Jordan Love did not hide his intrigue about playing for the Raiders when asked about it at the NFL scouting combine last month. Specifically, the chance to play for Jon Gruden seemed particularly attractive to the Utah State quarterback.
“You look at the Raiders, you think of the coach,” Love said with a smile. “Coach Gruden, being able to play for him, I mean, that’s someone I watched growing up. You’ve got the show (“Jon Gruden’s Quarterback Camp”). You’ve heard a lot about him. He’s a quarterback guru guy. That’s who you want to play with.”
Whether that happens remains to be seen.
The Raiders seem content with rolling into 2020 with Derek Carr as their starting quarterback, and by agreeing to terms with Marcus Mariota on a free agent contract this week they solidified the backup spot in a way they haven’t in years.
Quarterback does not seem to be a pressing need.
On the other hand, the team has made no secret they are always on the lookout to improve at every position, quarterback included, and as Gruden heads into his third year with the Raiders, the time might be right to groom a young prospect.
A month ago Love would have undoubtedly been there for the Raiders with the 12th overall pick and likely even at 19, the second of their two first-round selections. After putting himself on the NFL map with a spectacular season in 2018, Love took a step back after a turnover-plagued season in 2019. His draft status took a hit.
But no one has benefited more than Love during the draft evaluation process, first by shining during Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Alabama, and then with a strong showing at the combine in Indianapolis.
His arm strength, athleticism and swagger were all on display, as was his 6-foot-4-inch, 224-pound frame and hands that measured an abnormally large 10.5 inches. All that tweaked the curiosity of NFL scouts seeking quarterback prospects who can put pressure on a defense with both their legs and their arm.
On a recent appearance on ESPN, draft analyst Todd McShay compared Love to Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. “I’m not saying he’s gonna be Mahomes. Nobody is Mahomes. I’m just saying he’s that kind of player where he kinda breaks the rules.
“When Mahomes was coming out of Texas Tech, I remember watching him and saying, ‘Ugh, the mechanics are horrible. He makes bad decisions, but the ball winds up in the perfect spot at the end of the throw.’ You see a lot of the same stuff from Love. He’s not as gifted physically. Nobody is. But he has a lot of those same qualities in terms of just creating and extending plays and being able to throw from any platform.”
Love isn’t shy about making the comparison himself
When asked to compare his game to anyone in the NFL, Love said, “I’d say Patrick Mahomes, based on arm talent and what he can do. I’m not saying I’m Patrick Mahomes, calm down … but Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, guys who can make plays.”
As a result of all the positive buzz about his potential, it would not be a surprise if Love lifted himself into the first round. Given the importance of the position and the quest of several teams to secure a face for their franchise, don’t be shocked if someone uses a top-10 pick on Love.
Doing so would mean putting into context the rough year he had in 2019. His touchdown passes dropped from 32 in 2018 to 20, and his interceptions rose from six to 17.
From the outside looking in, it was a perplexing slip in play.
“The biggest difference for me was obviously the turnovers. They went up,” Love said.
But scratch the surface and you learn that Love lost his top four receivers from 2018 and his offensive line returned just one player with starting experience. He was also playing under a new offensive coordinator. As the leader of an inexperienced team, it was only natural for Love to assume more responsibility and, in some cases, try to compensate for the losses.
“I was trying to do too much and force the ball downfield, thinking I could make throws into tight windows,” Love said. “There were situations where I could have checked the ball down, but I was trying to make that play.”
By no means is he dismissing his mistakes. In fact, he vows to grow from them.
“Obviously, that’s what it is — 17 learning moments,” he said of the interceptions. “Things I learned from — you’ve got to go back and break it down and see why I made those mistakes. Some I have to learn from, and I can’t keep letting it happen. That’s what I tell teams right there. They play the game, so they know. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes.”
Jordan Love, Utah State.
Height-Weight: 6-4, 224
STRENGTHS: A supreme athlete with an electric arm, Love fits the prototype of today’s NFL quarterback. On film he makes plays very few are capable, especially off schedule in which his tremendous arm strength and athletic ability are on full display. He has swagger, but not in a bad way, so its easy to see him as a leader.
WEAKNESSES: As last season showed, when he threw 17 interceptions, he can sometimes force the issue by thinking he can force any ball into tight windows. That won’t fly in the NFL. He has very little experience playing under center, so he’ll have to make that adjustment. Accuracy is sometimes an issue, but likely the product of trying to do too much.
AVAILABILITY: Likely first round choice.
FIT AS A RAIDER: Love checks off so many of the boxes Jon Gruden is looking for, with his explosiveness as a runner either out of set plays or off schedule an element he appreciates. Love has all the necessary skills to flourish in Gruden’s offense, both as an accurate thrower and someone who can stretch the field.