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Colts Quarterback Draft Prospects: Utah State’s Jordan Love

NCAA Football: Boise State at Utah State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

We continue with taking a look at the quarterbacks coming out in this 2020 NFL Draft class in preparation for the Indianapolis Colts making some sort of move to improve their quarterback room going forward.

We’ve looked at Anthony Gordon, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and now we’re taking a look at Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. And this is a long one, so strap in.

Love has been on the radar for Colts’ fans for some time now. Many draftniks are mocking him to the Colts at the No. 13 overall selection with several passers expected to come off of the board in the first round this year.

Love had a much more productive year in 2018 throwing for 3,567 yards, a completion rate of 64 percent, and tossed 32 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. This past season, Love threw the ball nearly 60 more times than in 2018, his completion rate dropped a bit to just below 62 percent, he threw for just over 3,400 yards, and his touchdowns also dropped to 20, while his interceptions climbed to 17 for the season.

Most of the talking points are just that — that Love was SO much better in 2018 than he was in 2019 — but I think I’m going to be telling you otherwise as we dive into the tape. The numbers were down, but from what I watched, I didn’t necessarily see a ‘better’ quarterback in 2018, just a different one, and with some different results than that of the year that followed.

Love clearly has all of the talent in the world to work with. He’s got an electric arm and can make all the throws on the field, he’s got the athleticism to escape pressure from all angles, and he’s not scared to hang in the pocket either. On the other hand, Love has some very real deficiencies in his game that he’ll have to work through in getting to the next level.

Let’s start with what I witnessed from his 2018 performances.

As I mentioned, Love has all of the talent in the world. He puts some real impressive plays together on the field. In the first clip, Love shows that he can go over the linebackers, and underneath the safety group. This one is against Michigan State, and you’ll see him get to his drop, keeps his eyes to the right of the receiver enough to keep his options open, he begins to step up and delivers the ball at the right height to get the ball over the linebacker’s reach, and the right trajectory to keep the ball from sailing into the secondary on him.

It doesn’t look like a superstar throw by any means, but you can see how smooth Love is from snap to release, and quarterbacks who can’t make this throw consistently in college ball don’t make it in the NFL.

This second clip is something that we hear a lot about with Love — his athleticism, and ability to move out of the pocket. Love did a good job of maintaining his presence in the pocket in 2018, but he also showed good ability to escape in time and make something happen either with his legs or with his arm.

Here, he hangs tough, but is forced out of the pocket. His legs help him escape easily, but rolling away from his throwing arm, Love puts this ball on the money to the sideline where only his receiver can get his hands on it. Unfortunately, his receiver doesn’t come down with the ball, however, that in no way retracts from how precise this throw was.

I won’t go as far as to say that this was Love’s typical accuracy outside the numbers, even in his ‘better’ season, but this one is not an easy pass and is truly a beauty to behold.

In the third clip, you’ll see accuracy under pressure, as well as Love’s ability to understand the coverages presented to him. Here, Love takes the snap, uses the play-action to draw in the linebackers, but then he stands in the pocket, takes a big hit and hits his tight end in stride over the top of the linebackers.

Love recognized that there wasn’t a safety over the top here so he knew he could afford to hold the ball for the split second longer to give his tight end a bit more room to pass through the coverage, and it turns into a big play. Ultimately, Love froze the defense — along with the route combinations to the field side of the play — and knew exactly where he wanted to go with this pass, and it payed off big time.

In this next clip, we see some beautiful deep touch from Love. To be perfectly honest, I can’t say that I was all that impressed with the consistency with his deep balls, but this one was really nice. Love fakes the ball out into the flats to keep the first two levels of the defense honest, then relies on his receiver to beat the secondary downfield.

