The 2020 NFL Draft is just over a month away and with the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine completely in the rear-view mirror, prospect evaluations are making headlines across the country. One of the most-talked about prospects is none other than Pac-12’s own, Justin Herbert, the 2020 Rose Bowl MVP and Pac-12 Champion from Oregon.
Herbert has been mocked to several different teams across multiple publications but one constant rings true: Justin Herbert is the discussion for third-best quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft.
What he does well was widely documented and easily visible if you watched any Oregon football games the past four seasons. He’s got an incredibly gifted arm and has all the tools to carry an NFL franchise to that proverbial ‘next step’ during his tenure in the league. The ‘dings’ on his evaluations and prospect portfolios are a bit more rangy so we at PacificTakes decided to round up the experts and get their thoughts on the former Duck signal-caller.
We asked five NFL draft experts from across the country the same 10 questions and the corresponding answers help shed a bit more light on what they’ve seen in their evaluations of Justin Herbert.
Also, at this time, I would like to express my gratitude towards those five gentlemen who helped me out here and lent their voice/keyboard: Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Ben Fennell (NFL Network, AP), Rich Cirminiello (Maxwell Football Club, SNY), Mike Renner (PFF) and Jordan Reid (The Draft Network). Thanks, gents.
Question: What is Herbert’s most admirable quality as a quarterback in the NFL?
Ben Fennell: “The combination of size, arm, and mobility. He’s a big-framed QB with an effortless arm yet can play loose with lower half. He has the profile of a pocket passing statue but with the extra dimension of mobility.”
Dane Brugler: “His athleticism. And not just the 4.6 40-yard dash, but more importantly his loose body movements and light feet. Most 6’6, 240-pound quarterbacks have some level of awkwardness to their athletic profile, but not Herbert, who frequently escapes trouble because he has the foot quickness of a much smaller player. That makes the threat of his athleticism a lethal part of his game.”
Jordan Reid: “It’s two things for me. It’s his football acumen as he’s a coaches dream from an intangibles standpoint, but also his overall arm talent. There isn’t a throw that he can make on the field when given time to operate.”
Michael Renner: “He has a howitzer for an arm.”
Rich Cirminiello: “Herbert’s most obvious gifts are his measurables – he’s 6’6 with a rocket arm and uncommon athleticism for someone his size. But I’m actually even more impressed by his intangibles. He’s super-smart, coachable mature and is a rare four-year starter at quarterback. Some people knock his low-key demeanor, but Herbert has face-of-a-city potential in an Andrew Luck sort of way. And not every young QB is prepared for that kind of pressure.”
Question: What is Herbert’s biggest shortcoming in the NFL?
BF: “Lacks touch and ability to alter throw trajectories. Needs to drastically improve and speed up his play processing.”
DB: “Herbert is one of the smartest players in this draft class, but he needs to process things quicker, especially vs. pressure. When the play breaks down and he needs to improvise, he is late seeing the field and locating coverages. He’s too much of a “see-it” passer instead of consistently anticipating outside of structure.”
JR: “Having that big moment is something that we never really saw from Herbert. He showed flashes of it down the back stretch of last season, but there never was one moment that sits atop his resume as a big moment that we’ll talk about when first mentioning his career. Another flaw I would say is his ability to show anticipation. There’s a habit of him having to see targets open instead of having the foresight of where they will be prior to releasing the ball.”
MR: “Feel for the position. Touch on throws/throwing guys open.”
RC: “Despite those four years as the Ducks starter, you’d expect more development as a passer. I just haven’t seen enough of it. Herbert still makes too many poor decisions in the passing game and has accuracy issues, particularly when forced to go off schedule. He struggled down the stretch and would not be described as a clutch performer. Road game? Big test? Is Herbert your top choice to be under center? Not me, based on what I’ve seen since 2016.”
Question: Where is Herbert’s ideal landing spot in the 2020 NFL draft?
BF: “Offensive scheme like 49ers, Rams, Vikings. But those teams have QBs. I could see him ready to take over a Los Angeles Chargers offense. I think Frank Reich’s offense in Indianapolis relies heavily on QB decision making and would not feel Herbert is ready to operate that type of system in his rookie year.”
