Monthly Archives: June 2017

What the Hell is Jacob Eason? A Call to Quit the Hot Takes


 

For a guy who had a flat-out average year for a college football quarterback and a pretty good year for a true freshman college quarterback, there sure are a lot of varied opinions on Jacob Eason. He seems to either be great or awful per most fans (Georgia and otherwise), and there’s not much room for middle ground.

He’s hot take central. LeBron or MJ? Today’s Golden State Warriors or 1990s Chicago Bulls? Is Jacob Eason the next Tom Brady or is he Ryan Leaf on opiates? These are real conversations that people are having. Somehow, Eason a player who played exactly to normal expectations as a true freshman, is on one end of the extremes.

He’s excellent. Or he’s awful.

I guess if you take any snippet of his 2016 performance in isolation, you could convince yourself of anything.

  • Good: He out-played the no. 2 overall pick and the top quarterback selected in the NFL Draft during a head-to-head matchup in 2016. Eason completed passes at a higher rate, threw more TD passes and accounted for nearly three times as many yards per attempt as North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky. Oh, and this was Eason’s first college game.
  • Bad: Eason struggled mightily against some mediocre opposition. In a loss to Georgia Tech, for instance, he barely connected on 50% of his passes, threw two INTs vs. just one TD, and needed 27 passes to rack up 139 yards trough the air.
  • Good: He played well in some of Georgia’s easiest games at home. Just ask Louisiana-Lafayette, Vanderbilt and Nicholls State.
  • Bad: He struggled mightily on the road against some SEC foes. Against South Carolina and Ole Miss he connected on just 21 of 53 pass attempts for 168 yards.

But that good/bad ratio isn’t all that staggering for a true freshman playing for a first-time head coach behind an atrocious offensive line. And understand, that it’s “not all that staggering” to the positive or the negative. That is to say, you’re insane to think Eason merits Heisman consideration (one Fox Sports columnist has him one of 15 favorites for the award) and you’re equally insane to think he’s going to lose his job to incoming signal-caller Jake Fromm.

And yet, those are two of the more prevailing theories this offseason. Nowhere to be found is the notion that Eason may be, well,  pretty good and improving. Normal is not allowed for Jacob Eason. And that’s not just because expectations are so high. Again, some fans actually want Lee Fromm’s son (sup?) to start. So what should we expect from Eason in the immediate future – meaning in 2017? Here are two base cases.

 

 

Low-End Scenario: Very Modest Improvement

I really like passing efficiency as an entry-level measure of QB play. It takes into account completion percentage, yards per attempt, TD/INT ratio and everything else that is easily measured.

By that stat, Eason was below average in 2016. His passer rating was 120.2 – good enough for only 90th in the nation among players with 15 attempts per game and an appearance in at least 75% of team’s games.  That’s not very good and among 109 eligible QBs, that puts him squarely in the bottom quartile. But what’s interesting is that Eason’s outliers (on a game-by-game basis) fell much more to the downside than to the upside. You’d expect that from a true freshman in the SEC—at any position, really.

How do we see that? Well, let’s look at individual games. Eason’s season-long efficiency rating of 120.2 reflects the sum of all his attempts, completions, TDs, INTs and yards. It’s not just the average of each game’s efficiency rating. But his average single-game rating was 124.25.

If we remove Eason’s best game (185.9 rating against North Carolina) and his worst game (51.4 vs. South Carolina), his average game rating increases to 125.27. So his worst game was worse than his best game was good. This trend continues. If we remove his second-best game (165.6 vs. LA-Lafayette) and his second-worst game (70.9 vs. Mizzou), his average game output increases again to 126.83. If we remove his third-best contest (154.2 vs. TCU) and his third-worst contest (91.9 vs. Florida), his average game increases to 127.91. If we remove his fourth-best (148.4 vs. Vanderbilt) and his fourth-worst(92.5 vs. Tech), Eason’s average game efficiency increases to 130.9.

Now, this is a flawed experiment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that removing Eason’s four best and four worst games leaves only 5 games to measure. So let’s pause this side of the experiment at removing just Eason’s three best and three worst games. This leaves us with seven of 13 total contests and something close to Eason’s Middle-50% of games. His average efficiency rating in those games was 127.91. But here’s his entire statistical line for those seven games:

  • Attempts: 232
  • Completions: 135
  • Completion Percentage: 58.2%
  • Yards: 1,661
  • Touchdowns: 9
  • Interceptions: 5
  • Total Efficiency Rating: 126.82

I think it’s reasonable to assume that the most-modest improvement for Eason would be something like that. I’m not budgeting anything on the upside (again, I’m taking out his best three games), but I am counting on his worst games to be less bad.

