Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
(percentile rank among all QBs at Combine since 1999, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.68 seconds (78th percentile)
Vertical: 35.5 inches (89th)
Broad: 123 inches (94th)
3-cone: 7.06 seconds (60th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.46 seconds (24th)
Herbert was a 3-sport athlete in high school, including an all-state nod for baseball in his senior year. He had trouble gaining attention from FBS schools on the gridiron, though. Fracturing the femur in his right leg early in his junior season didn’t help. The injury might have helped Herbert a little, though. Unable to throw for coaches during a visit to Washington, he got no scholarship offer from the Huskies. Had he gone there, Herbert would have had to beat out Jake Browning to get onto the field.
Instead, Oregon offered Herbert a scholarship in October of his senior year -- just 4 hours after Nevada submitted his 1st FBS offer. Herbert chose the Ducks over FCS Montana State, Northern Arizona and Portland State. And he quickly delivered.
In 2016, Herbert became the 1st true freshman to start at QB for Oregon since 1983. That guy, Chris Miller -- who would become a 1987 Round 1 pick of the Falcons -- played minimally, attempting just 41 passes for the year. Herbert racked up 3+ TD passes in 3 of his 7 starts.
As a 2017 sophomore, Herbert opened up delivering what would remain career highs in completion rate (67.5%), yards per attempt and passer rating. His 167.5 passing efficiency would have ranked 4th nationally had Herbert qualified. But he lost the final 5 games to a broken clavicle.
Herbert posted career lows in passer rating and completion rate as a junior but boosted those numbers for his senior campaign. His 66.8% completion rate ranked 4th in the nation among players with 400+ attempts.
For his career, the Oregon QB finished 2nd in school history in TD throws (95) and passing yards (10,541). He delivered 35 TDs vs. just 5 INTs in 15 career Pac-12 road games. And Herbert was money in the red zone: 50 TD passes vs. just 4 picks.
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: Arizona 2017, Arizona State 2017, Stanford 2018, Washington State 2018, Auburn 2019, Cal 2019
You know the key difference between evaluating this guy’s fantasy outlook rather than his real-life potential? We don’t need to figure out whether Herbert can improve his consistency or whether Oregon’s scheme and lackluster skill-position talent held him back the past couple of years.
We get to focus a bit more on the things that he does well, the reasons he’s about to go in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. And they’re not hard to find.
Let’s start with his signature characteristic: that arm.
Did Herbert throw that ball or send it to his receiver through 1 of those chutes from the bank drive-thru?
And don’t believe what you might hear about any inaccuracy. Herbert can throw accurately. I took the slow-motion version of these next 2 throws just to capture how tight the windows were.
And then there’s this one …
Herbert not only zips that ball over the leaping safety in the short zone, but he delivers it at a good level for the receiver. And it might look like he threw behind the wideout, but Herbert seems to do so on purpose to lead his guy away from the approaching safety in deep coverage.
That arm strength can get Herbert into trouble at times, though. He needed to take something off this attempt and lead his open receiver in the back of the end zone, rather than wing it.
And I’m not sure whether Herbert was trying to send this pass through the interceptor’s chest or whether he just overshot the nearer receiver. Either way, it’s a bad play.
Herbert is capable of reigning in that arm and throwing with some touch.
He just doesn’t appear to do it consistently enough, especially in the short range. (Pro Football Focus rated him 50th in the nation in accuracy rate last year on throws 1-9 yards downfield.)
Herbert makes another solid throw on the move in this clip, but we see his receiver failing to help him out by making the somewhat difficult catch.
Of course, there is the inconsistency. Several of Herbert’s games present a mix of the beautiful throws and misfires like these.
That came on Oregon’s last play of a narrow 2017 loss to Arizona State, and found Herbert moving himself into a poor position in the pocket to deliver the throw accurately.
This one finds him leading his receiver into a huge, unnecessary hit.
Herbert’s NFL coaches will need to worry about fixing those issues more than we will, though. At worst -- for our sake -- he doesn’t make it beyond his 1st contract, a la Blake Bortles.
But just like with Bortles in Jacksonville, it’s the rushing upside that makes Herbert worth any gamble for fantasy owners.
He never reached 200 rushing yards in a college season, but Herbert clearly has the wheels to run well past that number in the pros.
Herbert escaped a messy pocket for a long TD in the 1st clip. The 2nd finds him taking off simply because the avenue presents itself, not because pressure forced him out.
Herbert also got some run-pass option experience with the Ducks …
… including this Josh Allen impersonation near the goal line.
Justin Herbert is not Josh Allen. He might be Allen with a much better accuracy profile. Like Allen, he’ll bring significant rushing upside. Beyond what he showed on tape -- and the 13 career rushing scores -- he did run for 543 yards and 10 TDs in his final high school campaign.
I’ve seen multiple draft analysts bring up Carson Wentz and Ryan Tannehill as comparisons -- both of which seem to fit. Armando Salguero even went to a group of 9 “current and former NFL coaches and personnel people” (without naming them, of course) to compare Tannehill the 2012 prospect with Herbert the prospect. That group deemed them pretty close overall but overwhelmingly named Herbert the better prospect.
If he hits in the NFL, Herbert has the combo of skills to present perennial top-6 fantasy upside at the position. Of course, no one has yet figured out a fool-proof way to judge whether a QB will hit.
Expect to find Herbert somewhere among our top 4 QBs when the rookie-draft rankings come out, and in Round 3 consideration for 1-QB formats.