Eason Makes the Rounds: UW QB Slips to Fourth, Goes to Colts

The University of Washington quarterback had to wait far longer than he or anyone else envisioned to hear his name called.
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The wait was excruciating.

On Saturday, 122 picks into the NFL draft, Jacob Eason finally learned his pro football destination: The Indianapolis Colts took the University of Washington quarterback with the powerful arm in the fourth round. 

He'll be one of the back-ups for new starter Phillip Rivers and be brought along slowly, which was the plan all along wherever he landed. He'll play for Frank Reich, the Colts coach and a former NFL quarterback. With Rivers and Jacoby Brissett on one-year contracts, he'll be groomed as the Indianapolis QB of the future.

"Eason will have a chance to learn around some professionals and be one," ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen said. "They can wait for him to develop. It's a win-win situation for everyone."

At the same time, the 6-foot-6, 231-pound Eason originally was labeled as a possible first-rounder before attending the NFL combine. His stock plummeted once teams saw how unpolished his game was, leading to the suggestion that he shouldn't have passed up his senior year and come out early.

While blessed with a John Elway-like velocity, Eason faced questions surrounding his decision-making, in particular his penchant for trying to spin out of a pass rush rather than step up into the pocket.

Mortenson attributed the UW quarterback's drop in the draft to team assessments that showed a less than sterling work ethic and some accountability issues.

"He's an interesting prospect," SI's fantasy analyst Jamie Eisner said on the accompanying video. "Scouts are kind of all over the place because they look at his size and say he reminds them of Carson Parson, with the way he slings around the ball at 6-6. And they say his pocket presence and inability to make reads quickly enough reminds them of Brock Osweiler at that size."

Eason also picked a bad year to pursue his pro football dream. As former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner noted on ESPN, "There's not a lot of demand for quarterbacks around the league this year." 

Waiting for his name to be called, the Lake Stevens, Washington, product frequently was shown on camera during the draft broadcast on Friday night looking stoic and sitting on a couch with family members at home. He was practically prone as the draft dragged to the end of the third round.

Eason was the sixth quarterback selected, with four taken in the first round, three in the first six picks.

In order, the Cincinnati Bengals took LSU's Joe Burrow with the first overall pick, the Miami Dolphins chose Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa (5th), the Los Angeles Chargers picked Oregon's Justin Herbert (6th), the Green Bay Packers tabbed Utah State's Jordan Love (26th) and the Philadelphia Eagles grabbed up Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts (53rd).

Eason's selection went almost unnoticed at first, coming on a bottom of the screen tracker while ESPN was on commercial at 10:53 a.m. It took draft moderator Trey Wingo another five minutes before he announced the draft pick and set the instant analysis in motion. 

He was the third Northwest player chosen, following Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool (Abbotsford, British Columbia) to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 49 and Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland (Spanaway, Washington) to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 58. 

Fifteen Pac-12 players went ahead of him.

Eleven LSU players were drafted before Eason.

The day before the first round began, Eason was pegged anywhere from No. 31 (CBS Sports) to 103rd (Pro Football Focus). He frustratingly sailed past those worst-case projections by 19 picks. 

His inability to win big on the college level --  he quarterbacked Georgia and Washington teams that each finished 8-5 and appeared in second-tier bowl games -- further categorized him as scouts dug into his college football track record.

Eason and his teammates soundly beat USC at midseason and Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Yet he and his fellow Huskies also let games slip away against Utah, Oregon and California in the fourth quarter.

Against the Ducks, for example, Eason directed the UW to a commanding 31-21 advantage after three quarters, only to get beat by Herbert and company in the final period, 35-31. Herbert threw four TD passes that day to Eason's three.

"Rocket arm, imposing size, obviously some fourth-quarter struggles," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. 

That doesn't mean Eason can't turn into a highly productive NFL quarterback. Not many players have the right arm that he possesses. It is hoped he can patiently sit and learn the game behind an accommodating veteran.

At the UW last season, Eason completed 260 of 405 passes (64 percent) for 3,132 yards and 23 touchdowns, with just 8 interceptions, though two went for pick-six scores against Utah and Oregon State.

"You could put his top 15 throws together and put them up against anyone," said NFL network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former Northeastern Louisiana and Appalachian State starting quarterback. "He can reach any blade of grass on the field with his arm strength."

One of the nation's leading quarterback recruits coming out of Lake Stevens, Eason committed to Georgia as a high school sophomore. He started at Georgia as a true freshman and beat out heralded local recruit Jake Fromm to begin his sophomore year, only to go down with a knee injury from a cheap-shot hit while going out of bounds in the opener.

Eason transferred to Washington and went home once Fromm guided the Bulldogs to the national championship game and it became clear he wasn't going to get his job back. 

Finally, he can start packing for Indianapolis, pandemic permitting of course.