For a 13-game season that projects him to do this (with minor rounding):

  • Attempts: 431
  • Completions: 251
  • Completion Percentage: 58.2%
  • Yards: 3,085
  • Touchdowns: 17
  • Interceptions: 9
  • Season-long Efficiency: 126.82

Based on last year’s numbers, that would place him in the following spots nationally among qualifying QBs:

 

Stat Projection Projected Rank Comparison from 2016
Attempts 431 18 Daniel Jones, Duke (430)
Completions 251 26 Richard Lagow, Indiana (253)
Yards 3,085 38 Ryan Finley, NC State (3,055)
Touchdowns 17 60 C.J. Beathard, Iowa (17)
Interceptions 9 56 Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (9)
Efficiency 126.82 70 Daniel Jones, Duke (126.3)

 

Where are all the hot takes on Daniel Jones and Clayton Thorson? Was C.J. Beathard (a third round pick in the 2017 Draft) about to get beat out by an incoming freshman? Is Ryan Finley going to win a Heisman this year? Is Richard Lagow the most polarizing player in the Big Ten?

If Eason improves only ever-so slightly, he’ll basically be an average QB. Given what Georgia historically does on offense, the strengths at running back and the talent on defense, I don’t think average QB play makes or breaks the Bulldogs’ season. You can get to Atlanta with the statistics above if the rest of the team is up to snuff.

 

Really weird things show up when you search “Jacob Eason GIF.

 

High-End Scenario: The Next Stafford

For better or worse, Matthew Stafford is the obvious comparison for Jacob Eason. And based on freshman campaigns that’s not a totally inaccurate discussion. Both played in 13 games. Neither was the full-time starter. Both had tremendous highs and discernible struggles. Both had all the arm talent in the world, both needed to improve in decision-making, touch and accuracy.

Here’s how Matthew Stafford performed as a freshman and then as a sophomore.

 

Category Freshman Sophomore % Improvement
Attempts 256 348 35.94%
Completions 135 194 43.70%
Completion Percentage 52.7 55.7 5.69%
Yards 1749 2523 44.25%
TD 7 19 171.43%
INT 13 10 -23.08%
Efficiency Rating 109 128.9 18.26%

 

Want to know the realistic ceiling for Eason in 2017? Apply those rates of improvement to Eason. Here’s where you end up.

  • Attempts: 503
  • Completions: 293
  • Completion Percentage: 58.2%
  • Yards: 3,505
  • Touchdowns: 43
  • Interceptions: 9
  • Season-long Efficiency: 141.81

 

How would those figures stack up compared to the national landscape in 2016? Check it out:

 

Stat Projection Projected Rank Comparison from 2016
Attempts 503 6 Ryan Higgins, LA Tech (496)
Completions 293 9 Brandon Silvers, Troy (293)
Yards 3,505 20 Brad Kaaya, Miami (3,532)
Touchdowns 43 2 Jake Browning, Washington (43)
Interceptions 9 56 Clayton Thorson, Northwestern (9)
Efficiency 141.81 36 Greg Ward Jr., Houston (141.7)

 

Again, this just isn’t a murderers’ row of noteworthy passers. There’s a little more name recognition here (Greg Ward Jr., Jake Browning, Brad Kaaya), but it’s not like Eason’s year-two ceiling is that of Deshaun Watson or that leprechaun from Oklahoma.

 

Conclusion:

If we consider these data points — attempts, completions, yards, TDs, interceptions and efficiency — as the standard for how prolific a passer is (statistically), it’s hard to get too worked up about Jacob Eason. On the low-side (just removing his three best and three worst games), he projects to finish with an average national ranking of 44.7 in those major categories. On the high-side (Stafford-level improvement from year 1 to year 2), he may post an average national ranking of 21.5 in those major categories.

That seems about right for the rising sophomore. I think Eason will be a Top-45 QB in 2017. I don’t think he’ll crack the Top 20. For what Georgia wants to accomplish, that’s perfectly fine. But that’s not performance worthy of blatant disregard or blind praise.

So everybody chill out.

We can stop with the Jacob Eason hot-takes. After all, you can’t spell “National Championship Season” or “Losing Season” without E-A-S-O-N.

 

That’s all I got/

Andrew

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