His receiver does win his matchup, Love DOES put this ball right in the bucket, but again, his receiver can’t haul in the pass. I’ll give Love some extra credit in this respect as well. His receivers — for the most part — were nothing to write home about in either of his last two seasons under center. He missed plenty of deep balls that he should have hit to wide open pass catchers, but his receivers often literally dropped the ball — and this one couldn’t have been put in a better spot.

For the next clip, we look at Love throwing verticals into the thick of the secondary. Love has a powerful arm, and good footwork in this one as well — and his accuracy on this throw is next level. It’s a more impressive throw over the linebackers, and has enough mustard on it to get it to his receiver before the safety can make a play on it.

In addition to all of that, Love’s accuracy on this throw puts his receiver in a position to make a play after the catch as well. That’s a major factor for quarterbacks in the NFL. Can they hit on these throws consistently, can they allow their playmakers to make plays after the catch, and how do they come back from mistakes. You don’t see it in this particular clip, but Love had some really rough throws in this San Jose State game, and his confidence didn’t wane even a little bit.

In our final clip from the 2018 year, I’m going to show you a quick handful of throws that are not what you want to see from a potential first-round pick — and it will give some credence to what my criticisms are from his 2018 year in general. Remember, a touchdown doesn’t mean it was a ‘good’ throw, and an incompletion doesn’t make it a ‘bad’ one. It’s all about the situation, not the result. We’re looking for brains, skill, traits, and decision making all in one. That’s a first-round prospect.

Love, in spite of his numbers being significantly better in 2018, did not have a lack of mistakes. He throws behind his receivers, is uber aggressive when it’s unnecessary, he fails to hit the easy throw in front of him and overthinks too often. Though Love only threw 6 interceptions in 2018, he had a minimum of 10 throws (that I watched in 6 games from 2018) that were easily interceptable passes.

I like aggressive quarterbacks, so I’m not necessarily faulting him for his approach to his game, but too often his mistakes are just dumb plays and are just... ‘extra’ when it’s completely uncalled for. I don’t really see a significantly different quarterback between his last two seasons at Utah State. I simply see a similar quarterback, with a similar skill-set, making different mistakes, and opposing defenses failing to take advantage of them in 2018.

Now let’s get into his 2019 tape. I know this is a lot to take in all in one article, but there was just so much to digest from Love, and his last two seasons at quarterback.

In the first clip you get to see the smoothness from Love again in his 2019 season. He seemed a bit more deliberate from snap to throw this season, but, my god, when he’s good, he’s very good. This one is a very nice ball thrown on time, and when the CB has his back to Love. He can’t make a play on the ball, so throwing it away from the defender isn’t nearly as important if your receiver can adjust to the throw.

On the next visual, we see something that cannot be understated in terms of importance within the NFL game. Opposite hash throws, on time, with power, and with accuracy are the essence of what pro quarterbacks must be able to deliver when called upon. This throw simply could not be any more beautiful. His receiver makes a very nice play on the ball, but it’s not going to get picked off, and it gives his pass catcher a chance to get points if he can haul it in. Additionally, it’s trust in his receiver doing his job as well.

The short and skinny of it is, Love makes an NFL throw, and his receiver makes an NFL catch — aside from the one-foot rule in college that is. However, it’s definitely worth a watch, it’s got the WOW factor for sure.

Now we’re going to see some of the bad that occasionally comes with a quarterback like Love. I’ll also preface this with the fact that my edit on this clip really sucks, but I hope you can get the picture. The text isn’t where it’s supposed to be, but pay attention to the red circle — that’s the ideal spot for the ball to be.

This is something that I noticed as an issue in several games from Love. His boundary throws are either insanely great, or they’re pick-6 bait, and that scares me. This fact is also some of what you could argue is the bigger picture with Love — his game in general, is insanely amazing at times, and quite disappointing at others. He can be a risky guy on the field at times.

