INDIANAPOLIS — Chris McGaha, an area scout for the Indianapolis Colts who focuses on the West Coast, as well as Matt Terpening, the Colts' assistant director of college scouting, and general manager Chris Ballard discuss what they saw in quarterback Jacob Eason, the Colts' fourth-round (122nd-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft (excerpts from interviews done with local media members, as well as with Colts.com):
This is the first time the Colts have drafted a quarterback since 2012. What did you see in Eason, and how did the scouting process evolve over the last month to where you guys felt comfortable taking him?
McGaha: "It really started in August. actually. I was actually out at Eastern Washington doing a school visit there, and that was their first game of the year: Eastern Washington vs. Washington. So, watching their tape, I just saw Jacob making throws and jumping off the tape. So, I actually texted Ballard then and said this is a guy I think that we need to be talking about. I had heard about Jacob. I didn't know if he would necessarily put his name in at that point, but we got out in front of it and we started doing our homework. Brian Decker and Ed Dodds went out and they took a look at him too and dug into him. So, it actually started in August. It wasn't really just the last month. He's a big kid, big quarterback. He's athletic. He's got a big arm. We just think he has a lot of upside. There's a lot that I think he can bring to that quarterback room. I know Frank's excited about him. I think it's going to be a great opportunity for him. He's got Frank, he can learn from Philip, and then Nick obviously is great at what he does, and Jacoby too. So, I think Jacob's stepping into a great opportunity actually."
Eason talked about things he wants to continue improving on, and he mentioned football IQ in general. What did you see in terms of his ability to process a play and identify schemes and blitzes?
McGaha: "Yeah, they do a great job out at Washington. They put a lot on his plate. He is a guy that I think can deliver from the pocket. And then, I thought you saw him extend plays a little bit too. In terms of processing, he's good as a processor. I saw make first, second, third reads, and then get the ball to the appropriate place. Yeah. I was good with him. I was good with him mentally."
The thought all along from Chris Ballard was, "We're not going to force it at quarterback." What made Eason appealing where you were able to get him? What arguments did you make to go ahead and pick him in the fourth round?
McGaha: "I think the big thing that jumps out with Jacob is just his size. He's such a big kid. He's 6-6 and he's got a big arm. Those are kind of like the traditional NFL quarterback. And I think that gets Coach Reich excited. It got us excited as a scouting group. So, Jacob was easy just in that, he's a big kid with a big arm. He showed on tape that he can make the throws in all three levels. And he's just a tough competitive kid that is going to work hard and show up every day and compete. I think you turn on the tape with Jacob and you just see this big athletic quarterback that can drive the ball down the field and you get excited about it."
What discussions were you able to have that allowed you to go to bat for Eason?
McGaha: "Jacob's a really good kid. I think you talked to Jacob and you see the good-hearted kid in him. I think that sells for him as a quarterback. He's a kid that's hungry, he's driven, he wants to get better. Those are all things I think are easy to align with especially as a coaching staff. … My argument for Jacob as the person was that he's going to come in, he's going to fit in the room first and foremost, he's got to understand where he fits on the roster from a depth chart standpoint and he's going to be the kid that's driven to get better each and every day."
What drew you to Eason as far as his talent, and the fact you guys took him in the fourth round, what questions did you have, or what gave you pause that he shouldn't go higher?
Terpening: "I think that's a good question. I think basically it's a long process of how we stock our board. And we had other guys probably ahead of different players. And I think at the end of the day it's really up to coach and up to Chris of when we pick guys and I think we felt that was the right pick to go with him."
With Eason, how long had you been watching him? And his skillset, there's some things he needs to work on. What do you see in terms of where he needs to improve, and how is that going to translate at this level?
Terpening: "Yeah, so that's a great question. So I actually saw him play as a freshman. He was at Georgia and he actually played against Drew Lock at Missouri. And I think he threw for 300 yards and two or three touchdowns. That's the first time I ever saw him. And you guys will see him up close: he's got all the physical tools, he's got size, he's got excellent arm strength, he can make every throw. And there's just a lot of things going for him that kind of drew us to the player. We spent a lot of time with him at the Combine and kind of this whole Zoom thing with our coaching staff. So he's got a lot of things that we're really excited about. I think for any underclassman there's things every underclassman can work on. So I think if you guys talk to him, he'll tell you there's things that he has to work on also."
What does he need to work on?
Terpening: "I think at the end of the day, it's just consistency. Like any underclassman. I mean, they'll tell you guys, I mean, there's things that every player needs to work on. There's no perfect player. And I think when guys come out when they're juniors, they're on our radar, but there's things that they need to improve on. and he'll be the first to tell you that. And just really consistency, but that goes for really every underclassman. I think the underclassmen that are really, really great special players, those are rare guys. Those guys go really, really high."
You mentioned consistency — can you elaborate on what you need to see done more consistently from Eason?
Terpening: "Yeah, I think there's just a lot of things that goes into playing that position, and he'll be the first to tell you that he had some really good games this year and there's some games where maybe they're a little bit up and down. But there's just enough there with him, with how he played the game, and then all the things that we saw on tape and then through the interview process, we think he's going to improve on."
There was a report — not with a name attached to it, so you take it with a grain of salt — that questions arose about Eason's work ethic in college. You've spent a good amount of time with him and studying him; are those questions unfounded?
Terpening: "I'm not really going to talk on a player's character, but I'll tell you that we have really high standards, obviously, for the players that we bring in. That's a testament to Mr. Irsay, to Chris, to Frank and for those guys to make our board, they have to have good football character, they have to have good personal character, they have to have good work ethic, they have to have good football intelligence. So that's something that we really investigate, and we felt good taking the player."
Were you surprised Eason was available where he was, and what made him such an attractive pick?
Terpening: "I don't want to say I was a little surprised, but I mean, I probably thought maybe he'd go maybe a little bit higher, but the draft starts happening so fast and teams are going after different players, different needs. Like I said before, I mean, he's got all the physical traits and all the physical skills that we look for and he's an underclassmen. He's got a ton of upside and I think that's the name of the game. And we spent time with him at the Combine, our coaching staff spent time with then, and we're excited to have him."
What makes this an ideal situation for Eason to walk into as a rookie?
Ballard: "When you've got Philip and Jacoby, who both have impeccable character and football character, so to walk into a room with those two guys, plus Frank, plus Nick, it's gonna be a great learning environment for Eason to come into. I mean, I can't think of a better situation for him to come in and learn, and that's what he's gonna do. And look: when it comes to the quarterback position, I just think that you've gotta keep bullets in the gun, and we wanna be able to do that. And I think every year you're gonna look at us and we're gonna continue to take shots at that position at the right points of the draft with where we have them graded."