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2019 NFL Draft Preliminary Evaluation: Oregon QB Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert Preliminary Draft Profile

When looking at the 2019 NFL Draft at first, one of the most noticeable characteristics one can recognize right off the bat is that this class appears to pale in comparison to last year’s at a position of considerable importance: quarterback. However, many of the potential choices in the next crop of signal-callers offer the talent to skyrocket up draft boards or solidify their stock with a convincing 2018 campaign. This article will be spent on an early evaluation of one of the (expected) upcoming QB prospects who fits in with the latter category: Justin Herbert.

 

Photo Credit/www.goducks.com

STRENGTHS

Herbert is as poised as they come in the face of pressure. His willingness to stand in the pocket and deliver while staring down the barrel and taking a hit is quite the attribute to have as a college sophomore.

Herbert comes prototypical height and size, but more importantly, the skill set coveted in a franchise QB. His arm talents jumps out as one of his greatest assets; Herbert’s ability to sling the ball downfield with relative ease, fire with velocity, and excellent touch over the top means there’s not a spot on the field Herbert isn’t capable of hitting. He has no problem making throws outside the hashes as well. His mechanics are clean for the most part. While he has a longer release, Herbert makes up for it with a lightning fast follow through and fluid weight transfer through his motion.

Although his effortless arm strength is captivating, what sets Herbert apart from his fellow draft hopefuls is the stunning accuracy he displays for a player who’s only been 20 years old for a couple of months now. Whether he’s dicing up opponents with laser beams in the middle of the field or hitting receivers on vertical shots in stride for huge gains,  Herbert routinely exhibits outstanding ball placement to all areas of the field. He’s able to put the right amount of touch on throws to drop the football in between levels of the defense.

He makes brilliant, jaw-dropping dimes in tight coverage and small windows in between zones. His proficiency in vital areas of QBing, such as timing and anticipation, at such a young age are encouraging signs that he has a realistic chance to blossom into a superstar. On multiple occasions, Herbert has been able to connect on beautiful throws in between the back of the end zone and a defender with exceptional placement and trajectory.

If he wasn’t impressive enough, the Eugene, Oregon native has already looked to master the art of the back-shoulder throw. He combines perfect timing and location of the ball to put it in a spot where a defender couldn’t possibly make a play on it, and allows his receiver to get in a position to use his body to shield a defender and extend for the catch.

Not only is he a surgeon in a clean pocket, however; Herbert’s ability to thread the needle is still very much present even when his feet aren’t set. On the move and throwing off just about any platform, he’s an incredibly precise passer who keeps his eyes downfield when he gets forced off his spot.

It only helps that he possesses the desired athleticism to escape pressure, extend plays, and rip off considerable yards as a runner. He’s no Cam Newton, but Justin Herbert can be a reliable chain mover and can be utilized as a weapon in the red zone with his legs.

Herbert’s eyes are just as lethal as his rocket right arm. He shows the ability to decipher coverage pre-snap and weed out potential mismatches. Post-snap, he’s proven more than capable of scanning the field and working past his first read and through multiple progressions at an NFL level (or at least close to it).

Where Herbert shines most of all is his ability to manipulate defenders through body language. Using subtle movements in his dropback and his eyes, Herbert finds tremendous success in creating gaping throwing lanes over the top. He excels at forcing deep safeties to account for other potential targets, leaving his intended target open to cash in.

 

WEAKNESSES

Lower body mechanics appear to be an issue Herbert has. As Matt Waldman describes, he rushes his process when faced with pressure, and the size of his base varies as he transitions from target to target. Ideally, an accurate ball is delivered with feet placed shoulder width apart. When they get too wide, the risk of sailed passes/misfires increases greatly.

Rushed process due to pressure leads to early release, overthrown ball, and an interception.

 

EARLY COMPARISON

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles. Not many quarterbacks in the league share too many similarities with Herbert, but his blend of size, arm talent, accuracy, and mobility gives him serious playmaking ability that reminds me of the young Philly phenom. Wentz displays the same traits that made him the 2nd overall pick in 2016, but also the same flaws: Wentz needed to work on shortening his stride in his transitions and making safer decisions with the ball under pressure. Herbert’s style of play fits in very well with the evolving offenses in today’s NFL and his athleticism and precision on the move should get him looks in rollouts and boot-action.

 

PRELIMINARY GRADE

Top 5 prospect. Herbert has all the makings of a franchise quarterback. He’s a special talent who is quite a bit more advanced in his development than his peers. With steps in his development of course, Herbert can establish himself as one of the better players in the game at his position.

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