X

Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: NFL Unsure What to Make of Jordan Love in Draft

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 15, 2020

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love works out at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. After turning heads last month at the Senior Bowl, Love delivered with another impressive workout Thursday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Why Utah State quarterback Jordan Love may be the draft's most polarizing prospect, did the Panthers really overpay Christian McCaffrey, and are contract talks as calm as they appear to be in Dallas? All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

   

1. Is Love bliss?

Recently, an NFL assistant coach was watching video of Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. It was one of the first times he'd watched Love extensively, and he was blown away.

"Put him in the right system, with the right coach, and he'll be a star," the coach explained.

Another assistant, who also has studied Love, and watched video on him, came to an entirely different conclusion.

"There's some raw talent," the coach said, "but he's a fourth-round pick, maybe."

Projected to go on the first night of the draft, Love has generated an array of opinions that spans the spectrum of evaluation. Some personnel people adore him and believe he'll be a special player. Other teams think he's a project whose future lies most likely as a backup.

ESPN reported recently that teams are doing extensive homework on Love. While that's true, many teams had already done extensive work on Love months ago. The ones looking at him more closely now are only catching up.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Despite all the attention on Love, there remains little consensus as to what he can become. Some seem to think Love will be really good. Others think he'll barely be average. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

That division isn't unique at this time of year. Quarterback debates heading into the draft are as normal as first downs and losing seasons for the Bengals.

In Love's case, it's his performance over the last two years that has drawn some of the sharpest scrutiny.

In 2018, he passed for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns with six interceptions. Moreover, he demonstrated the kind of ability to throw on the run that has become an increasing staple of NFL offenses.

Then came Love's 2019, when he threw 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Love's detractors say it's difficult to coach a player out of making constant mental errors. They point to Jameis Winston, who was error-prone at Florida State and was during his time in Tampa, too.

Like with so many other players, how Love plays in the NFL will depend on where he goes. If he gets partnered with a brilliant coaching mind such as Sean Payton, Bill Belichick or with the Ravens' offensive staff, he might not just succeed but, indeed, be a star.

But if he ends up with a dysfunctional franchise, well, his chances of struggling are obviously much higher. And yes, there are some teams with such poorly run offenses that even Aaron Rodgers couldn't save them.

No one should face that burden, and if Love is lucky on draft night, he won't either; his career may depend on it.

   

2. Is it Love, or like?

Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

Though he may not be considered a surefire star, Love has plenty of teams intrigued. ESPN reported the Dolphins, Saints, Patriots, Chargers, Packers and Washington all have showed interest.

I'm hearing that list far underreports the number of teams taking a hard look at him, and one of those I've heard about is the Jets.

Though some may see Love as a regular starter, there are others who project him for a Taysom Hill-type role, a change-of-pace quarterback.

And this is one of the main points with Love. He has some raw skill that a smart coach can utilize and maximize, and if Love ends up with one, he could be downright dangerous.

   

3. Waiting by the phone

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

For as much attention as the quarterback options in the draft are getting, that doesn't mean Winston and Cam Newton have been forgotten. Until the draft plays out, though, it appears both will have to wait.

Once draft weekend is over, however, and a handful of teams are left with quarterback situations they're not enamored with, Winston and Newton should start hearing their phones ring again.

   

4. Virtual paranoia

Steve Helber/Associated Press

A virtual draft may be the only way the NFL could operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also has raised concerns among some teams about hacking, as well as worries that security isn't tight enough

Some teams point to the hacks of NFL Twitter accounts several months ago as a reason to be worried.

On the bright side, note some teams, the fact that Roger Goodell will be announcing the picks from his basement will bring the commissioner a welcome change from his usual spot on a stage in front of thousands of fans:

"First time in years he won't get booed," joked one front-office executive.

   

5. Big bet

Brian Blanco/Associated Press

The Panthers signed running back Christian McCaffrey to a four-year extension worth $16 million a year this week, as first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. That is a lot of money for a non-quarterback—and potentially a pretty risky move to invest so heavily in a position whose value seems to fall each season.

But it's worth it.

McCaffrey has the makings of a generational talent. He is the only player with 2,500 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards in his first three seasons, per ESPN Stats and Info's Evan Kaplan.

Still, $16 million is a big piece of salary cap to reserve for a position that gets physically battered as much as any on the field. But considering what McCaffrey already is, and could be, the Panthers didn't have a choice. He was too good not to keep, even at that price.

   

6. Are the Panthers better than advertised?

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Recently, I tweeted that the Panthers will be "excellent next season." Hoo-boy, did that set some people off.

One ESPN prediction dude even "well actually'd" his way into my timeline.

Yes, I know the Panthers have a tough road, and yes, they are in the NFC South with Tom Brady and Drew Brees, which will expose an already porous defense. (See, I'm starting to talk myself out of this.)

But I have faith in newly acquired quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whom I think will prove to be far better than people think. And with McCaffrey likely to keep doing McCaffrey things, the Panthers' offensive firepower is potent.

OK, so maybe I've talked myself down a bit from the lofty ledge I was on.

Maybe the word to use with the Panthers isn't excellent.

Maybe the word is solid.

   

7. No easy roadmap out of COVID-19 pandemic

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 03:  A sign with guidelines for how to stay safe from the coronavirus is posted on a fence at Allegiant Stadium as construction continues on the USD 2 billion, glass-domed future home of the Las Vegas Raiders on April 3, 2020 in
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Complicating any potential return to NFL normalcy as the country tries to navigate its way through the coronavirus pandemic is how each state handles easing stay-at-home restrictions.

What if the NFL decides to move forward with a season and some governors agree but others say no?

If the governor of Texas says football can proceed but the governor of Michigan says it can't, it would be hard for the league to reopen for business as usual.

If one team can practice as normal but another cannot practice at all or has to move its practices and games to different states where teams are allowed to play, that would create a massive competitive advantage for teams that can stay home.

The NFL has time on its side, for now, but it surely is a contingency it needs to discuss now.

   

8. It's still Burrow

John Amis/Associated Press

Though trade rumors may be picking up speed as the NFL heads closer and closer to draft day, teams are saying they are still convinced the Bengals will take LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. One NFC East scout said he believes the Bengals will select Burrow "even if they're offered a monster deal."

The Bengals are thought to believe Burrow has the potential to not just energize the franchise but also the entire city. And they don't think there's another player in this draft who can do that.

   

9. No drama in Dallas

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 10:  Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 and team owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys hug each other during pregame warm ups prior to the start of an NFL preseason football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Aug
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I've been able to confirm what other media outlets have reported: that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott isn't expected to attend the team's virtual offseason program, which starts Monday. One league source with knowledge of Prescott's ongoing contract discussions says this was always expected.

What is somewhat surprising in speaking to both sides about the negotiations is how seemingly unconcerned Prescott and the Cowboys are that there isn't a new contract yet. Talks are continuing, and there's plenty of time to get a deal done, but the laid-back attitude of both remains interesting.

Perhaps the sense of calm is emanating from a belief that a deal will happen in due time before the season and that Prescott will be a Cowboy for years to come.

At least, Dallas better hope that's the case.

   

10. Gone too soon

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

I can't say that I knew former Vikings and Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson well. But the few times that we spoke, he was always kind, and patient.

His teammates, of course, were a lot more familiar with the 10-year veteran, and they always raved about him.

When Jackson was killed this week in a car crash at the age of 36, those memories of him, and what players said about him, came flooding back.

Best wishes to his family. The NFL one will miss him.

             

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.