JR: “I love his fit with the Los Angeles Chargers. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but they still have plenty of weapons for him to walk in the door with and be successful. Herbert was also a bit of a misfit in Oregon side-to-side passing game that executed lots of screen passes and quick throws. Being in a vertical passing game like the Chargers execute would be a much better fit for his overall skill set.”
MR: “Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Head coach Bruce Arians and the Bucs receivers would be ideal for his game.”
RC: “Like most rookie quarterbacks, Herbert will be well served to spend a year learning behind a veteran, so we’ll have a better idea of his best landing spot after free agency. If I can craft Herbert’s first couple of NFL seasons, it would be as an Indianapolis Colt, learning from Frank Reich and perhaps as Philip Rivers’ understudy.”
Question: Is Herbert a 10+ year starter in the NFL?
BF: “Under the right scheme and coaching staff – yes.”
DB: “He certainly has that ability. I don’t know if he will make a Pro Bowl in his career and his ceiling is tough to figure out, but he is a high-floor prospect – enough of the requisite traits for a starting NFL quarterback are there. His size, arm talent, mobility, character and intelligence are the type of qualities that you bet on. Maybe not necessarily with the top pick, but at some point in the first round.”
JR: “He can be in the right situation. Fit is always important with QBs and especially for Herbert just because his career will be heavily dependent upon his landing spot and ability to adjust within the culture of that team.”
MR: “I don’t see it. I think he has a long career but I think he fizzles out similar to Marcus Mariota.”
RC: “No. A 10-year member of the NFL, no doubt. Again, there are so many positive traits about Herbert that coaches want in a locker room, so there’ll always be a spot on a roster for him. However, I see him more as a three or four-year starter who plateaus and eventually gets surpassed by a younger QB.”
Question: Does Herbert have a current of former NFL player comp you like?
BF: “Looser version of Joe Flacco/Matt Schaub. Also considered Carson Wentz, Elvis Grbac, Derek Anderson, Ben Roethlisberger.”
DB: “Comparisons are tough because they are rarely apples to apples. I think if you combined the strengths/weaknesses of Drew Lock and Ryan Tannehill, the end result would look something like Herbert. The funny part about that comp is some will be encouraged while others will see those names and want nothing to do with that type of quarterback.”
JR: “Two that I’ve seen that make sense are Carson Wentz and Ryan Tannehill. Both are excellent comparisons because I think it represents his ceiling and floor as a pro. While he doesn’t have the body build of Wentz, they’re similar stylistically with ways they win inside and outside of structure. Tannehill’s career trajectory is something that we could see from Herbert and an example of the highs and lows of it.”
MR: “Yes, it’s Ryan Tannehill.”
RC: “In terms of demeanor, makeup and character, Herbert is shades of Luck. Physically, he looks, delivers and performs an awful lot like Philadelphia Eagle Carson Wentz. I’ve seen and understand the Ryan Tannehill comps, but I believe Herbert has more upside long-term potential.”
Question: When would we see the best football from Herbert in the NFL?
BF: “Too many factors to make this determination before he lands with a team/staff.”
DB: “I think he’s ready for NFL snaps as a rookie, but like any first-year player, there will be a learning curve. Towards the end of his rookie contract would be my expectation to see his best football.”
JR: “It may not be until his second season or even beyond. There are lots of factors that Herbert will have to become accustomed to. Something simple as calling a play from the huddle is a factor that he’s never even done before because of the signal-based system that he played in at Oregon. While there will be flashes as a rookie, his consistent play won’t be seen until his second season.”
MR: “It’s cliche to say Year 3 but Year 3.”
RC: “By Year 3, we ought to know if Herbert is capable of living up to being chosen in Round 1. Year 1, get some reps and learn behind a proven veteran. Year 2, take over the starting job, perhaps after the season has begun. By Year 3, the training wheels should be completely off, especially with a QB who’s taken so many snaps at a Power-5 program.”
Question: Is there a Herbert throw that stands out in your eyes? Good or bad.
BF: “2018 vs Bowling Green. 4th & 14, down 10 Points. 1st Quarter. Tampa-2 coverage – throws laser over the deep middle defender and away from half-field safety. 48 air-yard throw on a rope.
