The LA Chargers decided the future of the franchise at number six with the selection of Justin Herbert. How does the pick grade?
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The move clearly signals the fact that he will be the quarterback of the future. It didn’t necessarily come as a surprise to me, as Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was already off the board. With him off, the Chargers were either taking Herbert or passing on a quarterback in the first round entirely.
Isaiah Simmons would’ve been a very interesting fit for the team, but it was clear that the pick would be Herbert as the draft went on.
There are things to like about Herbert. He does have a powerful arm, as cliché as it is to say. Herbert’s pocket presence is sound, as he can evade pressure and wait for his receiver to come open. He also has great mobility, which is something the Chargers really haven’t ever had in a quarterback.
It was pretty clear from the pre-draft process that whichever quarterback was picked would sit behind Tyrod Taylor for a while, at least to start the season. That will hold true with Herbert.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Chargers sat Herbert for the whole year and let him really prepare for the next level, much like what the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes recently. Taylor is capable of leading the Chargers’ stacked roster while Herbert waits in the wings.
With every draft selection, there are always some negatives. Looking at Herbert’s tape, he has a tendency to stare down receivers and not fully go through progressions. That’s something he’ll need to get better at, especially with NFL level secondaries. While Herbert has a good arm, he can sometimes spray the deep ball with some questionable passes.
Many will point to his high completion percentage to defend his accuracy, but that’s also due to the fact that Oregon runs a very conservative offense. Herbert threw 99 screen passes out of his 428 passes last year, so his completion percentage is generally inflated.
The Chargers will run screens with Ekeler and others, but Herbert will not be able to throw screens and short passes at the volume he did at Oregon. He’s going to have to beat teams deep.
If you’re looking for reasons for optimism, it comes with the weapons Herbert will have. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are much better than any of the receivers he had at Oregon.
Oregon’s offense also hasn’t really been all that dynamic since the days of Chip Kelly, so Hebert will have a more open playbook in the league. The LA Chargers will certainly take higher risk chances on offense with their stacked talent than Oregon did.
Personally, if I had the pick, I would’ve gone with Simmons for his ceiling and what he can provide on defense. Herbert has potential in the league if he’s able to work out some of his kinks sitting behind Taylor, but Simmons really had the most upside in the draft for me.
In trying to decide a grade for Herbert, weighing the positives and negatives was difficult. The positives are his size, arm, 3rd down capabilities, and pocket presence. The traits that he’ll need to improve on in the pros are his ability to read through progressions and his deep pass. Reacting to pressure is a negative as well for Herbert, but he does have good mobility for that at least in keeping plays alive.