MOBILE, Ala. — Jordan Love’s admired NFL quarterback is Patrick Mahomes. And like best of the football world, Love was addled by Mahomes’ 27-yard touchdown run and four-touchdown achievement adjoin the Titans in the AFC Championship Bold on Sunday.
“It was magic,” Love told reporters on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. “He’s aloof out there authoritative abracadabra happen.”
Love fabricated a little abracadabra arise himself as Utah State’s starting quarterback over the aftermost two-and-a-half seasons. But absolutely Love, who is alpha his adventure to the NFL abstract by accommodating in Senior Bowl practices this week, wants to abstain any unrealistic expectations by throwing ice baptize on any comparisons to the Chiefs superstar. Right?
“I like that comparison,” Love said. “We’ve both got able arms. He acutely makes antic throws off-schedule and being like that. It’s article that I’ve approved to archetypal in my game, aloof aggravating to accomplish throws like that. And I achievement to be on the aforementioned belvedere as him.”
We bigger apathetic bottomward for a moment. Love has a continued way to go afore he alike approaches Mahomes’ platform. But the similarities accomplish Love the best arresting agrarian agenda in this year’s quarterback class: a amateur with All-Pro accoutrement and upside but a adroitness for some of the affliction interception sprees this ancillary of Jameis Winston’s boner reel.
Love, who larboard aerial academy as a scrawny adapted advanced receiver and accustomed aloof one FBS-level scholarship offer, leapt assimilate the NFL’s aloof alarm with a 32-touchdown division for 11-2 Utah State in 2018. But Gary Andersen replaced drillmaster Matt Wells afterwards that season, and top receivers like Ron’Quavion Tarver, Jalen Greene and Aaren Vaughns graduated. The Aggies aegis additionally took a footfall backward. Forced to comedy catch-up with few weapons to bandy to, Love began banishment passes. He threw aloof 20 touchdowns and a whopping 17 interceptions as Utah State fell to 7-6 aftermost season.
“It was a little bit of a altered year for us,” Love said. “There were a lot of changes … I didn’t comedy the way I capital to. There were situations area I was banishment the brawl downfield.”
A 42-6 October accident to LSU exemplified the frustrations Love faced (and sometimes exacerbated) aftermost season. He started the bold well, commutual a brace of define abysmal passes in the aboriginal bisected adjoin one of the toughest defenses in the nation. But one of his receivers alone a abiding touchdown canyon that would accept kept the bold close, and the added the Aggies fell behind, the added adventuresome Love became. He accomplished the bold with three interceptions, two of them advancing afterwards LSU climbed to a 35-6 lead.
The accident was not a catastrophe, but it was a absent opportunity. “I knew LSU was gonna be a big bold for me and how I was activity to be evaluated,” Love said. “I didn’t comedy the way I wanted, obviously. But I bounced aback from that, abstruse a lot from that bold and the mistakes I made.”
Three interceptions adjoin the closing civic champions adeptness be forgivable. But Love threw three added adjoin BYU a few weeks after and again two added adjoin Wyoming. That isn’t the accomplished picture, of course, and there is a lot to get aflame about aback watching Love’s bold film: a attractive abysmal ball, abundant touch, a quick delivery, absorbing footwork, the adeptness to accomplish plays on the run. And his alertness to booty big risks sometimes after-effects in Mahomes-like miracles. But Love beyond the accomplished band amid advancing and absent-minded a little too generally aftermost season.
So while Love said he came to the Senior Bowl to “ball out,” he additionally knows absolutely what he needs to appearance NFL scouts that he can advance upon.
“Decision-making,” he said. “I had some poor decisions this year. I appetite to appearance them I can apprehend the acreage and be decisive, abnormally in an breach that I am not too accustomed with.”
Love has alone gotten a few opportunities to appearance abundant of annihilation in early-week North band practices that emphasized addition and alone drills over full-squad work. He displayed his abysmal accurateness on a few bombs to Liberty receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, and he alone a dime on a bend avenue to Ohio State’s K.J. Hill in one-on-one, receiver-versus-defender drills. In abrupt full-squad reps, he mostly dumped abbreviate passes to bound ends and active backs, which is absolutely bigger than banishment them to safeties and linebackers.
Love additionally approved and bootless to affix with receivers several times on amusement out-routes, throwing the brawl with accomplished apprehension continued afore his targets fabricated their cuts, the brawl accession a breach additional too aboriginal or too late. Not every abridged canyon in convenance is a failure. Watch abundant Senior Bowl practices and you’ll see dozens of approaching clipboard bearers casting three-yard passes to bound ends in seven-on-seven drills and getting Gamey McManager had a abundant day notice from the accessory draftniks. Love is demonstrating higher-order abilities while alive with mostly alien receivers, a detail NFL evaluators will apprehension aback analytical his film.
Love has additionally fabricated an consequence on added players. Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool said that Love has stepped into a administration role amid a accumulation of quarterbacks and receivers who accept been advancing for the abstract calm aback the end of the academy season. “He’s not abashed to advance us to go the added step, whether that’s befitting us ashore or about a little best to go through some added reps,” Claypool said.
The claiming for Love in the months arch up to April’s NFL abstract will be proving that he can cut bottomward on the poor decisions after abusive from the daring, go-for-broke appearance that fabricated him special. “You aloof accept to be able to acquisition the average of it,” Love said, “push the brawl bottomward the acreage and accomplish those big throws but additionally not force every bandy and try to do too abundant sometimes.”
If he can cull off that acclimation act, he will acceptable apprehend his name alleged abreast the top of the aboriginal annular of the draft. NFL teams accept been accommodating to booty big risks on toolsy-but-blunder-prone aptitude in contempo drafts. Josh Allen’s assembly sputtered aback his top targets accelerating in his final division at Wyoming, but the Bills took a adventitious on him with the seventh aces in the 2018 abstract and are now architecture a playoff aggregation about him. Winston, the aboriginal all-embracing aces in 2015, has somehow gotten added interception-prone aback academy (and he threw 18 picks in his final academy season), but the Buccaneers arise accommodating to accumulate alive with a quarterback who can additionally bandy for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. And Mahomes threw 25 interceptions in his final two academy seasons afore acceptable the 10th all-embracing aces in 2017.
If Winston or Allen is the downside and the NFL’s Sorcerer Supreme is the upside, again Love is a first-round no-brainer. The ancestry and band are there. Love aloof needs to argue the NFL that he can apple-pie up a brace of things. Seventeen of them, to be precise.
“Every interception for me is a acquirements moment,” he said. “Obviously, I had  acquirements moments aftermost season. But they’re all aloof article that you can go aback and watch blur on and apprentice from.”
Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeTanier.
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