INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL world is well aware that the Indianapolis Colts selected Washington quarterback Jacob Eason in the fourth round of the recent NFL draft.
But the Colts also added one of his college teammates, linebacker Brandon Wellington, as an undrafted free agent.
Mike Martin of SI’s HuskyMaven provided background on each player.
Let’s start with Eason. Martin mentions the strong-armed quarterback was the scout team MVP in the year he sat out after transferring from Georgia. He continues:
“Entering Spring football he was the odds-on favorite to win the starting position after 4-year starter Jake Browing left. The QB battle came down to 5-star, 6-6 Jacob Eason and 3-star, 6-0 sophomore Jake Haener. Eason didn't win the job until the final two weeks of fall camp. Speculation was that Haener made the decision difficult because he threw a better ball and that Eason won the battle because his measurables presented a higher ceiling.
“Eason didn't have an awful season, but he was never able to put the team on his back and carry them to victories in close games. The Pac-12 is known for offense but Utah, Cal, and Oregon all had elite defenses and the Huskies lost to those three teams by a total of 10 points. When the game was on the line, he got the Huskies close but couldn't ever get over the mountain top. Statistically, he actually had a great season throwing the ball and had the fourth-best single-season in UW history.”
Martin also pointed out that Eason didn’t have great receivers who could handle his fastball, and that his best receiver was a tight end.
That said, Martin suggests Eason didn’t appear to work on changing speeds or his pocket presence in the two years he was off, first as Jake Fromm’s backup at Georgia and then sitting out a year at Washington due to transfer rules.
“In fact, the time off appeared to work against his maturity as a quarterback as he had one of the worst QBR under duress,” Martin said. “Also working against him was that his quarterbacks coach, Bush Hamdan, had moved up through the coaching ranks so rapidly that Hamdan had never groomed a quarterback.
“Finally, Eason isn't a vocal leader. The one time he stepped up in terms of being a vocal leader in the locker room at the half, he led the Huskies back from a double-digit deficit. All in all, there were many factors working against him. I think he will benefit greatly from being behind a guy like Phillip Rivers. He has the measurables to be a franchise QB, but it's going to take time to solve the above issues.”
Now onto Wellington, who was a better running back than a defender in high school, where he won two state championships. He tore his ACL in 2017 while just making a cut, but he’s not considered injury prone, Martin said.
“He returned two fumble recoveries for TDs and just ran away from the other team, so his speed was obviously back,” Martin said. “He used his time wisely when he was injured and returned with a ton of upper body strength. He was consistently around the ball. The way that Washington uses its inside LBs, they are there to fill gaps and prevent big gains. He got better as the season went along.
“He didn't play as much in 2018 because Ben Burr-Kirven was everywhere on the field and led the country in tackles. In fact, he had a bet with BBK about matching him in tackles. You could see his athleticism was there, and his football IQ got better as the season went along. Another reason that he wasn't as productive early on is that his fellow senior ILB was a whiff machine and didn't understand the position very well. It wasn't until the emergence of Edefuan Ulofoshio and Jackson Sirmon late in the season that Wellington was able to really settle into the role.”
The Colts have had an undrafted free agent make the opening roster for 21 consecutive seasons. Wellington is one of 10 UFAs.