Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 31: Utah State QB Jordan Love

Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

31. Utah State QB Jordan Love

6-foot-4, 224 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.00 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Extremely gifted but flawed passer whose spectrum is wide: He could develop into the best QB in this class — or a major bust.

The skinny: A 2-start Rivals recruit, accepted his one FBS offer – Utah State. He redshirted his first season in 2016.

Love saw playing time in 12 games in 2017, starting the final six in place of senior Kent Myers. That season, Love threw for 1,631 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions, completing 54.9 percent of his attempts. He also rushed for 165 yards and two TDs.

Love took a big step forward in 2018, throwing for 3,567 yards, 32 TDs and six interceptions and rushing for seven scores and 63 yards in earning second-team All-Mountain West. As a redshirt junior in 2019, Love earned honorable mention all-conference honors, throwing for 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and running for 175 yards.

Love, who turns 22 in November, opted not to transfer to Texas Tech — as had been speculated — and entered the 2020 NFL draft. He was eligible for the Senior Bowl and had some solid moments, just as he did at the scouting combine.

Upside: Extremely high-ceiling prospect. In a traits-based business, Love has elite physical traits. Raw, moldable talent that can be cultivated — still young and appears to have vast, untapped potential.

Major arm talent. He has a loose delivery and outstanding velocity on his throws. Can spray the ball to almost every corner of the field and has shown he can throw with touch. Rips the ball into the smallest of windows. Makes passes that other quarterbacks won’t attempt.

Impressive athleticism. Nice scouting combine testing numbers (4.69-second 40, 35 1/2-inch vertical jump). Ideal QB physique. Packed on more than 40 pounds since high school and still moves and scrambles very easily.

Has shown the ability to pick up first downs when tucking and running. Gave us a reminder late in the season that he can still scramble. Buys time in the pocket to let deeper routes develop. Only sacked 38 times in 1,212 dropbacks over three seasons. Also can throw on the run — and deliver some hair-raising throws.

Deep-ball artist. Drops them in nicely to give his receivers a chance. Puts some pretty arc on the ball and can drop it in over defenders’ heads. Throws pretty fade and back-shoulder balls. Here is an example of a nice touch pass to find the soft spot against Cover 3, with Love feathering the ball into a nice window after manipulating BYU’s middle-field safety with a quick pre-throw glance the other direction:

Love floats this beauty into the eye of the storm.
Love floats this beauty into the eye of the storm.

Looked far more comfortable running the system coached by Matt Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost (who are both now at Texas Tech) in 2018 than he did in Mike Sanford’s scheme in 2019. Showed tremendous poise and skill in near-upset of Michigan State in 2018. Lost his two best offensive weapons (nine offensive starters total) from 2018 to 2019, and the coaching staff changed entirely.

Trailed in every game this season but two — Stony Brook and New Mexico. Was throwing to no NFL-caliber receivers and had poor blocking. Scheme was designed to be high-risk/high-reward and hinged on high-leverage passes. Made risky attempts some of the time because he had to with Utah State’s 103rd-ranked defense that lost its best player (David Woodward) midway through the season.

Played in poor elements without issue. Big hands (10 1/2 inches) to grip larger NFL ball, especially in cold and wet conditions. Slow start at Senior Bowl but seemed to improve steadily. Uncorked some beautiful balls at combine throwing session — great velocity, pretty delivery and most passes were right in rhythm.

Downside: Also very much a low-floor prospect with a clear bust quotient. Ball security became a major issue last season — 17 interceptions and 13 fumbles. Three three-pick games last season after only six total INTs in 2018.

Decision-making was rash and confusing. Questionable processing speed as there seems to be a “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi” between him seeing color flash and the ball coming out. Everything must be a tick faster. Didn’t seem too interested in scrambling until the BYU game.

Believes too strongly in his ability to thread needles. Tries to make too many low-percentage, tight-window passes with higher rate of turnovers. Telegraphs passes way too much. He threw almost identical picks vs. Colorado State, the second of which was run back for a TD (one of three pick- sixes on the season). Needs much better feel for when to throw it away and when to take off and run. Balls sail on him. Touch and placement are very scattershot. Finished combine throwing session with brutal passes that undercut some of what he did that day.

Production was pumped up by screen game. Many throws appeared to be predetermined before the snap. It was hard to see much in the way of consistent, high-level coverage reading. Here’s a great example from that same BYU game. Watch as Love doesn’t see the linebacker (who wasn’t doing anything fancy) dropping and throws an abysmal pick that two Cougars had a shot at before his own receiver ever would have:

Two Cougars had a shot at intercepting this pass before Love's receiver had a chance to catch it.
Two Cougars had a shot at intercepting this pass before Love's receiver had a chance to catch it.

Looked frazzled at times in up-tempo offense. Wasn’t always patient through his progressions. Still green on fronts, formations, coverages. Faced four defenses ranked in FBS top 40 — LSU, Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State. His combined stat line in those games: 106-of-156 passing (68 percent) for 1,199 yards (7.7 yards per attempt), 10 TDs and five INTs. In games on the other end of the spectrum against New Mexico (No. 129 in FBS team defense rankings), Kent State (No. 121), Wake Forest (No. 88) and Stony Brook (No. 62 in FCS defense), he completed 80 of 136 passes (58.8 percent) for 766 yards (5.6 yards per attempt), two TDs and four INTs.

Maturity must be investigated. Some teams think he needs to grow up a bit. Cited for marijuana possession prior to the bowl game last season (charges were later dropped). Might need to spend a year or two behind a seasoned vet to figure out how a pro does the job.

Best-suited destination: Ideally, the team that drafts Love will not thrust him into a starting role soon. Having a mentor for a year (or two?) could allow him to develop the mental side of the game. He’d likely be best in a spread offense with daring concepts.

Among the teams that could be interested in his services include: the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots.

Did you know: Love almost quit high school football after his father, Orbin, killed himself in 2013, days after changing his blood-pressure medication. Orbin, who was a police officer in Bakersfield, California, and a former junior-college football player himself, bragged to his coworkers that his son would be an NFL QB.

That seemed far-fetched considering Love was a 5-6, 130-pound freshman and, by his own admission, not good at throwing a football. He eventually learned and hit a major growth spurt, well past 6-2 by his junior year. Love made a run in the state tournament his senior season.

Jordan has helped keep his father’s dream alive by becoming an unexpectedly good talent possibly worthy of a first-round pick.

Love announced his draft entry by thanking his father and mother for their support.

“Words cannot express how grateful I am for your love and continued support,” he tweeted in December.

They said it: “If you want to say he has most of Patrick Mahomes’ physical ability, OK, that’s fine. The throwing, the athletic ability, all that. He’s got it. But he’s not Patrick. Let’s make that part clear. Patrick blew people away in his interviews — smart, even-keeled, he just got it. He wins with the mental part of the game.

“I think with [Love], you have to realize he’s raw from a football standpoint and also raw from a mental standpoint. There’s some immaturity there maybe, I don’t know. Developing the mental side will be the part that can’t be overstated or overlooked. You have to have a plan for him. Who is your starter now? Who the quarterback coach is, the offensive coordinator, the head coach — all of that.

“He needs some time in the classroom. And when he comes out the other side, who knows? You might have something special. But the longer I’ve done this, the more I’ve realized how that part of the equation is the most important. Also, I’ll never again use the excuse that a player not having talent around him as something that somehow works in his favor. I’ve been burned on that before.”

— NFC college scouting director

Player comp: A smaller version of Josh Allen (who won’t truck people as a runner).

Expected draft range: Round 1. Good luck figuring out where.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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