If someone exclaims there is a prospect that “oozes with upside” and “potential”, you can take it with a grain of salt considering the hundreds of hyperboles that are used every year to describe what someone sees from a highlight film. Yes, prospects such as Utah State’s Jordan Love have a lot of the tools that have shot him up the draft boards in this process and put him in the running with Oregon’s Justin Herbert (recently profiled here) to be the 3rd QB drafted in this year’s 2020 NFL Draft.
While there is no exact metric we can use to describe “upside”, the hit rate for overhyping prospects and misrepresenting their range of outcomes is definitively high. On one hand, Love showcased that upside with some inspiring 2018 game film; however, his 2019 tape might’ve exposed some of his poor in-game decision-making that won’t translate to securing an NFL starting QB job for long.
Let’s take a dive into Jordan Love’s college production, his combine metrics, and, most importantly, see what the tape tells us about his projection moving forward.
Note: For more on the 2020 rookie class, check out all of our 2020 NFL Draft content and stay tuned to the Fantasy Footballers podcast for April’s Rookie Preview show where the Ballers breakdown each position heading into the draft.
College Production Profile
|Games||Completion Percentage||Passing Yards||TD: INT|
Love exploded in 2018 as a Davy O’Brien award finalist and capping the season off as the New Mexico Bowl MVP throwing for 359 yards and four TDs. Draftniks might remember Chiefs RB Darwin Thompson was also on that Aggie squad as they went 11-2 with both of their losses coming on the road at Michigan State and Boise State finishing at 22nd in the final AP poll. It was especially impressive for a sophomore.
Love’s 2019 stats plummeted in so many ways including throwing an FBS-high 17 INTs. Yikes! According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out as the 50th best QB in FBS. Regardless of the metric, there isn’t a way to spin the fact Love’s junior year was a step back in terms of production. I’ll let my analysis of his tape share what I think made the difference from 2018 to 2019.
NFL Scouting Combine Measurements
|Height/Weight||Hand Size||40-Yard Dash||3-Cone Drill||20-Yard Shuttle|
|6'3, 224 lbs||10.5||4.74 seconds||7.21||4.52|
A lot was made of Love “helping himself” at the combine in terms of where he came in with his height, weight, and overall makeup. While it’s hard to gauge much from people running around in shorts, his delivery looked smooth and his spiral tight. I find his motion more “pushing the ball” than releasing it as a “snap” or a “flick”. For instance, when you watch Jimmy Garoppolo throw, the ball comes out quick and it isn’t placed but “fired”.
Some teams likely came away seeing all they needed to see from a physical sense. At the time, the Colts were heavily linked to Love and there was heavy chatter about him landing there at pick 13. After $25 million and a Philip Rivers signing later, that looks like rubbish especially when Indy’s 1st round draft pick was traded for former 49ers, DT DeForest Buckner. At the end of this profile, I’ll give a 2020 outlook and a couple of landing spots that could make sense.
What’s On Tape
My method for watching film is simple: get out a pen and pad of paper. Watch each passing attempt taking note of the down and distance and simply write down what I see. For a QB, I focus on accuracy, aDOT, footwork, locating 2nd reads, and how they stand in the pocket under pressure. For Love, I took six of his highest-profile games over the past two years.
Games viewed: BYU (2019), Fresno State (2019), LSU (2019), Wake Forest (2019), Michigan State (2018), Boise State (2018)
1. His arm motion could spell trouble.
There’s a long line of QBs drafted to the NFL with mechanics less than desirable. The extreme examples are those like Tim Tebow or Philip Rivers. Some can get by but then there are others like Blake Bortles who could not adjust. Love’s motion isn’t herky-jerky or unmanageable but it seems rather long for someone who physically profiles more like a West Coast, quick-timing passer. While he can hit the deep ball when he has time in the pocket, that type of motion won’t hold up with veteran pass rushers being able to time batting passes and closing throwing lanes with that much more time to anticipate.
Whereas in 2018 he looked like an efficiency king, he likely overachieved and probably is somewhere more in the middle in terms of INTs. Regardless, Love will definitely need to work on using his eyes to make linebackers and safeties look elsewhere before trying to fit balls in tight windows. He has the zip to make those throws but unless you’ve generated some type of misdirection on the field, you might be shooting yourself in the foot over and over again relying on your arm while not using your brain.
2. He looks comfortable throwing on the run outside the pocket.
While there were plenty of errant deep throws on the tape, I spotted some absolute dimes. Love dropped in a few perfectly placed arcs with some of the most impressive ones coming on the run. Here’s one early on in the LSU game when Utah State was down only four towards the end of the first quarter.
Unfortunately, the Aggies had a number of red-zone turnovers but they played the eventual National Champion Tigers fairly close in the 1st half. Love moved with ease in the pocket and I honestly thought while watching this film “Wow, I think I trust this guy to make a play.” While the end result was ugly and Love tossed four INTs against the Tigers, the raw skills and ability to use his legs to get outside the hashes and deliver timely throws made me perk up in terms of his upside.
