With the end of the 2019 college football season on the horizon, underclassmen with NFL aspirations have an important choice to make: stay in school or declare for the draft. Among those prospects is University of Washington quarterback Jacob Eason.
The redshirt junior finds himself amidst a crop of highly touted and talented quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft. While some have Eason penciled in as a first-rounder, there is no consensus on the former No. 1 overall recruit from Lake Stevens, WA. Eason was the top pro-style quarterback and best player overall in the 2016 class.
Now, Eason finds himself fighting for position with other signal-callers for a spot in the first round.
Declare for the Draft
Proponents for Eason’s entering of the 2020 NFL Draft say that he’s a first-round talent. And as such, he’s set to make millions of dollars.
There’s no doubting Eason’s arm talent, and at 6’6″ 227 lbs, he sports a prototypical frame. His natural throwing ability, stature and timing on short and intermediate routes are all aspects that make scouts drool. He has a solid pocket presence and good internal clock.
Eason started as a freshman at the University of Georgia and played well. A knee injury forced him to miss nearly all of his sophomore season, and afterwards, he decided to transfer back home to the University of Washington.
This season, Eason has racked up nearly 2,500 yards, with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s completing over 63 percent of his passes. And he outplayed fellow quarterback prospect Justin Herbert in their head-to-head game.
For his collegiate career, Eason is 410 of 694 (59 percent) for 4,930 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. With three games left, he could easily plateau the 5,000-yard, 40-touchdown mark.
Eason is often listed as the fourth quarterback among the following draft-eligible group: Joe Burrow (LSU), Justin Herbert (Oregon), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Eason, Jake Fromm (Georgia), Jordan Love (Utah State) and Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma). But recent questions surrounding Tagovailoa’s injuries might see the Alabama quarterback’s draft stock slip.
Should he return to school, Eason would be welcoming in a crop of freshmen wide receivers as well as playing behind a new offensive line. Washington will need to replace three starters on their o-line, and for a player with limited mobility like Eason (who compares favorably with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford), it might be better to head for the pros.
There could be as many as five NFL teams looking to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 draft, including: Cincinnati, Miami, Denver, Tennessee and Chicago. Washington could also be in the market for a new signal-caller if rookie Dwayne Haskins doesn’t impress the Redskins’ brass.
If this is the case, Eason should declare for the 2020 NFL draft.
Stay in School
The argument for Jacob Eason to stay another season at the University of Washington is a simple one: he’s not ready for the NFL.
While Eason sports the size so many executives and coaches seek in their signal-callers, he lacks experience and is very raw.
Eason has played meaningful snaps in just 24 games since 2016. He’s only 2-5 as a starter against ranked opponents, and his most recent outing versus a top team saw him make critical mistakes.
Against No. 7 Utah, Eason played well for about two-and-a-half quarters. He melted down late in the third quarter, including throwing a pick-six. Utah defeated Washington in Seattle and Eason turned the ball over three times.
Going back to school would allow Eason to polish his raw talent more finely. He could work on his deep-ball accuracy while throwing to a highly touted group of new receivers.
Eason could also see a similar jump in draft stock that Oregon’s Justin Herbert enjoyed after he returned for his senior season. Currently 9-1, Herbert’s Ducks were 8-4 in 2018 and the quarterback returned to school with a much higher national profile. Eason could see a similar jump from second- or third-rounder to clear first-rounder like Herbert.
As it stands even with Tua Tagovailoa’s injury (which he is expected to make a full recovery from according to a statement from Alabama), Eason is currently no better than the fourth or fifth quarterback on the board. He’s squarely behind Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, as well as Tagovailoa, and perhaps even Jake Fromm and Jordan Love.
The 2021 NFL Draft pool is far more shallow for quarterbacks. Trevor Lawerence from Clemson is currently the top-pick from that group. By returning to school, Eason would vie with Lawerence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields for that top quarterback prospect slot. He would also get a look at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Jacob Eason faces a pivotal decision soon, but if he’s not a surefire first round pick, he should seriously consider returning to school.
Check out Eason’s and other’s stock on NFL Draft Lounge’s Mock Drafts page.