INDIANAPOLIS — He lost to Fromm, but might be asked to replace Tom.
This is the strange journey of Jacob Eason, who transferred from Georgia to Washington after losing his starting job to Bulldogs teammate Jake Fromm, sat nearly two seasons and now is pegged in mock drafts as a possible first-round pick for the Patriots, who will select 23rd. Whether Tom Brady returns or leaves in free agency, the Patriots are in the market for a young quarterback.
“It would be a dream come true,” Eason said of the possibility of sitting behind the 43-year-old Brady for one year.
Eason is the quarterback who has most confounded scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine: Is he the fourth-best quarterback — after likely top 10 picks Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert — or is he no better than a third-round pick?
“Growing up, a guy like Brett Favre, a guy like Peyton Manning … were big inspirations in the way they play the game,” Eason said. “Their toughness, their competitiveness, those are guys I model my game after.’’
The 6-foot-6, 231-pound Eason showed arm strength and deep-ball touch to make those two greats proud Thursday when quarterbacks threw for NFL personnel and a prime-time audience.
“I prefer to have a gunslinger-type mentality: I’m going to cut loose every chance I get,” Eason said. “But obviously you’ve got to know the situation. You’ve got to know the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do with the ball. That’s all part of the process of becoming a better quarterback.”
Brady’s agent reportedly is meeting with the Colts, Chargers and Raiders at the combine — and not with the Giants — while negotiations with the Patriots are on hold until salary cap parameters are known after the new collective bargaining agreement is voted on.
Bill Belichick tried to prepare for life after Brady by drafting Jimmy Garoppolo (in 2014) and Jacoby Brissett (in 2016), but Brady hung around longer than expected and those two former backups started for the 49ers and Colts last season. Last year, the Patriots used a fourth-round pick on Jarrett Stidham. Is Eason next?
“He’s got some really good tape. But then he’s got some bad,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “You just want to see him be a little bit of a playmaker, instead of just being a pure thrower. I want to see him create some plays and extend some plays.”
The Patriots’ non-draft options if Brady leaves are Stidham, who threw four passes in 2019, or a free agent like championship-chaser Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater or Jameis Winston.
Eason presents a bigger risk-reward scenario. ESPN’s Todd McShay reported teams interviewing Eason at the combine thought he was “too comfortable” — a strange criticism given the opposite is nervous under pressure.
“People out there nitpick us here and there, and our job is to compete and show what we can do,” Eason said. “Whether it’s [criticisms of] the speed or the pocket awareness, footwork, all those types of things.”
Brady once almost left Michigan — in an era when transferring was more discouraged — rather than stick out a competition against Drew Henson. Eason left Georgia, but stuck out a season as a Bulldogs backup for the national runners-up.
“You always want to be the guy who’s out there leading the troops,” Eason said. “From a competitive side, it was really tough. I had to adapt to that, but it felt like the right thing to do was support Jake and support that team.
“I didn’t want to make the narrative anything about me. I wanted to make sure the focus was on the team wherever we were going.”
Sounds like the Patriots Way.