QB OPTION: Can Saints Get “Next Patrick Mahomes” in the Upcoming 2020 NFL Draft?

Photo Credit: Utah State University Football on Twitter

As the current rumors and uncertainty that surround the future of  19th year veteran starting QB Drew Brees and his possible retirement continue to linger and grow exponentially, no less than three nationally-prominent NFL writers within the past week have suggested that the New Orleans Saints instead could choose another option at their QB position that not too many analysts and observers seem to be considering.

Specifically, that option instead would be to select a talented QB coming out of college in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft with their 1st Round pick (#24 overall) in less than just 3 more months from now; who could become the next eventual “franchise QB” within a year or two. Ironically, all of those same writers suggested they should target the player whose skill-set is being compared heavily to starting Super Bowl quarterback and Kansas City Chiefs superstar sensation Patrick Mahomes: Utah State University QB Jordan Love.

While several prominent NFL insiders and analysts including NBC Sports / Pro Football Talk writer Mike Florio have reported that New Orleans is considering making 3rd string QB Taysom Hill the team’s next starting QB once Brees retires, that possibility certainly is NOT guaranteed whatsoever; especially since there still are unanswered questions about Taysom’s true capability to guide the Saints offense effectively as only a pure passer and starting NFL quarterback.

And although many analysts that cover the League and the annual college draft exclusively still expect the Black and Gold to select either a wide receiver or an offensive lineman with their top pick once the Draft arrives — the uncertainty that surrounds Brees’ future along with the remaining doubts about Taysom Hill’s passing skills — have led several recent Mock Drafts that have been written and published over the course of the past week, that now have the Saints opting to take a quarterback that they could “groom” in a short amount of time to take over the reins of the team.

Recent 2020 NFL Mock Draft articles composed over the past week by ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper. Jr,, NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks, and CBS Sports draft writer Ryan Wilson, are now projecting the Saints to take the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Love; who led the Utah State University Aggies football program to one of its most successful eras in that school’s entire history dating back nearly 60 years.

In his 3 seasons as the starter after redshirting as a freshman prior to the 2016 College Football season, the 21-year old Love (he turns 22 in November) arguably became one of the program’s greatest players of all-time. After playing in 6 games as a starter during his redshirt freshman season of 2017, Love quickly emerged as one of the top-rated QB’s in the entire Mountain West Conference and led Utah State to two bowl appearances.

As the starter as a sophomore in 2018, Love led the way in all 13 of the Aggies’ games, as he completed 267 out-of 417 passes for a school season record 3,567 yards; along with 32 passing TD’s touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Utah State finished with an (11-2) record overall that year. and Love was named the MVP of the 2018 New Mexico Bowl after he threw for 359 passing yards and 4 TD’s in a 52-13 whipping over North Texas University.

Then as a junior last season in 2019, the young Bakersfield, California native led the team to another bowl game once again as well; even though the Aggies didn’t win as many games as the previous season (a 7-6 win-loss record overall) as Love threw for 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions; before the team  lost to Kent State University in the 2019 Frisco Bowl.

In all, Love passed for exactly 8,600 yards and 60 TD passes, with 29 interceptions in those three seasons (32 total starts) as the Aggies #1 starting QB, before he declared for the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft late last month.

As it turns out, Saints team brass — particularly General Manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton, and Assistant GM / Director of College Scouting Jeff Ireland (along with several other prominent Saints college scouts who were also on hand) — got to see Love up close and in person at the annual Senior Bowl college all-star game that took place this past Saturday, in Mobile, Alabama.

So the predictions by those previously-mentioned writers that have the Saints taking Love at #24 overall instead of a WR or offensive guard, are indeed suggestions that would seem to carry a lot of merit.

But what makes their suggestions of New Orleans choosing Love specifically even more intriguing, is the ongoing comparisons made by a wide variety of well-respected draft experts and observers of Love to this weekend’s starting QB in Super Bowl LIV (54), Chiefs 3rd year sensation and 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

Patrick Mahomes
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

“I like that comparison,” Love told reporters with a wide smile last week. “We’ve both got strong arms. [Mahomes] obviously makes ridiculous throws off schedule and stuff like that, some I’ve seen and tried to model my game to make throws like that. I hope to be on the same platform as him.”

Since declaring for the draft instead of transferring to another Power 5 program to bolster his reputation or to further improve upon his overall draft stock (or just simply choosing to remain with Utah State for a senior season in 2020); there are some who believe that Love still could be taken by an NFL team that needs a QB, and as high as a Top-10 pick; but possibly even as low as the 3rd round.

Not everyone envisions Love becoming the “next Patrick Mahomes”, and some of his more harsher critics view him as both inconsistent and a prospect that comes with a great amount of risk. But the biggest supporters of his undeniable talent that has elicited parallels to gunslingers like Mahomes or even a younger version of Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, has become a “hot topic” among those that feel Love would be the perfect heir to take over Sean Payton’s offense after Brees leaves.

As most Who Dats might recall: the Saints were actually poised to trade up in the 2017 NFL Draft nearly three years ago to select Mahomes, who many now regard as both the League’s #1-rated QB and player overall before going to the Chiefs; who then made a move to trade up and select Mahomes with the #10 pick in that draft before the Saints could.

The Saints ended up taking Ohio State University All-American CB Marshon Lattimore instead, and he has since become an elite defender and a perennial All-Pro; so there shouldn’t be (and there are not) any regrets whatsoever on the part of Saints team brass (Loomis, Payton, and Ireland) in that regard.

However, the possibility that the Saints could take a QB like Love at #24 with their top pick, is something that all interested parties (and especially the Saints organization and their passionate ‘Who Dat Nation’ fan-base) should be aware is a very real one.

Even the remote chance that either Brees retires, or probably the more-likely scenario that last season’s back-up #2 QB and now unrestricted free agent Teddy Bridgewater ends up leaving and signing with another team in Free Agency in March, the likelihood of Taysom Hill actually becoming the team’s next “franchise QB” is still not a strong one.

Taysom Hill is a superb and dynamic athlete as both a runner and receiver, and a stand-out performer on special teams. But as a drop-back, in-the-pocket QB purely from a passing perspective, the thought that Hill now all of a sudden will blossom into one (especially now at age 30, which is the other drawback and counter-argument against making him the next “franchise QB”), remains very questionable.

Can Hill throw the ball far down the field?  Yes he can, but — can he do it with accuracy and precision as a pocket passer — and not be forced to continue relying mostly on his athleticism to make plays?

That’s SPECULATIVE at best.

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

As it’s been mentioned more than once: Hill was a slightly-average QB in college at BYU from 2012 to 2016. He was also injury-prone (he missed a total of 18 games due to a variety of issues that included foot and elbow injuries) and made his mark mostly as a “running QB”, and much more so than he ever did as a passer.

Payton may say publicly that he is prepared to make Taysom the starter once Brees is done, but the Saints head coach of almost the past decade and a half, has been extremely very well-known in the past to exaggerate when it comes to revealing how he honestly really feels or views certain situations (or in this case: a particular player); mainly to just keep people guessing what it might be that he truly intends to do.

One thing that you definitely can take to the bank: if the Saints are indeed intrigued by a possible future with Love as their next “franchise QB” — and they actually believe that he’s anywhere near the same talent level that would make someone think of him as the “next Patrick Mahomes” — then you can bet it very likely will become a reality, in only just a little less than 3 more months from right now….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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