himself on multiple All-American lists and was a consensus five-star prospect, for good reason. He finished his high school career with over 10,000 passing yards and 99 touchdowns.

University of Georgia Bulldogs

With scholarship offers from all corners of the country, Eason ultimately committed to the University of Georgia. He started his college career in January of 2016.

Eason started 12 games of his true freshman season with the Georgia Bulldogs. UGA finished with an 8-5 record after Eason threw for 2,430 yards, 16 TDs, and 8 INTs. He was named to multiple preseason award watch lists entering the 2017 season, including the Maxwell Award and O’Brien Award.

However, a first-quarter injury on Georgia’s third possession against Appalachian State subsequently ended his Bulldogs’ career. He made four more appearances in 2017 but was a relative afterthought to now-Buffalo Bills QB Jake Fromm, who took over following his injury.

University of Washington Huskies

Eason decided to transfer following the 2017 season, opting to head back home to Washington and enroll at the University of Washington. Due to NCAA transfer rules at the time, Eason was forced to sit out the 2018 season. He started all 13 games of his final collegiate season in 2019, ranking fourth in Washington history with 3,132 passing yards.

After making 26 starts over four seasons in college, Eason decided to opt-out of a potential fifth year of eligibility and enter the 2020 NFL Draft. He threw for a career 5,590 passing yards with 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

The Colts selected Eason with the 122nd pick in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Mixed reviews followed to Indy

Despite the lofty expectations placed on him with his recruiting profile, Eason largely failed to deliver much in college. His physical tools have never been in question, but rather the other intangibles for a quarterback have seemingly held him back.

PFN’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline penned the following about Eason prior to the 2020 NFL Draft:

Physically, Eason possesses the top arm of all the quarterbacks in this year’s draft and comes with huge upside. He also offers a lot of downside, as he lacks a large body of work and has played limited football the past three seasons. While he showed flashes of brilliance at times this year for Washington, there were also moments when he looked very pedestrian.

Eason will need a lot of work on his game and should not be rushed onto the field. If coached correctly, he can be a productive starting passer at the next level; otherwise, Eason will consistently struggle.

Some of that coaching has paid off, especially when it comes to leadership. Reports out of camp depicted Eason sprinting 40 yards to console second-year WR Michael Pittman Jr. after dropping a pass. Rather than laying into Pittman with expletives, Eason gave his receiver a pep talk and pat on the helmet.

Those are the moments that can go a long way in an NFL huddle.

What to look for in Jacob Eason’s debut

As the Colts attempt to figure out which quarterback to roll with, a lot can be learned from their 2021 preseason debut. Which quarterback trots out with the starting lineup, and which one sees more time?

It will be telling who comes to the field with each quarterback and which situations are presented for each to take part in.

Specifically for Eason, it will be something to behold if head coach Frank Reich will allow his second-year quarterback to test the defense downfield. His arm is not only the best from the 2020 class, it may be among the best in the NFL.

Taking a step up with the rest of the intangibles will be on full display as well. Has Eason adjusted to the speed of the NFL game? Will he panic in the face of pressure? How does he maneuver the pocket? Can he zip the ball into his receiver’s hands with haste and good timing?

There will be much to watch out for in Eason’s debut. But like his pre-draft evaluation stated, his arm will not be in question. In fact, that should be the biggest draw to watching Eason play quarterback.

If the rest of the requisite skills for a quarterback catch up to his arm strength, the Colts will undoubtedly have found their future at QB. And that’s as exciting of a storyline for a preseason game that you’ll find.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News and Analysis at PFN and a prodigious Seinfeld aficionado. You can read the rest of Cam’s work here and follow him on Twitter @CamMellor.

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