What I see is a playmaker and someone who performs relatively well when the play doesn’t go to script. I had the exact opposite evaluation with Justin Herbert, who seemed to be thrown off when his first read wasn’t open. Here is one against Michigan State in 2018 that, within context, looks even more awesome considering its 4th quarter on the road and the Aggies are down just a score against the 11th ranked Spartans. Now, I’ll also add this was ruled an incompletion but is the type of touch and incredible off-balance throw you want to see from a young QB.
3. Zone coverages ate him for breakfast in 2019.
If there’s one major difference from the 2018 tape to 2019, it seems like teams decided to dare Love into reacting and reading the defensive coverages correctly as they threw more zone looks his way. While I don’t have an exact stat in terms of the percentage of zone defenses he faced in 2019, I can say that he was fooled and trusted his eyes and his pre-snap reads more than what the defense morphed into post-snap. There are a number of recent athletic QBs in the mold of Love that when it came to simply being able to read NFL defenses, they never adjusted. E.J. Manuel, Paxton Lynch, and Josh Freeman all possessed the tools that made them recent 1st round draft picks. But as you’re reading this and you digest those names and remember the utter poo their careers turned into, you also can imagine a world where Love just never learns.
What’s Not on Tape
This is arguably the most crucial part of any scouting analysis, in my opinion. It is easy to splice together highlight reel takes and forget that we are looking at college football players; in other words, the majority of players the prospect faced will never be playing on an NFL field and likely will be vying to be your financial planner or turning to high school coaching. We cannot only glean from film watching based on what our eyeballs are showing us. Sometimes it’s best to ask yourself the question: What am I not seeing? This involves asking questions and reflecting.
Here are a couple of takeaways of what didn’t show up:
1. Consistent smart decisions on slants and crosses.
If I had to pull out the red marker and point to one glaring error in the 2019 tape, it’s that he made some bone-headed reads on quick timing routes. Slants and crosses are among the easiest throws to make not just because they are near the line of scrimmage but the play happens so fast. Beyond just some of the issues with his mechanics, he tended to stare down some of his INTs in 2019 including against Wake Forest in the opener. Love was all over the map in the 38-35 loss: throwing for 416 yards, three TDs, and three INTs almost leading the Aggies back. Midway through the 3rd quarter, Love commits to his WR almost before the snap where he wants to throw the ball. Luckily, the Demon Deacons LB dropped a surefire INT but it was not a good read at all for Love.
In the BYU game, Love tried his best to keep the Aggies in it but BYU blew them out in the second half. Here’s an INT where he simply doesn’t see another LB who picks him off. But as you watch this from the endzone view, you’ll see the incoming CB likely would’ve done the same. Love’s eyes at first may seem like he’s trying to draw defenders left but his body had made up its mind in throwing to the receiver coming across the middle.
2. His aggressiveness was never held in check.
In other words, despite adversity and the turnovers skyrocketing in 2019, Love never changed his approach continuing to show competitiveness and a willingness to try to bring his team back. You can honestly spin that narrative either way you want: this guy is a mistake-prone gunslinger OR this guy wants to win and isn’t shaken by mistakes.
I think comparisons to Blake Bortles are a bit sloppy and seem to only focus on comparing his throwing motion and his INTs. On the field, they look totally different and the feel of the film says that Love’s footwork is way more advanced than Blake the Snake. I like seeing aggressiveness displayed at the college level as long as it can be guided to working within a system. Young QBs can learn to harness that aggression and make two or three less boneheaded throws per game. For Love, honing in on his decision-making doesn’t mean he has to become a checkdown king.
3.Despite his athleticism, I didn’t see game-breaking rushing on display.
Love totaled just 403 rushing yards in three years as the starter topping out at 175 rushing yards this past year . His seven rushing TDs in 2018 certainly look like a major outlier considering it came on just 63 total rushing yards. In terms of his body composition (and likely the college conference), I’ve seen many compare him to Colin Kaepernick. Guys, Kaepernick was a lethal runner putting up over 4,000 rushing yards in college!
Love profiles at best as Mitchell Trubisky-esque in terms of upside rushing but even that comparison has some leaks. He’ll hopefully learn how to move around the pocket and escape when needed ala Aaron Rodgers, rather than try to leverage his athleticism and end up being sacked at a high rate. He’ll never be the dual threat people think he should be but using your feet to create lanes within the pocket and buying an extra couple of seconds is how you find receivers on broken plays and frustrate opposing defensive coordinators.
2020 Fantasy Outlook
Love is a high upside prospect that clearly falls behind Burrow and Tua in terms of NFL-readiness. The team that takes him in the 1st round likely will allow him time to develop behind a veteran QB. I’m thinking a team like the Los Angeles Chargers with the sixth pick or Jacksonville at nine could tab Love their future franchise QB. If some of the early teams pass, watch out for the Dolphins or Raiders to use one of their multiple picks on Love.
He’s an intriguing dynasty add as it’s clear he has the tools to become the starter in Year One. If you’re starting just one QB, I would wait until at least the mid-3rd round to pull the trigger on Love. In a SuperFlex, he moves up into the 2nd round. For redraft purposes, the likely scenario is he hurts rather than helps the surrounding fantasy pieces in whatever offense he finds himself in.