DB: “His junior year against Washington, he made a play right before halftime in the red zone that really showcased his strengths as a quarterback. He evaded the rush and escaped the pocket with his legs. He was able to locate the receiver moving towards the corner and fired off a seed that buzzed right passed the defender and into the outstretched arms of the receiver – a placement where only his man could make the play.”
JR: “There’s plenty to name, but my favorite came on a double-reverse pass in the second quarter against Arizona. He threw it 55 yards on a rope, accurately hitting the receiver in stride down the left sideline. That was a snapshot of how strong his arm really is.”
MR: “The flea flicker against Arizona this past year.”
RC: “Not so much one throw as one game that defines why Herbert has not risen to the level of Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. If you want to learn why Herbert’s outstanding measurables don’t equate to a top overall pick, go back and check out the Arizona State game from last November. Poor throws, poor decisions, poor reads and an overall PFA-like performance versus a middling Sun Devil secondary. The Ducks suffered a crushing loss in a microcosm of why Herbert’s detractors aren’t convinced he’s a bona fide franchise quarterback.”
Question: Does a team immediately improve with their selection of Herbert?
BF: “Depends on what the current state of their QB room and what you’re asking Herbert to do for your team.”
JR: “Absolutely. Herbert has a chance to be really good, but the team that drafts him has to somehow find the extra layers within his development because there are many that feel as if he remained in neutral during the latter parts of his career.”
MR: “Depends on what they have but I don’t think he hits the ground running in Year 1.”
RC: “Immediately, no. Does Justin Herbert, the rookie, push a sub-.500 team closer to the playoffs or a playoff team closer to the Super Bowl? I don’t believe so. Again, I think he’ll spend much of his first season learning and adapting to the NFL. And if he is starting, I think it’ll be an up-and-down debut, at least until November.”
Question: Who’s better — Justin Herbert or Jordan Love?
BF: “Judging their college film, I feel Justin Herbert is a more valuable prospect at the moment and more ready to play today.”
DB: “It’s a floor-ceiling debate. Herbert is a four-year starter who just won the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl. We have a good feeling for who he is and what he can be in the NFL, which is why he is considered a high-floor prospect. On the flipside, Love has more mystery to his game, which creates doubt. But his ceiling is immense due to his raw talent. Conservative teams might lean towards Herbert while teams with more appetite for risk might prefer Love.”
JR: “I have Love ahead of Herbert right now because I like the upside with Love a little bit more, but I think both can go on to be successful pro players with the right surroundings. I think there are a few more stages to unlock in Love’s development than there are with Herbert’s who’s a bit closer to his final form overall.”
MR: “Simple: Herbert.”
RC: “Herbert, for today and as a long-term projection. Love may have the higher ceiling, but count me in the camp that does not believe he’ll reach it. Too inconsistent and a much lower floor than Herbert. Love will absolutely flash at times during his career, but I see too many red flags to believe he’ll sustain it throughout this decade.”
Question: Any closing thoughts on Herbert you want to share?
DB: “This is the final line of my report on Herbert: Overall, Herbert is a dynamic dual-threat passer with an elite combination of size, athleticism and arm talent, but he must sharpen his decision-making and instincts, especially under duress, to live up to his immense potential as an NFL starter.”
JR: “Herbert is a really interesting prospect because a lot of times with top-ranked prospects in general, they are a bit hesitant with which events they participate in during the pre-draft process. He took the initiative to participate in the Senior Bowl and throw at the NFL Scouting Combine, showing how much he loves competing. I noted that about him and his supposed leadership question marks. He is a bit reserved, which will worry some, but at all of these events, he’s been vocal and energetic. He has all of the intangibles that you’re looking for at the position, but fit will be monumental for his career.”
MR: “I can see why you’d draft him highly if your a general manage but I don’t want to be the team to do it.”
RC: “Listen, there’s plenty to like about Herbert – size, athleticism, experience and overall makeup. Great kid who’s still developing. But is he a franchise quarterback? Does he win a Super Bowl? Will he be one of the top 10 NFL QBs by, say, 2023? I don’t believe so, on all accounts, and that’s what I’d need him to be to choose him as high as he’s likely to go April 23. I actually hope I’m wrong, but in the end, I think he’ll be a first-round pick who winds up having a third-round career.”
If you were asked the same questions — what would your answers look like?