During the pre-draft process, we heard plenty about the top four quarterbacks Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, but arguably more interesting to monitor was where the second tier of passer would go. Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason were the signal-callers in that next cluster.
It was difficult to predict where they would land. During the 2020 NFL Draft, Hurts was the only one of the three that heard their name called on Day 2. It came as surprise; the Eagles used their 53rd pick to secure Hurts after signing incumbent passer Carson Wentz to a lucrative four-year, $128 million extension that included $107.9 million guaranteed and $66 million due at signing. After allocating that type of money to a player, it's rare to see a team immediately go out and find insurance at the same position.
On the flip side, the Colts’ quarterback room has been a rollercoaster since the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck in August 2019. In Jacoby Brissett’s trial run Indianapolis sputtered to a disappointing 7-9 record. General manager Chris Ballard was seeking an upgrade and signed Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million deal in March.
"Philip is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the NFL and we are fortunate to add an experienced player of his caliber to our organization," Ballard said at the time. "His familiarity with our coaching staff and offensive system in addition to his experience were attractive qualities during our evaluation process. Philip is a fierce competitor and his veteran leadership will be crucial in the continued development of our young roster."
Even with Brissett on the roster, the Colts needed to find a young understudy to the 38-year-old Rivers. Eason was seen as one of the biggest wildcards of the entire draft class.
He started all 13 games of the 2019 season and completed 260-of-405 passes for 3,132 yards and 23 touchdowns. Even though his stats may be impressive, Eason’s decision making gave many evaluators pause about his future. He’s comparable to Jay Cutler; both have a daredevil, confident mentality as throwers. Eason needed to develop a better sense of just how much juice to put on throws. As a flamethrower, there was little awareness on how to throw the ball; in a lot of his attempts, he threw as hard as he can.
Coach Frank Reich pointed out many of the concerns scouts had regarding Eason, but considering he will be under the tutelage of a proven quarterback developer as well as a future Hall of Fame passer, Reich was confident in his ability to learn.
"I think his arm talent was probably the best in the draft as far as quarterbacks go. What I liked about his arm talent is he can throw it on a rope, he can throw it long, he can throw with touch, he can change the speed on the ball and he can deliver from different arm angles,” Reich told reporters. “The accuracy was fine, he needs to get better. His footwork needs to get better. Reading through his progressions needs to get better. There are a lot of things that need work, but physically he has a lot of the tools."
It was essential for Eason to land with a team that wouldn't force him to play right away; experience and guidance are needed in order for him to turn into the quarterback that some think he could be. There is still plenty to work on, and the time spent taking notes and learning from Rivers under the direction of Reich is exactly what Eason needs in order to scratch the surface of his potential.
While it may be years until we see Eason in consistent action, the risk was well worth it considering he was a fourth-round selection.
- May 16, 2022
- May 16, 2022