The New England Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2020 could be … Jacob Eason?
Of course, that sounds outwardly absurd, considering Tom Brady — arguably the greatest player in NFL history — has piled up 14 Pro Bowl appearances, six Super Bowl titles and three MVP awards in his 20 seasons (and counting?) under center in New England. But, as Brady’s free-agent destination this offseason remains a topic of intense discussion, the Patriots might be in the market for a quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft.
And last week, in his most recent mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projected New England to select Eason — Washington’s redshirt junior from Lake Stevens — with the 23rd overall selection.
“Even if the 42-year-old free agent (Brady) returns on a short-term deal, the Pats have to address the position on the first two days of the draft, so why not do it now?” Kiper wrote, explaining the pick. “I like 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham’s potential, but I’m not sold on him as a long-term starter.
“Eason has been getting a lot of buzz from people I talk to in the NFL lately, though he’s not a lock to be the fourth quarterback taken; he’s still battling with Utah State’s Jordan Love, but I’ll give the 6-6 Eason the edge for now. He has the best arm of any signal-caller in this class, though he can be erratic at times. It’d be ideal if he got a year or two to sit behind Brady, but he has a much higher ceiling than Stidham.”
The three first-round quarterbacks projected to go ahead of Eason in Kiper’s mock draft, by the way, are Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Statistically, Eason’s numbers don’t quite add up; in his first and only season as UW’s starter, the 6-foot-6, 227-pounder completed 64.2% of his passes, throwing for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He averaged 240.9 passing yards per game in the Huskies’ relatively underwhelming 8-5 campaign.
The physical talent was evident … as was the inconsistency.
And, because of that, it shouldn’t be surprising not every team is sold.
“With Eason, teams are literally all over the map,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a media conference call last week. “I talked with a team yesterday that has him as the second quarterback in the draft. So there’s teams that really, really like Eason, and then you’ve got teams that have concerns.
“Now, when I watch him, I see the big arm. You watch the Oregon game and you get really, really excited. There’s a lot of really good things to take away from that game. He’s got some really good tape. But then he’s got some bad habits. If you get him off his spot, he’s got a bad habit of trying to wheel out (of the pocket), turning his back on the defense. That’s something he’s going to have to clean up, which is something you can fix. That’s one of the things to keep an eye on with him. Then you want to see him be a little bit more of a playmaker. Instead of just being a pure thrower, I want to see him create some plays and extend some plays there.
“I think he’s going to go in the first two rounds. It wouldn’t shock me if he went in the first round, because I think there’s some teams that really like him.”
It would help, of course, if Eason impresses at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week. The redshirt junior is scheduled to compete with the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends in on-field workouts Thursday, with the other positions spread throughout the weekend. And, when it comes to Washington Huskies, Eason will have plenty of company as well. He is one of seven UW players — the others being center Nick Harris, offensive tackle Trey Adams, tight end Hunter Bryant, running back Salvon Ahmed, defensive back Myles Bryant and wide receiver Aaron Fuller — invited to participate in Indianapolis.
UW’s 30 NFL combine invites over the past four years ranks first in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally. The Huskies are one of three programs, alongside Alabama and Ohio State, that has sent at least seven players to the combine each of the last four years.
And while Eason’s appearance might be the most anticipated, he isn’t the only Husky who could help his stock this week. Here’s what Jeremiah had to say about some of UW’s other NFL combine invitees.
C Nick Harris
“Nick Harris is going to be a zone center. He’s 293 (pounds), and it’s almost an artificial 293, like he’s buffed up to get there. He’s going to play lighter. But having been around (Jason) Kelce with the Eagles and seeing him at a lighter weight play at a very, very high level, that’s what you’re hoping you’re getting with Nick. I think he’s probably going to be a third- or fourth-round pick when it’s all said and done. But really quick first step. Quick hands. Great on combo blocks. You can pull him outside. Really, really smart. It’s just, when you get really heavy size over his nose, and we saw that at the Senior Bowl, he can get exposed a little bit. So that’s kind of the concern with him.”
TE Hunter Bryant
“The tight end is explosive. I compared him to (Los Angeles Rams tight end) Gerald Everett, when you’re talking about Hunter Bryant. You can flex him out. You can give him the shovel (passes). You get the ball in his hand and he’s got big-time YAC (yards after catch) ability. Just has some concentration drops and then some durability questions. How healthy is he? That’s something to keep an eye on.”
WR Aaron Fuller
“For a day-three wide receiver — and he might not even get picked, because this is such a deep draft — but I think there is a little something to Aaron Fuller late in the draft, who’s just got some juice. He can return punts. I think he’s an interesting project-type receiver. Against Eastern Washington, he had a nice one-handed catch in that game that popped for me and I noted that and said, ‘You know what, I don’t hear teams talking about this kid, but there’s something there. He’s kind of interesting.’”