Justin Herbert is arguably the most intriguing quarterback prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. Last off-season, Herbert’s draft stock was at an all time high, and he was considered a lock to be the first quarterback selected off the board. Although rather than forgoing his senior season and entering the 2019 Draft, Herbert decided to stay one more season in order to graduate with a degree in biology. While this decision was great for his academic pursuits, it dropped him to the third ranked QB prospect in this draft class.
Herbert’s drop in draft stock has less to do with his own regression, and more to do with the improvement of Joe Burrow. In fact, of all the top tier quarterbacks in this draft class, Herbert is the only one with four years of solid production. NFL teams that are in dire need of acquiring a new franchise QB will appreciate the development and productivity of Herbert. However, they will most likely need to move up to the top ten picks if they want to ensure selecting him.
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Video Breakdown: Start at 0:18
For an example of Herbert’s tight window accuracy, fans and analysts should take note of Justin Herbert’s pass at 1:05. Herbert was able to thread the needle along the sideline despite a Stanford defender draped over his back. Herbert was also able to deliver a dime at 2:25 against tight USC coverage. Although it is important to note that this pass was schemed up, rather than one where Herbert had to go through progressions. This is a common theme throughout the highlight reel because many of Herbert’s greatest plays were the result of good play-calling.
Mechanics and physical traits
Tight window accuracy
Poise dealing with pressure
Internal pocket clock
There is a lot to like about Justin Herbert’s upside. For starters, Herbert is a well trained/disciplined signal caller, who exhibits flawless mechanics. As it pertains to his training, Herbert is very disciplined and will frequently move outside the pocket or step up after four or five seconds in the pocket. Regardless of whether Herbert is dropping back or throwing on the run, he is able to display good arm and leg posture. Speaking of physical traits, Herbert has perfect height and weight for an NFL QB. Standing at 6’6”, 233 lbs. Herbert is able to stand tall in the pocket and hold his own against tough hits.
From an accuracy standpoint, Justin Herbert’s combination of arm strength and talent enables him to deliver insane passes, especially when he has pressure in his face. Even though Herbert’s mechanics slightly deteriorate when he encounters blitzes, Herbert has enough poise in the pocket to deal with interior pressure. As a result, Justin can complete incredibly accurate passes, even if defenders are draped over him. Herbert’s arm strength also helps him on deep passes, where he can beat defenders in tight/close coverage. Despite possessing quality tight coverage accuracy, he successfully keeps the ball out of harm’s way by refraining from forcing passes into lanes with defenders. Therefore, it is evident that Herbert has a high football IQ and great decision-making skills.
Pre-snap blitz pickup
Intermediate accuracy deterioration
Despite being one of the safer NFL prospects, there are a multitude of factors that limit Justin Herbert’s ceiling. For instance, Justin Herbert lacks a natural sense of pocket presence. If an interior or edge defender is able to penetrate the offensive line early in the play, Herbert will be slow to recognize and react. This makes it clear that Herbert still has a lot of work to do in order to improve his pre-snap blitz pickup recognition. Given that Herbert has suffered femur and clavicle injuries, it would be wise for him to refine his pocket presence skills in order to prevent another devastating injury.
From an accuracy standpoint, there are some areas for Herbert to get better. For example, his screen passing game is slightly troubling because he has a knack for throwing errant passes on screens. Yet the most alarming issue in this area is that his intermediate level accuracy significantly deteriorated over the course of his junior-senior years. This drop off won’t be obvious to fans who religiously track box score stats, from for those who watch game film, it was painful to see Herbert’s regression.
However, the biggest area of concern for Justin Herbert is his vision, or lack thereof. When Herbert is going through his progressions, he usually becomes fixated on his first/favorite read. As a result, he regularly fails to identify open receivers unless they are created by his coordinators scheme. Therefore, Herbert’s success at the next level will be heavily dependent on whether his offensive coordinator can create a quality scheme that gives receivers separation.
