INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The time wasn’t right until it was the right time to pull Jacob Eason’s name off the board and put him on the Indianapolis Colts’ depth chart at quarterback.
After sitting through the first three rounds and 106 picks of the NFL Draft, Chris Ballard made it clear it wasn’t the right time to possibly find the team’s quarterback of the future to groom behind Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett.
“I told y’all the other day we are not going to force that,’’ he said late Friday night. “It is going to be a guy that we have a strong conviction on and we know that we think he can be our future.
“We’re not there, yet.’’
They got there Saturday afternoon during round 4 and with the 122nd overall pick: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington.
He’s the 13th QB selected in the Indy era, but arguably just the sixth considered either franchise-level or starter-level: Andrew Luck (1st overall in 2012), Peyton Manning (1st overall in 1998), Jeff George (1st overall in 1990), Chris Chandler (round 3 in 1988) and Jack Trudeau (round 2 in ’87).
Eason clearly isn’t the Colts’ present. That belongs to 38-year old Philip Rivers, signed in March to a one-year, $25 million contract. It’s possible Rivers returns for 2021 if the upcoming season unfolds as Ballard and Frank Reich anticipate. His arrival relegated Jacoby Brissett to the backup role.
It’s worth noting Eason will be the only QB under contract for 2021.
For now, he’ll sit, watch and learn.
“I’m very excited to go in and learn from a guy with what he’s done,’’ Eason said of Rivers in a Zoom conference call. “He did some great things with the Chargers and now he’s going to do some awesome things with the Colts.
“It’s crazy to think I’m going to be able to go in there and learn from a guy like that. That opportunity doesn’t happen with everyone.’’
Similarly, Eason should benefit from Reich’s direction.
“I think coach Reich is going to be awesome for me,’’ he said. “In terms of my learning and my development, I don’t think I could have gone to a better organization.’’
Eason’s eagerness to get to work was evident, and he expressed it in a unique manner.
“As soon as this virus is calmed down,’’ he said, “I’m going to go in there and compete my nuts off and go in here and prove myself as a workhorse and a leader and a good football player.’’
Let’s get one thing straight: Eason lasted until round 4 for a reason. He’s got the size (6-6, 231 pounds) and ridiculously strong right arm, but many draft analysts consider him a boom-or-bust prospect. He completed just 59.8 percent of his passes during 32 (26 starts) games at Georgia and Washington, and balanced 39 touchdown passes with 16 interceptions.
Shortly after the Colts presumably hooked their future to Eason, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted that some teams had issues with Eason’s work ethic and accountability. His maturity has been questioned.
Eason has heard the criticism, but insisted he hasn’t given it much credence.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,’’ he said when Mortensen’s tweet was mentioned. “Everybody’s going to have something to say, especially at the quarterback position.
“A big thing for me is confidence, and listening, watching, reading some of those things are a big confidence-killer for some guys. I tend not to pay attention to all the media, all the stories out there. I know who I am deep down. I know what I can do.
“They can say all they want, but I’m going to be a person to go in there and prove them wrong.’’
Those harsh evaluations might have impacted Eason’s draft status. He had been projected anywhere from a late first-round pick to the second round to later. He admitted it was “disheartening’’ to see no quarterbacks taken after four were selected in round 1 and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts went to Philadelphia with the 21st pick in round 2 (53rd overall).
“It was tough as a competitor,’’ he said. “But hey, I’m super fortunate to have been picked up by a great organization and a great situation in Indianapolis.’’
The Colts apparently had shown the most interest in the weeks leading up the draft.
“I had a great communication with the Colts,’’ Eason said. “I think I talked with them more than any other team.’’
Joining the organization, he added, was tantamount to completing the circle.
“I actually grew up a huge Indianapolis Colts fan,’’ Eason said. “I was a tremendously big fan of Peyton Manning. I think one year when I was 6 or 7 I got his jersey under the Christmas tree and I had Colts hats, Colts shoes, you name it.
“Full circle is pretty spectacular that the Colts ended up selecting me in the fourth round. I’m just super excited to get down there and figure out my new home.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.