Okay, back to more of the beauty that comes off of Love’s arm most of the time. I have really liked Love’s downfield throwing touch overall. Yes, of course he has the occasional pooper, but largely his deep ball is a beautiful rainbow landing right in the pot of gold. This next clip shows us exactly that. Additionally, we see what Love can do out of the pocket yet again. He escapes (I think for a better throwing angle personally rather than due to pressure), and he puts the ball in the bucket for his receiver to haul in. Very nice indeed.

As is our next clip. Again, Love shows his willingness to hang in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield while allowing his receiver to make a play on the ball. Yes, he could have led him a bit deeper probably, but there’s no help in the middle of the field, and his receiver can change direction to track the ball far better than a defender with his back to the quarterback can.

Here’s another mix of some not-so-good throws towards the boundary that caught my eye. The first, is too late, and he didn’t lead his receiver toward the boundary nearly enough. The second, much of the same. The third, however, is a little different. Love has shown some great accuracy at times while on the move so this isn’t as if I’m killing him for it, but it deserves to be seen.

Love escapes the pocket, finds the correct receiver to target — so far so good — but then he shows some of what gets him in trouble quite a bit. He doesn’t reset his feet to really power the ball downfield, instead he does this one-foot release (far too often in my opinion) and the pass becomes a 50-50 ball as opposed to being a pass to the back corner of the end zone where only his guy can make a play on it. That’s where this ball should have been thrown.

I get that there is pressure there, but he actually has the ability to reset his feet rather quickly in comparison to some of these other quarterbacks in my opinion, yet he chooses to forego better footwork and nearly gets picked when this should have been a touchdown all day.

For our final clip (I know, finally!) we see everything I truly loved about watching Jordan Love. In his Bowl game against Kent State, I saw the best complete performance from him and this entire process from snap to throw, is exactly why.

Love takes the snap, and runs through three progressions before he hits the receiver on his fourth read. That’s simply not something we see from college quarterbacks — almost ever. Not only does Love make it to his fourth read, he is able to hit him right in the middle of the zone behind the linebackers, and in front of the safeties.

This is the epitome of an NFL throw, and it isn’t the only one we’ve seen in this article. From snap to reception, this is a throw Love should hang his hat on and be very proud of, especially considering he didn’t really have a ton of time to reset his feet — but he was able to and complete a big throw downfield.

Overall, there’s a ton to digest with Jordan Love. He absolutely does have some Mahomes in him, but he’s also got everything you’d want from some of the most durable pocket passers in the game. He moves like Deshaun Watson, and has the arm to go with it.

Nevertheless, Love has a lot to work on. His decision making at times leaves you with more questions than answers, and I don’t know if his boundary innacuracies are due to a lack of accuracy, or if they’re simply situations in which he expects the receiver to do more to make the catch. One thing is for sure, you have to love his ceiling.

While he’s not like Jameis Winston in terms of just throwing the ball all over the field, he certainly has the ‘IT’ factor that allows him to make plays in order to come back from any mistakes he would make in the course of a game.

His deep ball is breathtaking — when he sets his feet and puts all of the mechanics behind it that are necessary. While I am having trouble really getting a grasp on what, or who I think Love is at the next level right now, he’s definitely an intriguing prospect to say the least.

Sometimes he’s mistake prone, and sometimes he’s an absolute game-changer. He is effective against zone looks, and will take advantage of man-beaters as well, but even with that, I catch myself wanting more from him.

Do the Colts think highly enough of him to nab him at No. 13 overall, and use Jacoby Brissett’s final year of his contract to groom him for the 2021 season? Or, do they take a chance on another quarterback, and potentially allow the next great exciting quarterback to slip through their grasp? I don’t know if I’d pull the trigger or not. But, I also know I might need to be talked out of taking him just the same.

I really am excited to re-watch his tape, and get even a couple more games worth of notes on him before the NFL Draft comes around in April. A lot of teams are having this same conversation I suspect about this very interesting passer with only a few months to come around to a final decision on him.

Next in line is Alabama’s Tua Tagovaiola.