By Senji Torrey
The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting nights in football. College players are able to fulfill their life long dreams, teams get a spark of hope for a successful upcoming season, and analysts have a field day. While NFL Drafts are always a host for new and unique talent, I couldn’t help but notice two player’s unmistakable similarities during this year’s event.
The Green Bay Packers selected quarterback Jordan Love as the 26th pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. After I got past my absolute astonishment at this decision, I realized that the Packers may actually be making a very smart move. This is because Jordon Love is incredibly similar to San Francisco 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
First, let’s look at their college profiles. Both quarterbacks come from small colleges: Love went to Utah State and Garoppolo went to Eastern Illinois University. Though these two colleges are not located near each other, both play in the NCAA Division I bracket. In addition, both helped their teams climb out of relegation status during their time at their respective colleges.
Another parallel between these two players is their college career breakthroughs. For Love, his most successful year was as a sophomore, when he threw for 3567 yards and 32 touchdowns. In this season, Love also contributed to an impressive 11-2 record, which had not been accomplished by Utah State since 2012. Garoppolo reached his peak in his senior year, where he passed for 5050 yards and 53 touchdowns. In this same year, Garoppolo completed 375 passes, which broke the record for pass completions formerly held by retired Dallas Cowboy Tony Romo.
Perhaps the most interesting component of this comparison is not even about these two men; it is about the people who came before them. For Garoppolo, who was drafted in 2014 by the New England Patriots, he was drafted as a backup to the legendary Tom Brady. Similarly, the Packers have most likely drafted Love as a second-string quarterback to another great, Aaron Rodgers. Essentially, both Love and Garoppolo were drafted as a “safety-net” for their team’s starting quarterbacks, which enabled the starting QBs to release a bit of pressure from their chest.
Another thing that connects these two athletes is the idea of being traded. In Garoppolo’s case, after Brady stayed relatively healthy for Garoppolo’s first three years in New England, the 49ers traded for him in 2017. For Love, it is a bit more complex. Love was drafted in the very first round, meaning that he should be a starter come Fall, but Rodgers has said that he wants to play a few more seasons with Green Bay. Assuming that the Packers knew about Rodgers’ intentions, this can only mean one thing: Love will be traded. If the Packers did not know that Rodgers was anticipating to hold onto his place as a starter, they would have just wasted their first-round pick on a player that will be riding the bench for at least a year. Even in this case, the Packers may still try to trade Love. However, this will not be the end of the world for the young QB. In just three years, Jimmy G was able to take the ailing 49ers to the 2020 Super Bowl, which exhibits the staggering potential of a traded quarterback.
The most important correlation between these two quarterbacks is their playing styles. Both players have the uncanny ability to find a pocket of space between the defensive backs and their teammates that allow the receivers some freedom in the way they catch the ball. Though this may seem commonplace among top quarterbacks, their shared consistency to execute these passes allows them to stand out in a crowd of equally-talented players.
In addition, in each player’s college career, both had a tendency to overthrow the ball. Though this may seem problematic, the NFL is much more fast-paced than college-level football, so overestimating a pass can be a very key skill for a rookie quarterback. In Garoppolo’s case, this habit proved to fit perfectly with the 49ers’ receiving players, many of whom are noted as some of the fastest players in the entire league.
One final inclination that both of these athletes share is stepping far out of the pocket. Love has found limited consequences as a result of this habit, but has found himself under unnecessary pressure at times. In comparison, largely due to the quickness of the NFL, Garoppolo has found himself under immense amounts of pressure as a result of stepping just two or three steps back out of the pocket. Though he has improved throughout his time with San Francisco, he still has a bit of work to do. Luckily for these two guys, this is a modifiable trait; many top coaches have helped quarterbacks hold their feet after the snap and simply release quicker to counterbalance the shorter amount of time allocated before the defense tackles the quarterback.
Both Jordan Love and Jimmy Garoppolo are standout athletes in their respective environments. In my view, Love has the potential to become a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. As long as he has a faithful coaching staff and a few good receivers, Love will be able to meet and surpass Garoppolo’s achievements in no more than four seasons.
(Sources: ESPN, NFL, YouTube, eiupanthers.com, SRCFB)