Justin Herbert, Jordan Love take center stage at Senior Bowl

NFL Draft

Justin Herbert and Jordan Love are the top two quarterbacks in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, and each are helping their cause thus far.

Justin Herbert needs to talk. He knows it.

Herbert, a four-year starting quarterback with the Oregon Ducks, is out to prove a point in Mobile at Senior Bowl week. As is often the case, the biggest leap on draft boards can’t be done at Ladd-Peebles Stadium but rather in meetings and interviews.

Herbert, who threw for 95 touchdowns and over 10,000 yards in his collegiate career, has the big arm and physical build (6-foot-6 and 227 pounds). The bigger questions among NFL teams? Does he have a big enough mouth?

“I think people are worried about leadership and me being a pretty quiet guy,” Herbert said. “But I would say I’m not too quiet. Unfortunately I’ll talk your ear off. There are these things that I want to be transparent with and give a good representation of myself.”

Going into Wednesday, Herbert has given a strong showing. At Tuesday’s media availability, the Rose Bowl winner was thoughtful and insightful with his answers. On a day when most prospects could barely be heard due to large media hoards and quiet microphones, Herbert was easily understood. It’s a small observation but an important note. Herbert wasn’t quiet.

While some believed Herbert would declare for the NFL Draft after his junior season, the Oregon native stayed in Eugene for another campaign. The decision appears wise, with Herbert almost universally seen as a top-10 pick, vying with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa to be the second quarterback chosen behind LSU’s national champion and Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow.

As a senior, Herbert’s numbers rose. He completed a career-best 66.8 percent of his attempts and notched 32 touchdown passes against six interceptions. He also gained more control at the line of scrimmage, giving him a broader understanding of coverages and concepts. At Oregon, Herbert studied some of the NFL’s elite, trying to glean different talents from a trio of traditional pocket passers.

“We watch a lot of Matt Ryan in college,” Herbert said. “We watch a lot of his play-fakes, a lot of his play-action stuff, rolling out and getting his eyes snapped around. We were big on Drew Brees and Tom Brady in their mechanics. So we looked at a lot of their stuff as well.”

Still, Herbert has much to learn and a few on-field facets to improve upon and showcase throughout the pre-draft process.

“There are a lot of footwork things I need to work on,” Herbert said. “Never taking a snap from under center in college is big. That’s something I’ve worked on these past two weeks. A lot of mechanics as well.”

When Herbert accepted his Senior Bowl invitation, it was a mild upset. Ample seniors pass on the invite feeling they can’t gain much but can lose plenty. However, Herbert saw an opportunity, one that has served other signal-callers well in recent years.

“If you look at the past couple of years you have Carson Wentz, Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield,” Herbert said. “These are guys were exceptional college quarterbacks. Guy who’ve had a lot fo success at the next level. I think it’s a great opportunity to play football and go compete.”

From the Senior Bowl to the NFL Scouting Combine and pre-draft visits, Herbert will have chances to impress.

Jordan Love looks to make headway on draft stock

If only seasons could be swapped for one another.

After 2018, Jordan Love’s stock was rocketing. One year later, and it’s a matter of debate in the league.

Two years ago, the Utah State Aggie threw for 3,567 yards on 8.6 yards per attempt with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. This past season? A dip across the board. Only 3,402 yards on 7.2 YPA with 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Numbers like those combined with a 6-foot-3, 228-pound quarterback with a strong arm and mobility will provide consternation. Even with the rookie wage scale, drafting that position in the first round is the biggest bet a general manager can make. If he’s wrong, he’s likely gone by the end of the failed prospect’s rookie deal. If he’s right, he’ll be a mainstay for years.

So then … who wants to bet their job on Love?

Love knows he needs to improve. Speaking with the media on Tuesday, he consistently talked about the need to make better decisions. He spoke about wanting to keep the gunslinger in his game without the turnovers. It’s easier said than done, but young NFL stars such as Patrick Mahomes — who Love said is his favorite player to watch — and Deshaun Watson show it’s possible.

While Herbert is getting attention on the Senior Bowl’s South squad, it’s Love who has most eyes on him when the North straps up. Flanked by late-round prospects Shea Patterson (Michigan) and Anthony Gordon (Washington State), scouts and personnel men can lock their gaze on Love.

What are they watching for? Footwork. Like most college quarterbacks these days, Love is foreign to getting under center. In Mobile, he’s being asked to do so, taking the snap before handing off. It sounds simple, but the footwork involved is intricate. Stumbling to the transfer spot in an NFL game will guarantee a loss of yardage.

Similar to Herbert, Love isn’t going to beat teams with his legs. In three years as a starter for the Aggies, the Mountain West star ran for a combined 403 yards. If he’s going to be a mainstay at the next level, it’ll predominantly be due to his play from the pocket.

Few players have the variance of Love as his draft odyssey sets sail. Being a top-15 pick is possible. So is falling deep into Day 2.

While Herbert simply has to avoid mistakes to earn a big deal, Love has to prove he’s worthy.

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