After turning around a program that seemed lost in 2016 to winning both a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl, Justin Herbert seemed to have done everything to impress scouts and cement his NFL Draft status.
His great size, poise in the pocket and “rocket arm” were all attributes that tantalized NFL front offices. However, despite all of his accolades, Herbert has been heavily criticized throughout the entire NFL Draft process. Many scouts argued that he was not a vocal leader at Oregon and struggled with accuracy especially downfield.
Nevertheless, Herbert had an opportunity this past weekend at the NFL Combine to prove scouts and teams wrong and he did just that.
“He’s Not a Natural Leader”
Sorry if the quote above sounds like a broken record. As a Ducks fanatic and Herbert enthusiast, the narrative of Herbert not being a leader has been one that has drove me crazy over the last few weeks.
At Oregon, Herbert was never the vocal captain that Troy Dye was, nor did he ever scream or get in any players face, but is that really how we define leadership?
Herbert led by example on and off the field. He graduated with a 4.01 GPA, majoring in Biology and even worked as a teaching assistant in the major’s most difficult course. If his name was ever in the media for reasons other than football, it was to celebrate his incredible academic achievements or to commemorate his service trip to Uganda.
During his time at Oregon, Herbert redefined what it meant to be a student-athlete. And while he did have ups and downs on the field, he always took responsibility for mistakes he made and never blamed any of his teammates. Herbert was a pro’s pro at an early age.
So, what else could Herbert have done to show NFL teams that he is a leader?
During the Friday portion of the NFL Combine, Herbert was seen with the first group of wide receivers hyping them up during bench press. While most quarterbacks were preparing for their individual drills, Herbert was seen “cheering, clapping and yelling” with other receivers. Throughout the entire combine, Herbert was actively being vocal and making his presence felt. If any NFL teams pass on Herbert because of his quiet and humble nature, it’s their loss.
Excellent Size and Althletism
In addition to demonstrating his leadership abilities, Herbert posted excellent on-field measurables in almost every category.
Although he is not known for his speed or athleticism, Herbert ran a 4.68 40-yard dash in his second attempt, which put him third overall for quarterbacks. He also recorded a 35.5-inch vertical jump (2nd overall), 123-inch broad jump (3rd overall) and a 7.06 three-cone drill which was the fastest of any quarterback.
.@OregonFootball QB Justin Herbert runs a 4.71u 40-yard dash.
— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
Combine Herbert’s excellent measurables with his elite size at 6’6” and he looked to be as physically gifted as any quarterback in the upcoming draft. Nevertheless, while having great measurables is beneficial for any player, for quarterbacks, the most important event comes down to their on-field throws.
Although Herbert sometimes struggled with with down field accuracy at Oregon, he looked poised and his throws looked precise during his on-field showing. Chad Reuter, NFL.com draft analyst was quoted saying:
“The ball came out very well and the placement was plus. The arc on his deep throws was impressive. Receivers didn’t have to work too hard to bring in his passes, whether in-routes or speed outs”.
Obviously, Herbert did not face any defense, nor did he have to throw against wind; yet, he still did everything he could to prove himself as an NFL passer. So much so, the NFL’s Twitter account created a highlight tape of Herbert’s best throws of the day.
Justin Herbert is dropping deep dimes 🀀 @OregonFootball
— NFL (@NFL) February 28, 2020
The Tua vs. Herbert Debate
At this point in the NFL Draft process the only lock seems to be LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to the Cincinnati Bengals. After that, there are a whole bunch of question marks. You could argue that as many as seven teams in the top ten are looking for their franchise quarterback.
Once Burrow is taken, the next two quarterback dominos to fall will likely be Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert with Utah State quarterback, Jordan Love having an outside chance of sneaking in the top ten.
At first Tagovailoa seemed liked a slam dunk choice to be the next quarterback selected; however, due to his injury history and Herbert’s recent ascension in the pre-draft process, the two seem neck and neck in draft projections.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report NFL Draft analyst has Tagovailoa being drafted at 5th overall by the Miami Dolphins and Herbert being selected with the following pick by the Los Angeles Chargers. Other mock drafts such as Kevin Hanson, who does NFL Draft analysis for Sports Illustrated has the Dolphins trading up to draft Tagovailoa at three and Herbert slipping to seventh with Carolina Panthers.
Whether Herbert is drafted before or after Tagovailoa, what he has shown throughout his collegiate career and during the pre-draft process has cemented him as a top ten selection in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Outside of the top ten, Herbert has been linked to teams such as the Colts, Buccaneers, Raiders and even the Patriots. Once NFL free agency begins, we will have a much clearer idea of which teams will be looking for their future franchise quarterback but as of now I cannot see Herbert getting past the Chargers at six.
Final Prediction: Chargers take Herbert, Dolphins take Tua.
Let the battle of the better QB begin…
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo Credit: Twitter
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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