Jordan Love wasn’t expected to be the Packers’ first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Aaron Rodgers didn’t appear to be at the same peak that he once was, but he still helped lead the Packers to the NFC Championship Game in 2021.
The pick may have been a surprise at the time, but it was an even bigger surprise considering where Love had been just four years before. He was an unheralded recruit, went to a non-Power 5 school and struggled at times with accuracy and interceptions.
Still, Love managed to become a first-round pick by the Packers. Now, he is shaping up to be their starter for at least one week, as Aaron Rodgers is out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Below is a look at Love’s college and high school careers, and how he quickly went from a low-level recruit to a highly-regarded draft prospect.
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Jordan Love’s high school career
Love went to Liberty High School in Bakersfield, Calif. The school opened in 1999 and has produced three NFL-level athletes during that time: Love, Packers linebacker Krys Barnes and former Chargers long snapper Cole Mazza.
Love wasn’t a starter until his junior season. He put up solid production at quarterback, throwing for 4,078 yards, 42 touchdowns and 16 interceptions over two seasons. He also ran for 1,190 yards and 13 TDs during that span.
However, Love had one major issue. That was his accuracy. He completed just 51.2 percent of his passes over the two seasons. That’s part of what led Rivals.com to rate him a two-star recruit. It’s also why no Power 5 teams showed an interest in Love.
Love received offers from Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado and Sacramento State but ultimately settled on the one FBS school that made him an offer.
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Where did Jordan Love go to college?
Love went to Utah State and spent four years at the school. He redshirted as a freshman before starting half of the 2017 season, his redshirt freshman campaign. He threw for 1,631 yards and eight touchdowns but struggled with his accuracy, throwing six interceptions and completing 54.9 percent of his passes.
The 2018 season was the best of Love’s college career. It was his third working with Utah State head coach Matt Wells and second as a starting quarterback. Love set career-high marks in completion percentage (64) and passing yards (a school-record 3,567). Even more impressively, he kept his interception total level at six while quadrupling his passing TDs and recording 32.
The Aggies went 11-2 that season with their only losses coming against ranked Michigan State and Boise State teams. Utah State was ranked as high as 13th in the coach’s poll, 14th in the AP poll and 21st in the CFP rankings. Love put himself on the map as a potential early-round draft pick thanks to his big arm and great athletic traits.
However, after that season, Wells left to coach Texas Tech. Love stayed behind, opting not to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft and return to the Aggies.
Love’s redshirt junior season was a marked regression statistically from 2018 season. He still racked up yardage and threw for 3,402 yards. That said, he struggled in Gary Andersen’s offense after losing many of his weapons from the previous year and led the team to a 7-6 record. He saw his completion percentage dip to 61.9 while he threw a whopping 17 interceptions compared to 20 touchdowns.
Despite his struggles, Love was still considered a likely top-75 pick because of the value placed on quarterbacks and the lack of a clear-cut fourth quarterback beyond the consensus top-three of Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. His excellent performance as a redshirt sophomore served as a catalyst for his draft stock and so did his arm strength, athleticism and prototypical frame.
Love’s rise continued right up until the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, when the Packers made him a first-round pick.
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Why Packers traded up to select Jordan Love in 2020 NFL Draft
The Packers’ reasoning for trading up to get Love was simple. They were set to pick 30th and Love eventually became the lone player that they felt comfortable taking at that point in the draft.
“We looked at it like we really do every year,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said after the draft, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “We evaluate all the players and certainly quarterback is of the highest priority for an NFL franchise. We evaluate those guys very closely. And you set your boards.
“Again, you don’t know what’ll happen. But I’ve never in my time in Green Bay, we’ve never been in a spot where it was like, ‘Hey, we have to go get a quarterback this year.’ This was no different. Long story short, eventually, Love was the top guy left, and the gap was widening. As those players got picked, it was kind of like, with the way our board was, there really wasn’t anyone else at that level that we felt comfortable taking.”
So, the Packers had two options. They could trade up to get Love, or they could consider trading down if he didn’t make it to their pick. They chose the former and dealt the 30th pick and a fourth-round selection to the Dolphins in exchange for the 26th pick.
The Packers were happy with their choice, as they were getting a great, athletic quarterback to eventually become Rodgers’ successor. Gutekunst was especially comfortable after seeing Love’s solid performance against LSU during the Tigers’ championship run.
“He’s just a really smooth, fluid athlete with a really loose arm,” Gutekunst said. “Natural thrower, certainly has a lot of arm strength. So, again, the physical traits, that was evident watching him throw in warmups and in the game. I like his competitive grit. That’s a tough challenge going into Death Valley for a team like that. I thought he took some chances and tried to keep them in there as long as he could. But, again, it was a brief exposure.
“And LSU had about 15–16 guys I was looking at as well, so … yeah …. But that was kind of what we took out of it.”
Many at the time were clamoring for the Packers to take a receiver with Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool and Denzel Mims being three of the top options. However, they went with Love.
Their decision inadvertently angered Rodgers and was part of the reason he held out during the 2021 NFL offseason. But now, Love will get a chance to prove himself a viable successor for Rodgers much like the veteran did behind Brett Favre as Favre’s Packers career came to an end.
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