GREEN BAY, Wis. – Growing up, Jacob Eason liked watching a Green Bay Packers legend.
“A guy like Brett Favre, a guy like Peyton Manning, teams I watched play on Sundays, were big inspirations in the way they play the game,” the University of Washington quarterback said last week at the Scouting Combine. “Their toughness, their competitiveness, those are guys I model my game after.”
The Packers enter this draft looking to add a quarterback, whether it’s as the potential successor to another legend, Aaron Rodgers, or to challenge backup Tim Boyle. According to a source, the Packers used one of their 45 formal interviews with Eason at the Scouting Combine. That’s hardly a surprise. Eason’s a junior, so there were no getting-to-know-you opportunities at all-star games. Still, for a team looking to make a push to get past San Francisco and back to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade, it’s noteworthy because Eason figures to be selected in the first two or three rounds of this year’s draft.
Video: Talking WRs, QBs at the Combine
“It’s everything from football IQ to proving I’m a passionate player and that I love this game,” Eason said of the tenor of the Combine meetings. “I’m going to work hard to be the best I can be. Arm strength can only get you so far. Obviously, I can rely on that in a lot of situations on Saturday, and it can allow me to do some pretty cool things with the ball, but I’ve been working on all the other things that go along with that to make me a more complete player.”
Eason started as a freshman at Georgia in 2016 and looked like the next big thing. However, in the 2017 opener, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. That opened the door for Jake Fromm and closed the door on Eason. He transferred to Washington and had to sit out the 2018 season to fulfill NCAA transfer rules. That meant the player who threw for almost 10,000 yards at Lake Stevens (Wash.) High School wound up sitting out almost two full seasons.
“That was a super-unique situation,” Eason said. “I had never gone through two seasons (sitting out). Throughout high school and all the way up to my freshman year, I was the guy, I was the starter. So, initially that sophomore year was new for me. I had to learn how to operate in that role and, ultimately in that experience, I gained a new appreciation for the game having it taken away on Saturday. I learned how to become a better practice player, loved to go in and lift and run and work out and all those things. It’s all about Saturdays but, when you get it taken away, you get a new perspective.”
Back in his home state, Eason completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns vs. eight interceptions in 2019.
With that, he decided to take his strong arm and diverse experience to the NFL.
“A lot of it was just me feeling ready and ready to take on that next challenge, that next opportunity,” he said. “I was in college for four-and-a-half years, long enough for me I felt. I felt like I maximized what I was going to be able to do in terms of school and college and everything around that area. The NFL has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember and I felt ready and I wanted to go take on that challenge.”
Long before Eason was an NFL-bound quarterback, he was a right tackle. Oregon State’s Jake Luton, another quarterback in this draft class, grew up in Marysville, Wash. He and Eason were on the same flag football team. Luton got to be the quarterback; Eason was banished to the trenches.
“He was older than me, so he got out of there and I switched to quarterback,” Eason said.
Eason has an NFL-caliber arm with, as he put it, a “gunslinger-type mentality.” The troublesome part of Eason’s game is how he handles pressure. According to Sports Info Solutions, he had a 78.1 passer rating when pressured. For comparison, that lagged well behind the top prospects, LSU’s Joe Burrow (143.2) and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (115.5). It also was well behind those he’s battling to be third quarterback off the board: Oregon’s Justin Herbert (102.2), Georgia’s Jake Fromm (87.1) and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (99.8); Eason beat only Utah State’s Jordan Love (43.6) in the race to be the third passer selected.
“I’m not into comparing and all that, but I knew dating back to high school that I had a strong arm. I could see that in myself,” Eason said. “I think that’s where some of the confidence as a passer comes along. But I think everybody on this stage is very talented in their own ways; they’ve done some tremendous things. I’m confident in my own abilities and ready to compete.”