Utah State quarterback Jordan Love announced on Tuesday night that he was entering the 2020 NFL Draft. If you told us last year that he would be making such an announcement after his 2019 season, that wouldn't have been much of a revelation. In 2018, Love threw for 3,567 yards, completed 64 percent of his attempts and finished with 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
But the past three-and-a-half months barely resembled what we previously saw from Love; he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,085 yards while throwing 17 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. And the only realistic conversations about Love being a first-round pick in the draft always included the caveat: "He needs to go to a winning team, with a strong coaching staff and a situation where he can sit on the bench for a year and learn behind the current starting quarterback."
That was basically our explanation for putting Love in our latest mock draft -- 30th to the Saints, by the way, an organization that has the infrastructure in place to nurture his development, which should begin on the bench behind Drew Brees and/or Teddy Bridgewater.
So what will an NFL team get in Love, whose physical abilities, arm strength and playmaking abilities have drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes?
At various points during the 2019 campaign we saw glimpses of what makes Love so intriguing, starting with his arm strength. The ball explodes out of his hand, and he shows the ability to let it go before the receiver is out of his break, something that will be imperative at the next level. But when Love doesn't get his feet set, or throws off-balance, his accuracy suffers. And this isn't to say Love can't throw on the run -- because he can -- but when he rushes, usually because he's under pressure, the results have been mixed.
But there's still so much to like. Love trusts his arm, even in the face of a heavy pass rush, because he knows he can snap one off to an outlet receiver at the last second. And that arm also allows him to fit the ball in tight spaces, which is especially evident when he's on time with his delivery.
Love also throws one of the best deep balls in college football.
And he can make throwing to the sidelines look easy:
But the reality is that for all his physical gifts, Love gets jittery in the pocket at the first sign of pressure -- even if it's not there -- then tries to rely on his arm strength to make downfield throws, even when his feet aren't set.
Yes, a big issue was the lack of playmakers around him this season. A year ago, Ron'Quavion Tarver and Jalen Greene combined for 110 receptions and 14 touchdowns, and Dax Raymond was one of the best tight ends in the conference who many folks (us included) thought would get drafted. Darwin Thompson, who was drafted by the Chiefs, rushed for more than 1,000 yards and added another 351 receiving yards.
All those weapons are gone. And that has had a noticeable effect on Utah State's offense and, more specifically, Love's productivity. For much of the season he played like someone who knew that he has to do everything. And for much of the season it didn't go well. Yes, there those were the flashes of brilliance we saw every game, but there were too many miscues to count, which often lead to turnovers, and more importantly, raised questions about his NFL readiness. His 16 interceptions was tied for most among FBS quarterbacks, along with Washington State's Anthony Gordon.
There was some conversation about Love returning for his senior season, and Yahoo.com's Dan Wetzel reported that if Love didn't enter the draft he would consider transferring and Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Houston were all possible destinations.
Love has entered the draft and now he'll need a strong pre-draft season -- and that could include a trip to the Senior Bowl -- to convince NFL teams that his first-round talent is indeed worth a first-round selection.