“Ever played Russian roulette? Well it’s time to spin to chamber.”
For fans of “The Office,” this quote probably brings Andy Bernard to mind, but what it makes me think of is Jordan Love’s junior season at Utah State .
You want jaw-dropping dimes down the field against a good defense? Check.
How about head-scratching interceptions in high-leverage moments? He’s got you covered.
Every time Love dropped back to pass in 2019, it was a spin of the chamber to find out what the result would be, and that’s what makes him such a difficult quarterback to evaluate.
He has the touch and velocity on his throws that will wow in a combine or pro-day setting.
However, the stuff that’s harder to measure with the eye test, like decision-making and consistency, is what he seems to struggle with. And that is what’s concerning.
So, is Jordan Love worth the gamble? Let’s take a deeper look and see.
Jordan Love: THE GOOD
You can say a lot of things about Love, but you can’t call him a “system quarterback.”
A ton of QB’s in the NFL rely heavily on their scheme to be effective, which often means they are way more effective on play action passes than regular dropbacks. Guys like Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo and even Teddy Bridgewater fall into this category.
And don’t get me wrong, play action typically improves most QB’s numbers, just because it opens up so many windows for them to see and throw through. But the aforementioned QB’s rank towards the top of the league in yards per attempt on play action dropbacks, but further towards the bottom on non-play action ones.
Love, on the other hand, actually had a higher YPA, completion percentage and passer rating on non-play action dropbacks than play action ones in 2019. He was one of just 11 college QBs to do so.
This is an encouraging sign, as it signifies his ability to make things happen outside just the design of the offense.
Utah State’s spread offense required him to dropback a ton and make quick decisions with the ball, as they had a relatively low play action rate.
Ability to drop dimes down the field often
If you were only to compare Jordan Love’s highlight tape to every other QB in the 2020 draft class, without looking at anything else, he might be the first or second one selected.
In the last two seasons combined, Love has amassed 25 TDs and only seven INTs on passes that traveled 20 or more yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus. His smooth, quick release, along with a big arm, allows him to stretch every level of the field
In 2018, he averaged a whopping 8.5 yards per attempt, which was a top-25 rank in the nation.
With Love’s effectiveness as a straight drop-back passer, you could pretty much count on at least a few mouth-watering deep balls per game.
Jordan Love: THE BAD
In 2018, Jordan Love was a good quarterback. He showed the necessary skills it takes to be an NFL QB, while also flashing high level throws and decision-making.
But if we were basing this draft off of what you did in 2018, Joe Burrow might not even get drafted.
Love took a big step down in accuracy and overall production in 2019.
Some would attribute this to a lack of playmakers and sub-par pass protection from his offense, and this is true, to an extent.
Love did lose his top three pass-catchers from 2018 and was pressured almost 50 more times in 2019 than in 2018. But it goes much deeper than that.
Utah State’s receiving deficiencies were a bit overblown. Aggie receivers dropped the same amount of passes in 2019 as they did in 2018 (25).
Plus, their drop rate was actually better in 2019 because Love attempted 54 more passes than in the previous season.
Now, they did drop some big ones.
However, Love also just missed on a lot of easy throws that he was used to hitting on.
The offensive line issues are worth highlighting, but they also weren’t as bad as advertised. Quarterbacks control their own pressure rate to a certain level, and Love was just holding onto the ball a tick longer than he was as a sophomore.
Love held the ball for an average of 2.21 seconds per dropback as a sophomore, which was tied for the 13th quickest time to throw in the country. As a junior, it went up to 2.5 seconds, which was tied for 92nd-quickest.
This may not seem like that much of a difference, but in a game of inches and seconds those .3 seconds per dropback can often be the difference between a sack and a big play. And it most likely had something to do with Love being sacked five more times as a junior than he was as a sophomore.
Inefficiency on non-pressured dropbacks
Say what you will about Jordan Love’s situation, but when it comes to quarterback play, sometimes the best way to evaluate consistency is when there’s no pressure on them at all. This is mostly because it’s the larger sample size, and the majority of a QB’s dropbacks will be without pressure.
Even when Love was kept clean in the pocket in 2019, he struggled.
He was kept clean on 72.3 percent of his dropbacks. This is what his number looked like in these instances:
This is a far cry from what he looked like under the same circumstances in 2018:
There were just too many occasions where Jordan Love was either making bad decisions or flat-out inaccurate passes when there wasn’t much pressure in his final season as an Aggie.
Take this throw late in the first quarter against Wake Forest as an example.
He doesn’t time his drop well with the receiver’s break, first off. His three-step drop is a bit nonchalant, and the corner route comes open as he’s hitting his last step.
Instead of stepping into the throw, he has to sort of fade away as he releases. This causes the ball to be late and short, and it’s picked off.
You can’t blame this on the receiver or the line, it’s just Love making a poor play.
Jordan Love is an intriguing prospect. His ceiling is probably one of the highest in this QB draft class, but there are just so many question marks when it comes to his consistency.
If all we were looking at was his 2018 tape, I would be open to the possibility of the Saints trying to snag him in the first round. Yet, we all know the NFL is a “What have you done for me lately?” league.
And with additional season worth of sample size, Love did not produce on a level that’s worth dedicating first round resources to.
This is why I wouldn’t spend a first-rounder on him. The price is just too high, with not enough of a body of work.
Would I be down to go after him in a later round, like two or three? Absolutely. Far less risk involved.
But we’re talking about a first round pick here.
Todd Mcshay recently moved Love up to sixth overall on a recent mock draft, and that is just too much.
Good luck to whoever takes Love that high, but the Saints will be just fine with a receiver in the first round.