Jordan Love may not be a name that the casual college football fan is very familiar with. The Utah State quarterback was a two-star recruit coming out of Bakersfield, California, and the Aggies were the only FBS team to send him an offer. He was relegated to playing a majority of his games on the likes of CBS Sports Network, ESPN+ or less desirable time slots as he played in a Mountain West conference that rarely can compete with the big dogs in the PAC 12 and Big 12.
Despite his relative obscurity among regular fans, NFL scouts and draft analysts alike have been salivating over him all season. Similar to Josh Allen in 2018, Love is a small-school prospect who will probably boom in popularity in the coming months between now and the draft... and for good reason.
Also similar to Allen a few years ago, Love’s stats do not particularly jump off the page — especially with the weak Mountain West competition he played against. His 129.1 passer rating ranks him fourth in the conference. He placed third in both passing yards (3,402) and touchdowns (20). Love does lead the Mountain West (and the entire FBS) in one crucial stat, though, but it is not a desirable one.
Love led all FBS players in interceptions with 17 on the season. While they did come in bunches—nine came in three games against LSU, Wake Forest and BYU, who are all basically Power 5 teams depending on how you feel about BYU—it is worrying how many turnovers he managed to commit against top competition.
*BYU classified as a Power 5 team. While they are officially independent, they recruit as well as many Power 5 teams
**FBS Completion % and Passer Rating rankings are among all quarterbacks who registered at least 150 pass attempts as of December 28th
While his numbers are not spectacular—and some of them could be considered downright bad—Love’s high upside is what has captured the attention of many around the country.
Love has a cannon for an arm. He throws with high velocity and can make off-balance passes from every angle. While his mechanics can be sloppy at times, his play-making ability is a worthwhile trade off.
Love can complete passes outside the pocket safely as he gets the ball out there fast enough for his receivers to make the catch before defenders can jump them.
This arm strength also makes him a threat while rolling out. He can escape the pocket and fire off rockets while on the run and off platform.
These abilities are what have scouts the most excited about Love, especially in the wake of Patrick Mahomes’ eruption on to the scene just a year ago. A quarterback who can make plays off-script, and fire off 40+ yard passes on the run, outside of the pocket, is a highly-sought-after gem for franchises hoping to find a new guy to build around.
Love looks like he could be that guy.
The Utah State quarterback is a lot more than just a big arm that throws the ball really fast, though. His greatest skill might be his ability to throw with touch. Love can perfectly float balls and drop them into a bucket from miles away. He does not fall into the trap that many other young quarterbacks with big arms do and just fire missiles at every receiver who gets a yard of space. He throws his receivers open and does a great job putting touch on passes and properly placing them when he is forced to throw off of his back foot.
He also is great at going through his reads quickly. Love rarely sits too long on a single target, and he is willing to check down when no options downfield arise.
Love has some huge problems, though. While he usually does a great job reading defenses and going through his progressions, he sometimes has plays where he just throws all of his wisdom out the window and does something dumb. On one snap, he will quickly flip through his progressions, find an open receiver and throw them a perfect pass for a good gain. One the next, he will drop back to pass and just instantly fire off a ball straight into a linebackers hands for an interception.
There is so much snap-to-snap variance that it feels like a game of Russian Roulette. While you will be fine a majority of the time, every once in a while you lose, and lose big. It’s confusing and hard to really grasp from the outside. There are just going to be snaps where Love throws all his football IQ out the window, and the real cause of it is unknown.
This makes pro comparisons interesting for Love. While his ceiling is definitely a Mahomes-type passer who is a dynamic offensive playmaker that can make throws from anywhere on the field. The best current comparison is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston. A player with incredible talent but terrible—and damning—inconsistencies.
He has other problems as well. Just like Winston, Love will sometimes just miss simple easy throws. Whether they are routine check downs, or downfield throws to open receivers, he just lets balls float a little too much sometimes.
Love also sometimes holds on to the ball for too long, getting himself in trouble when he does not need to. He even sometimes gets a little bit too zeroed in on what is going on downfield and does not see rushers running right at him.
It is very possible that Love will be a top 10 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The Aggies product will remind many of Mahomes, and it is very possible that a team falls in love with his upside. Winston notably went first overall despite his turnovers at Florida State, and the Bucs quarterback will probably make a lot of money as a free agent this year. He will also test really well at the NFL combine, which should cause a huge boost in his stock over the final month before the draft. Despite his flaws, there is just too much talent there for teams to pass up on. Some coaching staff somewhere will tell themselves that they can take his raw talent, and coach him into being the next Mahomes.
He could be an option for the Detroit Lions at third overall, even. With Matthew Stafford struggling with health in recent years, and Detroit’s ability to either cut or trade their long time quarterback in the 2021 offseason, Love is a potential developmental piece. He is a long way from reaching his full potential but getting to learn from a quarterback like Stafford—who has a similar skill set—could jump start it.
The chances the Lions do this are low, but it is always a very real option for a franchise that looks like it could be in store for a long-term rebuild.