2020 NFL Draft: Colts take Jacob Eason to back up Philip Rivers in the fourth round

Jacob Eason is a polarizing prospect, a National Player of the Year out of high school who saw the field as a true freshman at Georgia, then lost the job to Jake Fromm after an early-season injury the next year and finished his career at Washington. Because of his winding road, Eason’s tape and experience are limited, and that hurt his stock. But what he does have are elite traits, and he was at times considered a potential first-round pick before a subpar final year hurt his stock, allowing the Colts to grab him in the fourth round.   

Can Eason be the long-term answer for the Colts? Another thing that is polarizing about him is his style. At 6-6, 231 pounds, Eason is your big, prototypical quarterback with huge arm strength … but who offers nothing in the way of mobility. It might be unfair to comp him to Joe Flacco, but if he’s more athletic, it’s not by much. That’s the type of quarterback prospect you’re getting, and that type of quarterback is going by the wayside in the modern NFL. 

But the landing spot is what makes this so interesting. Philip Rivers signed a one-year deal with the Colts, and we’ll see how the 38-year-old assimilates and whether the Colts find enough success to decide to renew that for 2021. That’s certainly a possibility, but obviously Rivers isn’t a long-term answer, and Jacoby Brissett also has just one more year left on his deal. 

Even if NFL teams prefer more mobile quarterbacks in today’s league, a quarterback like Eason can succeed behind an offensive line like the one the Colts have built. Rivers himself is immobile, and him landing in Indianapolis was one of the clearest fits of 2020 free agency. In other words, it’s all there for Eason — if he can develop as a passer and earn a longer look at the NFL level, he has the long-term pedigree as a former five-star recruit and now team situation to potentially be a starter, regardless of how he lasted until the fourth round in the Draft.  

And there are reasons to believe he could develop. Big issues for him include breaking down under pressure and inconsistency in the pocket, but it’s conceivable that could develop over time. In 2018, PFF data scientists Eric Eager and George Chahrouri wrote an interesting piece that found PFF quarterback grades in clean pockets were far more stable than when looking at grades under pressure. PFF graded Eason well in a clean pocket last year, giving him substantially lower marks under pressure, and he’s not just a big-armed but also an accurate passer when he has time. In a place like Indianapolis, it’s not hard to see him develop into something like what Jared Goff was for the Rams in 2018, and the Colts should be able to protect the quarterback similarly to how well the Rams’ line did that year. 

Of course, we’ve seen Goff regress a bit against more pressure, and that part of Eason’s game may never develop. He may also never develop getting through his reads or with pocket presence generally, which are both areas in need of work in his game. But for the Colts, taking a chance on Eason in the fourth round makes a lot of sense, and for Eason, the landing spot almost couldn’t have been better for his long-term potential. While he’s unlikely to play much in 2020, all the tools are there for Eason to be a serviceable pocket passer for the Colts long-term. 

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