The quarterback who threw the most interceptions in Division I in 2019 will play in the N.F.L. next season. Not only that, he will almost certainly be drafted in the first round, and it’s even possible that a team will trade up to select him.
For his new team, that Jordan Love threw 17 interceptions at Utah State after a revelatory redshirt sophomore season, when he threw just six — while averaging 8.6 yards per attempt — will not matter as much as the context behind them.
Though he will most likely be the fourth quarterback selected this year, Love is the most tantalizing prospect since Patrick Mahomes, who, despite obvious bountiful physical ability, had to quell the perception that playing in an Air Raid offense at Texas Tech would hinder him in the N.F.L. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t.)
From a strictly stylistic standpoint, Love, at 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, resembles Mahomes, too. His arm strength, coupled with a flair for extending plays, passing on the run and throwing from crazy angles, produced a string of absurd highlights. His film — from last season, especially — also contains instances of lapsed mechanics, forced throws and shaky field vision.
Love followed a trajectory similar to that of Josh Allen, another former Mountain West quarterback with a powerful arm, whom the Buffalo Bills drafted No. 7 over all two years ago. Like Allen, Love excelled as a sophomore, when he was surrounded by strong personnel, then backslid when the quality around him diminished. Besides playing with nine new offensive starters last season, Love also acclimated to a new coaching staff and offense.
“Some of it was just the result of the desire to make plays and the desire to find ways to score,” Mike Sanford, who was Utah State’s offensive coordinator last season, said in a telephone interview. “Jordan put the onus on himself and, quite frankly at times, needed to create.”
Selecting the wrong quarterback can doom an organization, spawning other poor decisions and consigning it to a perpetual rebuild. But for a young quarterback to develop and succeed, a strong — and stable — infrastructure is critical, and Jim Nagy, the 18-year N.F.L. scout who is now the executive director of the Senior Bowl, said it was even more imperative for Love. Nagy believes that Love has the potential to develop into the best quarterback taken this year but that, ideally, he will sit for a season.
“In hindsight, we’re all saying, ‘How the heck did Patrick Mahomes last to 12?’” Nagy said, referencing the pick Kansas City used to draft him. “If Jordan gets to the right situation and everything clicks for him, we’re going to be sitting here in three or four years saying, ‘How did players X, Y and Z get drafted ahead of Jordan Love?’”