Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
(percentile rank among all QBs at Combine since 1999, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.74 seconds (69th percentile)
Vertical: 35.5 inches (89th)
Broad: 118 inches (86th)
3-cone: 7.21 seconds (28th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.52 seconds (13th)
Love finished high school as a 3-star recruit out of Bakersfield, Calif. But no FBS program other than Utah State offered him a scholarship, so Love chose the Aggies over 4 FCS schools.
After a redshirt season, Love hit 2017 as the backup to Kent Myers. But he took over the senior’s job late in the year, starting the final 6 contests and topping 250 passing yards in 3 of them.
Love then broke out as a redshirt sophomore. He set the school’s single-season record for passing yards and ranked 8th in FBS in TD passes. Love tossed 4+ scores in 5 different games and topped 350 yards 5 times. He piloted the Aggies to 10 straight regular-season wins plus a victory in the New Mexico Bowl, earning 2nd-team all-conference honors along the way.
Now a star with high expectations, Love took a downturn in 2019. HC Matt Wells left for the Texas Tech job after 6 seasons at the USU helm, taking OC (and QBs coach) David Yost with him. Along with a new coaching staff, Love had to deal with an offense that shed a bunch of pieces -- including 5 of the team’s top 6 players in receptions. That group included the top 3 pass-catchers, RB Darwin Thompson (a 6th-round NFL Draft pick) and TE Dax Raymond (signed with Bears as undrafted free agent).
Love struggled relative to 2018, leading the FBS in INTs and losing 1.4 off his yards per pass attempt (8.6 down to 7.2). He rated poorly on deep balls (93rd nationally, according to Pro Football Focus) and against pressure (183rd) while ranking 101st in rate of turnover-worthy plays.
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: San Jose State 2018, Michigan State 2018, BYU 2018, New Mexico State 2018, LSU 2019, BYU 2019, Colorado State 2019
Jordan Love has the skills. It doesn’t take long for that to come out -- especially if you start with some 2018 games.
First, the arm strength can compete with just about anyone’s …
That throw looked like a laser in real time. I included the replay to show just how tight a window he zipped it through.
But it’s not all about velocity. Love can also leverage his arm strength to throw on the move
The receiver failed to catch that 2nd one -- but that wasn’t Love’s fault. Check the placement again, about 37 yards downfield, throwing against his body.
Love sports the mobility you’d expect from his above-average 40 time, but he’s not a runner by nature. Instead, he clearly prefers to keep his focus downfield, in search of the bigger play he’s capable of serving up.
Many other college QBs would have seen the running lane in that clip above and just gone for it. Love keeps his eyes downfield looking for the bigger play -- even though he has enough speed to potentially reach the sticks on this 1st-and-10.
Love also isn’t scared, though, to take on the defense and pick up the 1st down himself when that’s what is there.
Utah State didn’t run a ton of run-pass options overall in the games I watched. But it seemed to come more into play in 2019 -- and especially in the Colorado State game (above).
Love seems to trust not only his arm, but also his receivers to make plays. Here he appears to throw purposely behind a well-covered wideout in the end zone.
Sometimes, however, he can believe too much in his ability to deliver the big play. For example, Love never should have thrown this ball -- especially on a 1st-and-10 …
He also simply makes questionable reads at various points, including multiple cases of failing to account for underneath zone coverage.
Even if the ball got past the intercepting BYU LB in that clip, another defender is set to undercut the targeted receiver as well. The LB who did grab the pick nabbed a 2nd on a near-identical throw later in the game.
The last thing you need to know about Love, though, is that the massive changes to the Utah State roster definitely impacted his 2019 season.
Here, the receiver drops a strike down the middle that likely would have produced a TD and an early lead at LSU.
This last clip finds Love flinging an impressive deep ball without being able to step into the throw (because of pressure). At first, it looks like an impressive completion all around. But the official at the end indicates the ball hit the ground, and replay confirmed that the wideout mishandled what should have been a catch.
Here’s where we separate fantasy from reality. Think of Jameis Winston.
The former Buccaneers QB entered the league as a daring downfield thrower, willing to challenge coverage and throw contested balls. That has produced a bunch of INTs in the pros … as well as a bunch of fantasy points. The picks proved too much to earn him a 2nd contract with Tampa Bay, but we’ll take all the INTs he cares to throw amid a top-4 fantasy finish (as Winston produced last season).
The trust-his-arm downfield slings that Jordan Love adores make him more likely to deliver efficient fantasy production … and more likely to serve up INTs. We only care about the picks if he throws too many to stay in the lineup.
Love -- perhaps more so than other QBs at the top of this NFL Draft class -- would benefit from a veteran coach (and staff) that’s able and willing to be patient with him. It’s worth remembering that he garnered just 1 FBS scholarship offer, redshirted for a year at that school and then opened the following season backing up a QB most of us have never heard of. Even once on the field, Love didn’t really break out until his 2nd year of starting.
Patience will also matter for his placement in dynasty rookie drafts. Should he land with a team such as the Chargers, then Love certainly has the skill set to deliver fantasy points quickly once on the field. The ideal landing spot for reaching his ultimate ceiling, though, might be a team that can afford to let him sit for a year and then absorb his growing pains once he takes over. (Tampa Bay? Pittsburgh? New Orleans?)
The remaining question I have regards Love’s mobility. As I mentioned above, he can run when he wants to. But Love totaled just 403 rushing yards across 38 appearances -- despite only taking 36 career sacks. (NCAA stats subtract sack yardage from a QB’s rushing yards.) Love showed his running ability as a high school senior, though, tallying 806 yards and 8 TDs on the ground.
Even though we can’t count on big numbers from Love in that area, he has the potential to add value as a runner in the pros. Andrew Luck seems like a solid comp of what could be in this area. He proved effective as a runner, while never attempting more than 64 rushes in a season.
All told, Love looks like a high-upside pick from Round 3 on in dynasty rookie drafts -- especially attractive if you’re set with a current starter at QB.
On the other end, of course, a more tenuous situation could give us more of the Love we got in 2019: trying to do too much and delivering more mistakes than most coaches are willing to withstand. But no QB in the NFL comes without the risk of failure.