Aaron Rodgers isn’t going anywhere. Not yet, and not for a few years. But as the Green Bay Packers scout all the quarterbacks in the NFL Draft every year — general manager Brian Gutekunst said as much at the 2020 Combine — and one of those could project as a high-upside player, even as he carries significant risk.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Weight: 225 pounds
A quick qualifier: judging decision making in quarterbacks is incredibly difficult and I have to make some assumptions about what I’m seeing happening on the field. I don’t know what the intended play design is, what the quarterback is seeing, and how the wideouts are supposed to be reading the defense and running their routs. Without that information, I can only make assumptions about the quality of the decisions being made, so take anything judgments I make with a grain of salt.
With that said, Jordan Love processes information very quickly. When he drops back you can see him working through his reads at a rapid pace and determining where to throw the ball very quickly. While he gets through his reads quickly, Love does make “calculation errors” from time to time. Sometimes he doesn’t see an underneath linebacker or sometimes he doesn’t see a cornerback cutting back in support. Love has a particular issue with mistakes off pre-snap reads. When Love makes a determination on where to go with the ball pre-snap and throws it on a one step drop, he has a tendency to throw it in to the waiting hands of the cornerback. Usually in this situation, the cornerback has already made a break on the ball before Love even threw it, so it’s tough to tell whether these are poor decisions on Love’s part, whether he has some tell on tape that cornerbacks are exploiting, or whether opponents were able to identify where Love was going to go with the ball based on the play itself. As such, it’s tough to tell whether this is a fault of Love or the play design, but it was a pretty prevalent problem.
Accuracy, Mechanics, and Arm Strength
Love has very good arm strength. He has a compact and quick throwing motion that puts zip on short and intermediary throws and he can launch a very good long ball. Love doesn’t have the strongest arm by any means but it’s solid enough to make any throw he needs to at an NFL level.
Love’s accuracy appears up and down. He has very good accuracy on long balls and on mid-range touch passes, but it sometimes falls apart on mid-range passes that require a harder-thrown ball. The reason that it appears to fall apart on those passes is mechanics. Love’s footwork on his drop back can get sloppy on three-step drops, which makes it difficult for him to get his feet set to transfer power from his legs into his throw. Even when his footwork is solid, Love has a bad habit of not pushing off his back foot to get power into the ball, which results in overthrows in his intermediary game. Otherwise, Love’s throwing motion is very good and in instances where the footwork isn’t off and he drives off his back foot he can be very sharp with his accuracy.
Pocket Mobility and the Second Play
Love has very good awareness in the pocket and senses pressure very well. Love slides up in the pocket to avoid outside pressure and he stays calm and steps into throws with pressure in his face. When he needs to, Love is very good at dodging and weaving within the pocket to avoid sacks and keep the play alive. When he’s flushed out of the pocket, Love is very good at bootlegging out and keeping his eyes downfield once the play breaks down. His arm strength allows him to throw with some power and accuracy on the run which allows him to create big gains even when the structure of the play has broken down.
Development and Scheme
Despite the fact that he threw significantly more interceptions in 2019, Love’s mechanics and accuracy actually improved significantly. Due to this development, Utah State moved away from more designed runs in 2018 and shifted to more of a spread concept offense that built around throwing the ball down field. Due to his experience in the scheme, it would be helpful for Love’s development if he ends up in a scheme that incorporates spread concepts. That being said, it’s likely that Love will eventually be able to function in any scheme.
Love has all of the tools to end up a top-10 quarterback in the league. He has a strong arm, good pocket mobility, quick mental processing, and good accuracy when his mechanics are on. The issues for Love are calculation errors on decision making and accuracy inconsistency due to mechanics. If he can fix those, Love could end up as a top QB. If not, he’ll likely end up as a mediocre starter with flashes of potential.