2020 NFL Draft: The New England Patriots need to select Jordan Love

    Looking at the 2020 NFL Draft quarterback class, is Jordan Love the best option for the franchise to begin to try to fill Tom Brady's shoes?

    Well, here we are. Here we finally are. The New England Patriots are in the market for a new quarterback. Everyone knows the Patriots’ fan base wanted Tom Brady to come back to Foxborough, Massachusetts for another two years and delay the team’s search for his successor. Nevertheless, Brady felt that it was time to move on from the Patriots and joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Looking forward to the 2020 NFL Draft, one young QB stands out as a primary target for New England to select in the first round: Utah State’s Jordan Love.

    Left in New England is second-year QB Jarrett Stidham. The former fourth-round pick flashed during the preseason, but the jury remains out on him as a potential starter. New England figures to bring in a veteran presence into the quarterback room, as well as another young asset to compete with Stidham. Love should be that asset. 

    Love’s strengths

    At 6’4″ and 224 pounds with 10.5” hands, Love has an impressive physical profile for the quarterback position. Equally impressive is Love’s athleticism, checking in with a 4.74-second forty-yard dash (69th percentile) and a 35.5-inch vertical jump (89th percentile). On top of Love’s athleticism is his arm talent, as he makes impressive throws both from the pocket and on the move.

    Arguably Love’s most impressive reps are when he’s tasked with anticipating an opening and driving the ball to the spot. Between the hashes, he can put velocity on the ball in order to deliver in-breaking concepts that are found in every NFL playbook.

    On top of his anticipation, Love has the ability to fit passes into tight windows with his velocity. Even when he’s unable to follow through due to pressure or when he needs to throw over underneath zone defenders, the ball jumps out of his hands and hits the mark.

    Beyond Love’s ability to drive the ball over the middle of the field, he has the requisite arm strength to throw with limited trajectory outside of the numbers. From the wider college hash mark, Love hit stop routes accurately and on time. While the window will be tighter in the NFL, the throw will be shorter. This is an area where Love can pick up easy yards as an NFL quarterback.

    Early on in the 2020 NFL Draft process, Love’s highlight throws drew comparisons to current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. His splash throws require athleticism and elite arm talent because he can be at his best when throwing from outside of the pocket.

    One of the most impressive athletic feats that Love is able to pull off is when he escapes the pocket to his left. For right-handed quarterbacks, making throws while fading to the left requires the arm angle to drop and releasing without a strong throwing platform. Love is not only capable of this, he able to place the ball accurately down the field while doing so.

    Beyond his ability to throw downfield while on the run, Love can drop dimes while standing tall in the pocket.

    Love’s last collegiate season was inconsistent

    While Love is capable of making all of the throws he’ll be tasked with, there are reasons why he won’t be one of the top few picks in the NFL Draft. Love regressed during his final collegiate season compared to 2018, as he dropped from 32 touchdowns and 6 interceptions all the way to 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

    Part of the reason why his production dipped was a change in coaching staff and the loss of eight other offensive starters. Love was forced to press more as the talent around him took a step back and more weight fell on his shoulders. Still, his 2018 showed a promising prospect who was thriving at an early stage in his college career.

    Love undeniably put the ball in harm’s way too often in 2019, an issue that will need to be cleaned up when he gets to the NFL. Some of those throws were because he had too much confidence in his arm strength, believing that he could fit the ball past defenders as windows were closing quickly.

    Some of Love’s interceptions and poor throws were due to inconsistent mechanics in the pocket. When Love is cooking, his mechanics and arm talent can be pure. But when Love is pressing, he can get ahead of himself and make ill-advised throws.

    One point about that interception against Michigan State was Love’s inability to properly identify the defense’s shift into man coverage and work his progression down to the mesh routes. Processing the defense and coverage can be an issue here and there with Love, and he’ll need time to learn minor coverage tendencies of NFL defenses.

    Can the Patriots get Love in the 2020 NFL Draft?

    Looking at the 2020 NFL Draft and the QB prospects, it’s no guarantee that Love will be available when the Patriots first-round pick comes along. With the trio of Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert all likely top-10 picks, Love is assumed to be a target for any team who needs a QB outside of that. 

    It’s possible that Love could fall to pick 23, but New England would be more likely to secure him as a draft pick by moving up in the draft order if the opportunity presents itself.

    Additionally, Love’s concerns as an immediate NFL passer should land him in a backup role to start his career. Love would develop best following a similar path as Lamar Jackson or Drew Lock, where he doesn’t take over the reins until the last five to six games of his rookie season. This would give Love time to get comfortable with the playbook, the offensive checks and audibles, and build a rapport with the weapons before being thrown into game action. For the Patriots, this requires an answer at the position in the short-term.

    Despite the concerns about his draft slot and the likely conditions of his developmental arc, drafting Love would give the Patriots a young quarterback with infinite upside. The value of that asset can’t be understated in the wake of losing Brady.

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