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Draft Hunt: Utah State QB Jordan Love

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The most polarizing quarterback prospect in the draft is the antithesis of Derek Carr in many ways

NCAA Football: Utah State at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With the Raiders all but eliminated from playoff contention, we are highlighting some prospects that Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock may consider in the upcoming draft. You can take a look at all of our previous prospect reports here. Who would you like to see highlighted next week?

Derek Carr is a polarizing figure as the the Raiders starting quarterback, and many have been calling for the team to trade him or outright release him in favor of somebody new before they head to Las Vegas. But quarterbacks don’t grow on trees and it’s not like a team can magically conjure a starting level quarterback out of nothing.

None of the upcoming quarterbacks in the 2020 free agent class would move the needle enough to look like a true upgrade, and few quarterbacks in the draft are ready to hit the ground running. That suggests two likely scenarios: (1) the Raiders stick with Carr through the 2020 season, or (2) the Raiders bring in a young quarterback to challenge Carr for the top spot.

One of the young quarterbacks who will surely pique the team’s interest is Utah State product Jordan Love, a guy who some have suggested has Patrick Mahomes-esque traits.

Love recently declared for the draft and is perhaps the most polarizing quarterback prospect in the draft, with some evaluators giving him a first round grade and others seeing him as a developmental guy that should be taken in the third or fourth.

Arm talent is the thing that stands out first and foremost when scouting Love. He can throw any route. He routinely drills intermediate shots with zip and accuracy, and he loves to take deep shots downfield — almost to a fault.

He has a quick, over-the-top release that allows him to deliver the ball efficiently and he can contort his arm to make side-arm and off-balance throws with accuracy when necessary.

One of my favorite traits that Love possesses is his ability to assess what kind of leverage a defender is playing in and throw his receiver open based on it. He not only tests leverage advantages, but often puts the ball in spots that show high-level downfield accuracy.

If Love identifies a certain zone coverage early on in the play, he has the wherewithal to get off his first read quickly and find a hole in the zone based on the play’s route combinations.

And while Love is no Lamar Jackson, he is a threat as a scrambler and on zone read plays. He’s almost better when throwing on the move off designed play action, which could make him a dynamic pairing with Josh Jacobs in the backfield. His wheels give him added escapability when faced with pressure and he keeps his eyes downfield on the move, a trait that separates him from the average college scrambler.

This all sounds great, right? So, why is Love considered so polarizing?

Well, the biggest problem with Love is his decision-making, which is why sitting him for a year would be ideal. All too often, Love tries to play hero ball in critical situations and gets burned by a bad turnover. He simply chucks it up for grabs and looks for his receivers to try to make a play downfield instead of looking to open intermediate routes.

Inconsistent mechanics will occasionally hamper his accuracy as well, something that would be a problem in his rookie year, but will likely be cleaned up with some time with a good NFL quarterback coach.

While Love is an aggressive thrower when he gets the chance, a plethora of his reps in the Utah State offense came on shotgun hurry-up plays with one-step drops and simple reads. He was allowed to make audibles and call out pass protections at the line of scrimmage, but he still will need a ton of work on taking snaps under center and calling complex plays in the huddle.

The biggest worry with Love, however, is the fact that he often appears to completely overlook defenders in zone rotations. He can be bated into bad interceptions by defenders rotating from the opposite side of his primary target, and occasionally misreads the trajectory he must throw with to put a ball over a linebacker’s head.

While he does get through progressions better than many developmental quarterbacks, Love still has problems with locking eyes on his intended target. If he can improve his eye discipline, it would go a long way.

When looking at his strengths and weaknesses, it becomes pretty easy to see why teams are so intrigued by the 6-foot-4, 225 pound dual-threat quarterback. He possesses unteachable NFL traits and most of his weaknesses can be fixed with a year or so of seasoning.

Love’s mobility is just another bonus that can put extra stress on defenses that run a lot of man coverage.

If the Raiders decide to stick with Carr and draft a quarterback they hope to develop, Love could be the perfect candidate to sit for a year and hone his decision-making skills before being unleashed on the league. If Love were to pop and looked ready earlier than expected, the team could offload Carr in a trade and hand the young gun the keys to the show.

In many ways, Love is the antithesis of “Checkdown Carr,” and bringing him into the offense could open new avenues for the running game as well.

If the Raiders elect to trade back with their latter first round pick (as many would like them to), Love would be an exciting late-first or earl-second round selection.

Draft Range: Mid-first to early-third