NFL draft: Utah State QB Jordan Love declares early after poor statistical season

Yahoo Sports

The 2020 NFL draft got a little more interesting with the news that Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is forgoing his final season of eligibility.

Here’s what he said via Twitter:

For those who are now getting around to reading up on the next draft cycle, Love’s meager 2019 statistics — 17 TDs, 16 INTs, a completion percentage that has hovered around 60 most of the season — might bring shock, especially for a Group of Five quarterback who received no other FBS offers coming out of high school.

But Love planted himself firmly on the NFL’s radar since the 2018 season when that TD-INT ratio was a gaudy 32-6 and he nearly pulled off an upset over Michigan State in East Lansing. So what exactly happened?

NFL scouts, you might be surprised, haven’t bailed — at least not completely. There is still strong appreciation for Love’s skills, and this season has reinforced that he’s a work in progress. Inputting him into an NFL starting lineup in Week 1 next year could be a disastrous rush job. But for a patient team with good coaching and a strong supporting cast, the payoff could be immense.

Love’s ceiling is extremely high, and it would have been fascinating to see him work with better offensive talent. Certainly one reason for his statistical nosedive was the Aggies’ loss of nine offensive starters — including Kansas City Chiefs sixth-rounder Darwin Thompson and tight end Dax Raymond, who was waived by the Chicago Bears — leaving them with few difference makers.

As Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel reported this week, Love was weighing all his options: go pro, stay in school or take a grad-transfer season at another, bigger program. He ended up declaring, and there’s no question it’s a big risk.

Love screams as a boom-or-bust prospect.

It’s unclear if he fits into the Round 1 discussion, but we placed Love there in our most recent mock draft. Assuming he crushes the pre-draft process, landing in the first 32 picks isn’t unreasonable. He has high-end arm talent, good athleticism, great deep-ball touch and improvisational ability. In August, Love was even compared to Patrick Mahomes for his off-platform throwing ability.

A tricky evaluation, with few comps

Josh Allen, who was the seventh-overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, is probably the closest comp for Love as a first-rounder — not in terms of style (they’re different players) but in terms of the Buffalo Bills taking a massive leap of faith in taking a player who failed to impress at the Group of Five level purely based on his tremendous upside. Another similar projection happened in April, when the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones with the sixth pick despite Jones playing some solid but hardly breathtaking football his final year in college.

Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is entering the 2020 NFL draft. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is entering the 2020 NFL draft. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There is no consensus among NFL people we’ve talked to about this QB class. (And that includes, believe it or not, LSU’s Joe Burrow.) Some teams could rank Love as their QB1; others might grade him as a Day 3 pick. A ton will hinge on Love’s performance between now and late April.

Love has several methods of polishing off the patina from his once-shimmering stock. First, he indicated he’ll play in Utah State’s bowl game against Kent State, which owns the 127th-ranked defense in FBS. Love probably needs to dice up the Golden Flashes.

Then there’s the Senior Bowl. Yes, Love is a redshirt junior, but he’s set to graduate in a week, so he’s eligible for the game. So far, the only quarterback to commit to the game is Washington State’s Anthony Gordon — another mystery man of sorts — but the group could include Burrow and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Standing out there (the way Jones did, winning game MVP for his team) would help immensely.

After that, it’s the NFL scouting combine, his pro day and private workouts along the way. It’s fair to say he probably needs to knock ’em dead at all those events, or at least the majority. But trust us when we say that Love has his fans in the league.

A team such as the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts or Tennessee Titans make a lot of sense for Love where he can sit for a year (or more) behind a bridge quarterback and percolate before he’s pressed into action. But there are more teams where Love could thrive if he’s allowed to develop at a reasonable rate. Of course, as this season has shown us, Love has a bust factor to him.

And that’s what makes him one of the more fascinating — and confounding — evaluations of this 2020 draft class.

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