The significance of the quarterback position for a football team can rarely be understated. By some people’s subjective measurements, playing quarterback in the National Football League is the toughest job in the world. With that being said, going into training camp and the 2021 season, the Colts have more questions than answers at the quarterback position. The type of outcomes for Carson Wentz this season are arguably more wide-ranging than any other starting quarterback. Fans could see a comeback player of the year or a season riddled with the indecisive decision-making that plagued Wentz in 2020. When Chris Ballard made the trade for Carson Wentz, the backbone of the trade included a conditional second-round pick that could turn into a first-round pick if Wentz played 75% of the snaps. If everything goes according to plan, Wentz should easily surpass this mark, and the Colts would soar into the playoffs. But what if, for a litany of different reasons, Jacob Eason was thrust into the toughest job in the world? How would he perform? What would this mean for the Colts going forward? Let’s dive into the Jacob Eason rabbit hole.
Since Jacob Eason came onto the national stage as the top quarterback in his recruiting class, his football story has taken numerous twists and turns that eventually led to him being one of the most polarizing quarterback prospects in the 2019 draft. Eason was scattered across draft boards by teams and analysts alike as his football acumen and drive for playing the game were dissected. Chris Ballard and the Colts took a chance on Eason in the fourth round. So far, all character concerns have been put to rest by Eason’s apparent sponge-like mentality during his de facto redshirt rookie year behind Phillip Rivers and Jacoby Brisset. The one thing we haven’t seen from Jacob Eason are reps when the bullets are flying, which is why a thought experiment into how he would perform when those bullets are flying the fastest piqued my interest. Another variable to account for is Eason’s perceived value after his season of performances. With an eventually healthy Wentz and an ever-growing amount of quarterback-hungry teams in the NFL, could the Colts get plus value out of Eason if they were to flip him for a draft pick, much like the Patriots of the Tom Brady era?
If Jacob Eason were to start all 17 regular-season games for the Colts in 2021, I would expect his stat line to look something like this:
In this scenario, I expect Frank Reich to lean heavily on the Colts’ elite running game to take the pressure off Eason as he gets his feet wet. The offense would probably stay conservative throughout the year, leading to a very low number of overall attempts. However, as the season progressed, Eason would begin to feel more comfortable taking a few shots down the field with the howitzer he has for a right arm. This would bring down the overall completion percentage as the season went on and lead to a more even touchdown to interception ratio as Eason learned from his mistakes and capitalized on his plus arm talent to make difficult throws.
Overall I would expect Jacob Eason to experience serious growing pains, which would be expected of any young quarterback put in this situation. There would be some amazing highlight throws that would make any fan drool and costly turnovers that would ultimately cost the Colts wins. While I don’t think the Colts would make the playoffs with Eason at the helm, I think they will with Wentz. Ultimately, Jacob Eason’s performance in this scenario would interest other teams in the following off-season. The Colts could look to trade him if they have their backup position secured. For the sake of this argument, we will assume Sam Ehlinger impressed coaches while he was the backup to Eason and is ready to sit behind a now healthy Wentz in 2022.
Possible Trade Packages
Even with the sub-par season, I projected for Eason that there would be plenty of suitors for the young QB’s services if the Colts were to make him available for trade. Front offices would be hungry to give their coaching staff a young, strong-armed QB with loads of untapped potential. Two teams that would make sense for Eason, in this case, would be the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Football Team. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick are on one-year contracts that would be up after the 2021 season. I think both teams would bring in another quarterback, most likely a veteran, to compete with Eason for the starting role, as he wouldn’t yet have earned the right to be an unquestioned starter. Chris Ballard would not want to trade Eason to a team within the conference, which is why I think in this scenario, he would be traded to the Football Team for a third-round pick. The value for this pick comes mostly from Eason’s potential and Washington’s faith in their coaching staff to get the most out of him. I think Jacob Eason could thrive in Washington’s youthful and dynamic offense surrounded by Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Antonio Gibson.
The history behind 4th round quarterbacks and their success rates in the league would not lead any statisticians to believe that Jacob Eason will be a productive NFL QB. However, even with an underwhelming 17 game stat line, I believe the Colts would still be able to reap plus value from a Jacob Eason trade. In this case, the genius of Chris Ballard and the talent of Frank Reich to develop quarterbacks would be the biggest storyline following Eason’s tenure. But then again, what else should we expect?