Should Justin Fields consider himself lucky that fellow quarterback Jordan Love isn’t among his rivals in the 2021 NFL draft class?
Marc Ross, a longtime former NFL executive and current on-air talent for NFL Network, spoke recently with Packer Report about his impressions of Love and was asked to compare the Green Bay Packers’ 2020 first-rounder with some of the top quarterback talents in the upcoming class.
“You have the top two (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson),” Ross told Mark Eckel of Packer Report. “I would put Love right behind those two.”
No, Ross didn’t forget about some of the other projected first-round quarterbacks, including Ohio State’s Fields (“a little too robotic”), North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (“more of a project”) or Alabama’s Mac Jones (“more of a system quarterback.”) He still just genuinely prefers Love — who didn’t play a down in his rookie year for the Packers — over most of this year’s top quarterback prospects.
“Yeah, I think he will be better than all of those guys,” Ross told Eckel.
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How Does Love Compare With Fields?
Fields checks in as the No. 3 prospect in the 2021 class on The Draft Network’s big board and is projected to become an instant starter for whichever team takes him, so Ross’ suggestion that Love will be the better quarterback shouldn’t be shrugged off.
Fields committed to Georgia as the highest-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class, but he spent only a year with the Bulldogs behind Jake Fromm before becoming a marquee name on the transfer market. He then found a new home with the Buckeyes and became a sensation over his breakout 2019 season, throwing for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns while rushing for another 484 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Fields only impressed more in his second year at Ohio State, adding 2,100 passing yards, 383 rushing yards and 27 more touchdowns as he helped lead the Buckeyes as far as the College Football Playoff National Championship game. He also finished among the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Love didn’t come out of college with nearly the same accolades. He broke onto the scene in 2018 during his first full season as a starter, throwing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns with just six interceptions while leading the Aggies to an 11-2 record and victory in the New Mexico Bowl. Love’s reputation sagged a bit in 2019, however, when his interceptions climbed to 17 and his touchdown passes fell to 20.
Nevertheless, scouts still pegged Love as one of the top quarterback prospects when he declared for the 2020 NFL draft. Some projections even saw him getting selected within the first 10 picks, just like with Fields in 2021.
“I think (Love) has a better feel for the game and better vision (than Fields),” Ross told Packer Report. “Fields is a little too robotic.”
Would Love Have Been a Top 10 Pick in 2021?
The comparison is an interesting one given the high demand for quarterbacks this offseason and the fact that Love easily could have become a 2021 prospect had he decided to return for his senior year at Utah State. The Packers traded up from No. 30 to No. 26 in last April’s draft to land Love, but Ross is convinced he would have been long gone by that point in the upcoming pool of talent.
“There are a lot of teams that need quarterbacks. I think (Lawrence and Wilson) will go one-two,” Ross said. “So Love could have gone as high as five, definitely top 10.”
Skepticism has been the mainstream with Love ever since the Packers moved up to get him nine months ago, beginning with fans hollering about what the move meant for Aaron Rodgers’ future and becoming more widespread when Love showed imperfections during his limited training-camp sessions in front of reporters.
While fellow first-rounders Joe Burrow (No. 1), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5) and Justin Herbert (No. 6) all found themselves in a starting role before the end of 2020, Love spent his entire rookie season as the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback and was deemed a healthy inactive in all 18 games, never truly having a chance to see the field with Rodgers playing at an MVP level.
None of that, however, has shifted Ross’ views on Love.
“I haven’t had any reason to change what I thought (about Love),” Ross said. “I wish he would have gotten some preseason reps just to see, but I still like him a lot.”