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Will Justin Herbert Become a Rare Star QB Out of Oregon? A 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile

The Oregon Ducks do not have a great history of contributing NFL talent at the quarterback position. The list of relevant contributors begins with Dan Fouts and the remaining names are journeymen such as A.J. Feely and Kellen Clemens, and draft day busts like Akili Smith and Joey Harrington. Marcus Mariota still has his truthers, but we are a dying breed. This backdrop raises a question: will Justin Herbert break the Oregon mold and become a star QB in the NFL?

College Production

Justin Herbert’s three rushing touchdowns to lead the Ducks to a Rose Bowl victory provide a snippet of the athleticism and leadership that make up Herbert’s repertoire. But even in this one game, Herbert showed some of the potential challenges, throwing for only 138 yards on 20 attempts with no touchdowns and an interception. 

Herbert was a lightly recruited three-star prospect from Eugene, and the 26th ranked pro-style QB.  He took over the starting role during the Week 5 loss to Washington State his freshman year, and never looked back. Herbert played in 43 games for the Ducks.

Stats

Games

Comp Pct AY/A TD % INT%

Rating

8 63.5 8.4 7.5 1.6 148.8
8 67.5 10 7.3 2.4 167.5
13 59.4 8.3 7.2 2 144.6
14 66.8 9 7.5 1.4 156.8
43 64 8.8 7.3 1.8 153

There is no denying that Herbert’s career statistics are impressive, specifically his low interception percentage compared to his touchdown rate. In fact all of these major categories rank higher than all the QBs in the 2018 draft class, excluding Baker Mayfield.

The one red flag in Herbert’s stat line is his 8.8 career adjusted yards per attempts (AY/A) compared to some of the higher-end QB prospects.1

Name

AY/A in 2019
Tua Tagovailoa 13.4
Joe Burrow 12.6
Jalen Hurts 12.2
Tyler Huntley 10.9
Justin Herbert 9.0

This metric allows you to see a QB’s overall efficiency, as it looks beyond raw numbers, and creates a single output that incorporates the key statistics we care about. It’s one of the key predictors in RotoDoc’s QB model. The low number can be potentially be explained away for a few reasons, offensive scheme or maybe it is because the Oregon Ducks lacked elite talent at the wide receiver, tight end, and running back positions. however, the low number for this past season, and even lower career average of 8.8 is concerning enough for me.

Draft Age

Herbert will be 22 years old on the night he is drafted. Blair Andrews has discussed in detail the correlation between draft age and expected fantasy production. The guiding principle is simple regardless of position, the younger the draft age, the higher the point production. 

However, with the QB position the gap is less significant than wide receiver or running back.  Herbert, will actually have only been 22 for a month on draft night, so he is on the verge regardless. In short, Herbert’s draft age is not a concern.

Player Comparison

Comparisons are difficult for a number of reasons, primarily different coaching philosophies and competition. But Herbert reminds me of a taller Mitchell Trubisky. Their collegiate stats are almost identical. 

Comp Pct AY/A TD % INT% Rating
Herbert 64 8.8 7.3 1.8 153
Trubisky 67.5 9.0 7.2 1.7 157.6

Trubisky has shown flashes of his potential, but much remains to be proven. Likewise, Herbert has an immense ceiling, but the floor of a journeyman QB who is destined to a backup role.

Image Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Justin Herbert.

  1. AY/A is calculated as (Yards + TD*20 – INT*45)/ATT.  (back)

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