Floor: Marcus Mariota, Ceiling: Deshaun Watson
Justin Herbert’s NFL comparison ranges between Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson. Similar to both Mariota and Watson, Herbert has great mobility which enables him to deliver accurate passes on the run. Even though he is far from the greatest athlete or fastest player on the field, Herbert can gain modest yardage on the ground.
Along with mobility, Herbert also is comparable to Mariota and Watson in terms of vision and pocket presence. All three of those quarterbacks are notorious one read QBs, who miss open receivers due to their inability to progress past their first read. This is detrimental because it leads to a higher likelihood of sacks and missed opportunities. Speaking of sacks, Herbert’s pocket presence is eerily similar to both Mariota and Watson because Justin has a tendency to hold onto the ball way too long. This tendency stems from a lack of pre-snap blitz recognition.
Although Herbert’s floor/ceiling will depend on how consistent he can be. While Herbert was at Oregon, there were many games where he displayed consistent production. Although it is important to remember that most of his consistency came against weaker defenses. If Herbert is going to be closer to Deshaun Watson’s skill level, he will need to increase his consistency, especially on a drive-by-drive basis.
The best case scenario for Justin Herbert would be for him to play for an organization where he can sit for awhile and learn behind an established veteran. There are a lot of teams Herbert could be drafted by, that would greatly benefit his development but the best option would be the Chargers. Plus, Los Angeles has a great receiving corps and a bevy of running back talent that would maximize Herbert’s productivity.
Considering the fact that the Chargers are interested in finding a mobile QB, Herbert’s name should be at close to the top of their list. Reportedly, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, has been searching for a mobile QB to install in his offense. Before taking the Chargers’ head coaching job, Lynn worked with Taylor in Buffalo, and enjoyed much success from his ability to extend plays. Despite Lynn praising Taylor early this month, it would be wishful thinking for anyone to think of Herbert as a long-term starter. The Chargers would be a great destination because Herbert would be able to learn behind Tyrod Taylor about leadership, pocket presence, and vision. Moreover Taylor could potentially provide Herbert with advice on how to read a defense pre and post snap.
Even though the Raiders wouldn’t be a horrible place for Herbert, they are far from his ideal landing spot. For example Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, doesn’t have the patience necessary to tolerate an inconsistent young quarterback like Justin Herbert. Furthermore, Gruden tends to run a traditional pro system that requires quarterbacks to lineup under center. However, Herbert has mainly played in shotgun and pistol formations, so there would be some friction transitioning to Gruden’s system. Aside from Gruden, the Raiders lack a true number one wideout with the versatility to do it all. Also, Derek Carr is sensitive, and would consider Herbert’s selection as an indictment against him. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Carr would want to mentor Herbert.
Vision: 5 Misses receivers who are are more open because he has a tendency to stare down his first read. Although, Herbert can read well once he is outside the pocket.
Accuracy: 7 Herbert often delivers short passes in a way for his receivers to run after the catch. Herbert is especially talented at throwing a quality deep ball, even when dealing with pressure. Most of his big-time throws occur at the deep level of the field. However Herbert regressed the most as a passer at the intermediate range.
Arm Strength: 7.5 He has the ability to deliver passes with tight spirals on any given play and can go deep. Justin’s arm strength helps him especially when he’s pressured. However, he has a tendency to underthrow his receivers when they are dealing with tight coverage and when he is on the run.
Pocket Presence: 6 Herbert is able to evade the pressure and extend plays. He has a clock in his head so that he moves outside the pocket or step ups in the pocket after five seconds. Although he lacks a natural sense of pocket awareness and struggles to pick up blitzes that occur early in the play.
Mechanics: 8 Herbert has great mechanics when he drops back and throws a normal pass. Herbert also has great mechanics when on the run. However, his mechanics quickly deteriorate when dealing with blitzes and pressure, but his arm strength bails him out constantly.
Mobility: 7 Herbert is able to extend plays with his legs and can be a somewhat dual-threat quarterback. However, his throw on the run is lackluster, to say the least.
Decision Making: 7 Keeps the ball out of harm’s way to mitigate turnovers.