Justin Herbert (Sr): 6-6, 237
Eugene, Ore. (Sheldon High School)
Draft range: Top 20
The sloppy, early fall camp practice. The uninspiring efforts in the Washington, Washington State and Arizona State games.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert might have let some things slide. But not this season, and not in those examples. The usually reserved Herbert took on a much more vocal role for the 2019 season, and he gives much of the credit to a book offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo gave him: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
Herbert looking sharp in 7 on 7s. You can see the arm talent. Just completed a deep ball to Mack with perfect touch. #SeniorBowl
— Steve Shoup (@Steveospeak) January 21, 2020
Ironically, Herbert’s improvement makes him one of the big talking points of the 2020 NFL draft.
College football and NFL draft fans have been well aware of Herbert for several years. While Clemson running back Travis Etienne surprised many earlier this month when he decided to return for his senior season, Herbert’s decision to forgo the draft last year was an even bigger shock.
That’s because, at the very least, most analysts and casual observers alike thought Herbert was a lock to go in the top-5 – especially since it was considered just an average year for the position. And, by skipping the 2019 draft, that would mean he’d likely be in the same draft class as Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who was then considered a sure bet to go in the top 5, if not No. 1 overall, in 2020.
Well, a new No. 1 quarterback has emerged and Tagovailoa suffered a potentially stock-dropping hip injury.
As for Herbert? His evolution as a better leader is one of many reasons why he’s still expected to go in the top half of Round 1, if not top 10, and is considered by many as the second-best QB prospect in the 2020 NFL draft.
“I think that it’s got little bits and pieces that introverts can take advantage of what they have,” Herbert said of the book, via Oregon Live. “Forcing yourself to be uncomfortable in certain situations has helped and I think that’s a lot of the things that we’ve worked on the past couple of years, forcing myself to speak up when I don’t really want to and things like that.”
In terms of talent and athletic ability, few can match up with the 6-foot-6, 237 pound senior. His arm strength, size, athleticism and accuracy are all among the best in his draft class. As a Walter Football scouting report on Herbert put it, he has “all the physical tools to be a good NFL starter.”
“When Herbert is given time, he is utterly deadly in his ability to carve up a defense,” the report said.
And his statistics back that up. Herbert passed for 3,471 yards, 32 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2019 while completing 67 percent of his passes. All were improvements over his 2018 totals.
For his career, Herbert passed for 10,541 yards, 95 TDs and 23 INTs while completing 64 percent of his passes.
But it was questions about his leadership ability that plagued him entering the 2020 season. Consider what the same Walter Football report said about Herbert:
“He is not a vocal leader, and some teams want their quarterback to be that kind of presence in the huddle, on the sideline, and in the locker room.”
And here’s what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said about Herbert prior to the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl:
“Herbert isn’t an alpha personality and scouts will be glued to his interactions with new teammates each day in Mobile. NFL teams want to fall in love with him and the Senior Bowl setting is set up for him to show off his skills.”
So, how did Herbert do in the Senior Bowl? He completed 9 of 12 passes for 83 yards and 1 TD and won the game’s Most Valuable Player Award. He also won the Practice Player of the Week award. And teams took notice of his improved leadership skills.
— Kevin Wade (@KwadeSays) January 23, 2020
Needless to say, NFL teams were impressed. As Peter King said in his Football Morning in America column, Herbert may have helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl more than any other high profile player – and he may have climbed all the way up to the No. 2 overall spot.
“Herbert, entering the week, was a clear three at quarterback, behind Joe Burrow and Tua Taigovailoa. He may still be three. But as one veteran scout at practices last week told me, the biggest advantage to Herbert’s play went to Washington, with the second overall pick.”
The reason, the scout told King, is that Washington can now take Ohio State edge Chase Young with the second overall pick or trade the pick to a QB-needy team who wants to land Herbert.
“Now there are three premier guys left at number two,” the scout told King. “Justin solidified who he is, and now no one can argue if he goes top five.”