2020 NFL Draft: Utah State QB Jordan Love scouting report

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Jordan Love 2020 NFL Draft

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Quarterback Skills and Flaws

Watching Love’s greatest plays, it is easy to see why so many experts across the league are excited about him. Below is a collection of his greatest throws.

A quarterback cannot be judged solely on his highlight reel, and we must examine a full game tape before we diagnose what kind of quarterback Love could be. General Managers and scouts in the 2020 NFL Draft will not only watch his greatest hits but how Love performs on the average play.

To get a better understanding of how Love performs various quarterbacking duties, let’s take a look at my impressions from watching Love’s film based on these quarterback traits:

Accuracy

Since accuracy cannot be divined from box scores and completion percentage alone, I decided to watch an entire game of Jordan Love’s throws from 2018 to see how his accuracy looked. For this exercise, I used Utah State’s 2018 matchup against San Jose State. Film for this game can be found below:

In the first play, Love throws a nice slant into what looks like double coverage. While perhaps not the smartest throw in the game, Love hits his receiver right in the chest, which is where you want to see a pass land when throwing into traffic. Although they missed the first down by about five yards, it was impressive to see him aim the throw right where it needed to go.

Across multiple plays, I saw a quarterback who had better than average accuracy while throwing downfield. Many of the missed passes I saw during this game were either dropped passes or interfered with by defenders.

That is not to say every missed throw was the fault of the receiver. In the San José game, I saw a few passes fly over the receiver’s head, as he anticipated his target would be further along in the route than they were. But generally speaking, when Love is throwing those deep down the field passes, they are where only the receiver could catch the ball.

Love does seem to have a problem with slants, as is seen at the :48 mark of the San Jose film. The receiver is cutting in and Love throws to where the receiver is coming from, not where he is going. I saw the same thing happen in two other games, and in all three the ball is nearly intercepted. A slant is a quarterback’s best friend in the NFL and if Love wants to show he can be more than a vertical threat, he will need to improve on his timing on these routes.

Overall though, I’d say that Love’s accuracy is well-above average. When you take into consideration that many of Love’s passes are deep, it would be expected that his accuracy would dip. But instead, I’ve seen numerous times where Love’s passes reach his receivers in tight coverages, where only his receivers can get them.

These aren’t passes to wide-open receivers; they are NFL-style passes where defenders are running in lockstep with the wide receiver. Love’s deep down the sideline passes drop right into the hands of the receiver. In the San Jose game, Love makes three incredible throws like this, showing a level of accuracy that very few quarterbacks at the college level can make.

Anticipation

Anticipation is about knowing where the receivers are going to be when the quarterback throws the ball. While watching Love’s film, I noticed Love tends to look at only one or two of his reads before sending the ball flying. In many cases, he would lock in on one receiver and throw the ball, even if it wasn’t the best option by the time the ball got there.

Several plays I watched Love disregard safer options he could be throwing to. That’s not to say Love needs to check down every time his preferred target is being blocked, but at the same :48 mark I mentioned earlier, Love scrambles from the pocket and chooses to throw to the deepest receiver, almost turning the ball over.

But at the end of that play, number 11 appears to be open on the right side of the field, with far more space between him and his defender than who he chose to throw to.

Now had his original target got free, he would have had a clear route to the end zone, so maybe statistically that was the best receiver to throw to. But the open receiver on the edge would have had a first down and more too.

Love has this tendency to lock in on one or two of his receivers before throwing the ball, and this should throw up several red flags to scouts during the pre-draft assessment period.

Overall, I’d have to say his anticipation is something he will have to work on at the next level. Love may have great anticipation for his preferred target, but if he cannot get past a second read before throwing the ball deep, he will have a very hard time in the NFL, where defenses can generally take away at least one of a quarterback’s favored receivers with little effort.

A big way Love could improve NFL team’s perception of his anticipation would be to have a big performance in the Senior Bowl this offseason. According to this article from Bleacher Report, scouts can get a chance to see quarterbacks display anticipation with receivers they don’t usually work with at the Senior Bowl. They will be required to depend on their reads to anticipate where the receiver will be, instead of familiarity with their college receivers.

Jordan Love will be at the Senior Bowl on January 25th. Expect scouts and general managers to be keeping a close eye on the young quarterback as he throws down the field.

Technique

This includes release, arm strength and touch. In all three of these categories, Love has shown to be an excellent quarterback at Utah State. Love can make any kind of throw you ask of him with above-average mechanics, possibly more so than any other quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft not named Joe Burrow.

Love’s ball placement is excellent and has an above-average throwing technique. You rarely see balls thrown into the dirt in front of receivers. When he is targeting the middle of the field, his throws find their way over the heads of linebackers but well short of safeties.

When he needs to throw to a receiver high his hand has the proper dexterity to flick the ball up and away from defenders. While it is sometimes panic-inducing to watch Love throw the ball down the field, his ability to place the ball on target is worth whatever anxiety that may come from his risky passes.

Love can throw it to all levels of the field with his arm and he has the strength to get it far downfield. He can throw while on the move and has shown he has the awareness to get out of a collapsing pocket. In 2019, we saw Love leaving the pocket a bit too early, but this I attribute more to his distrust of his offensive line to keep him safe rather than Love feeling pressure to early.

One area of concern for Love is his passing while under pressure. In 2019, Love saw significantly more pressure than he had any other season. Playing behind an inexperienced offensive line saw his sack rate skyrocket.

While his completion percent still hovered around 60%, his ability to throw vertical passes was seriously diminished while on the move. And while most quarterbacks have their completion percentage drop while under pressure, you would like to see him function a little better when defensive players are bearing down on him.

Considering the NFL has substantially better pass-rushers than the Mountain West division, he will need to have his accuracy improve when under pressure.

Another complaint about Love’s technique is how he plants his legs when throwing. He has a bad habit of not planting his leading leg properly when throwing the ball deep. I found this video that best encapsulates what I mean when reading The Draft Network’s film review. Watch for his left leg.

Love may show good form in this video, moving up in the pocket to avoid pressure. But not properly placing your feet when throwing the ball can lead to a whole host of problems. Namely, he is using more of his arm strength than his whole body to get the ball deep. That is putting extra strain on his arm and shoulders that is not necessary.

Love has shown he can properly plant his feet while throwing, I do not mean to say every one of his throws are like this. But I’ve seen enough throws where he does forget to plant his leading leg to diagnose this as a bad habit.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, there are not a lot of sure thing quarterbacks. Nearly every other quarterback in this draft is likely to be a work-in-progress prospect. How a quarterback plants his feet when throwing the ball is a minor detail that can be ironed out by trainers and practice when he makes it to the league.

Conclusion

Jordan Love is a vertical passing quarterback, who has shown excellent technique, better than average accuracy and serviceable anticipation. The areas he needs to improve on are his decision making when deciding to throw it deep and getting past the first or second read in his progression.

Love isn’t going to thrive in any offense and has trouble throwing while under pressure. He will need an offensive line protecting him at the line of scrimmage and a coach that can scheme up passing plays that make the most of his vertical style of passing.

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