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Utah State’s Jordan Love has exciting skills, but interceptions are a draft concern

Quarterback Jordan Love of Utah State readies to throw a pass during the NFL scouting combine in February.
Quarterback Jordan Love of Utah State readies to throw a pass during the NFL scouting combine in February.
(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

He’s been called the most polarizing prospect in the NFL draft, a boom-or-bust quarterback with enough skills to be a Patrick Mahomes-like playmaker and enough question marks to be a Jake Locker-like disappointment.

Pro scouts love Utah State junior Jordan Love’s size (6-foot-4, 224 pounds), mobility and arm strength. They see tight spirals delivered from a variety of arm slots, 50-yard flick-of-the-wrist bombs into tight windows on the run, an ability to make off-schedule plays at the next level ...

Then they see the regression from his sophomore season, when Love completed 267 of 417 passes for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns with six interceptions, to his junior year, when he completed 293 of 473 passes for 3,402 yards and 20 touchdowns with a Football Bowl Subdivision-high 17 interceptions, and red flags are raised.

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Did Love struggle because he was playing for a first-year coach in a second-tier conference with third-rate receivers? Or did last season reveal weaknesses in decision-making and accuracy that will be further exposed in the NFL?

There are no easy answers, which is why Love could be taken in the first 10 picks of the draft or drop to the third round.

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

“The biggest differences for me was obviously the turnovers, they went up,” Love said at the NFL combine. “I was trying to do too much and force the ball downfield, thinking I could make throws into tight windows. There were situations where I could have checked down but was trying to make that play.”

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Love doesn’t shy away from his shortcomings. He relished the opportunity to review what he calls his “interception tape” during combine interviews.

“You’ve got to break it down and take it step by step — what my read was, and why I threw the ball,” Love said. “It was a great opportunity to give them your perspective. It’s 17 learning moments. I made those mistakes. Some, I have to learn from, and I can’t keep letting it happen.”

Love, who grew up in Bakersfield, has been working out in Southern California with private quarterback coach Steve Calhoun in an effort to be more consistent.

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“You watch my film, there are some plays where I make an incredible throw, and the next thing you know, I miss a swing route on a check-down,” Love said. “Being more consistent in all my throws, my footwork in the pocket, dropping back, breaking down defenses … I’m trying to be a better quarterback.”

Many of Love’s college highlights came on broken plays in which his athleticism, “backyard football” instincts and elusiveness have dropped the jaws of fans and talent evaluators alike, leaving some to wonder how Love might measure up to a certain Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

“I get asked that a lot,” Love said, when asked to whom he would compare himself. “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.”

Quarterbacks expert Greg Cosell talks with L.A. Times reporter Sam Farmer about top prospects in the upcoming NFL draft in this Zoom chat.

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