Looking back at every player drafted before Chargers' QB Justin Herbert

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers
Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The LA Chargers are blessed with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Justin Herbert. Los Angeles did not even need to go into quarterback purgatory for Herbert, as there is only one game separating Herbert and the greatest quarterback in franchise history, Philip Rivers.

Funny enough, Herbert was not the name many fans wanted at the time. In fact, Herbert was the overlooked third quarterback in a 2020 draft class that has all the makings of being one of the best quarterback drafts in league history.

There are multiple teams who would go back in time and take Herbert over who they originally selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. With Herbert's place as an elite quarterback firmly cemented, it is worth going back and looking at who exactly was taken before the former Oregon Duck.

Every player drafted before the Chargers took Justin Herbert:

Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Burrow with the first pick

Joe Burrow was not even a projected first-round pick prior to the 2019 NCAA season. However, after a record-setting season with LSU, Burrow was the undeniable top prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft and he has somehow lived up to his lofty expectations.

There is certainly a debate around who the better quarterback is between Burrow and Herbert. Burrow has had far more team success but he has also benefitted from having elite offensive weapons and a top-tier defense. In the same situation, Herbert may have even more success.

Even if you think Herbert is the better quarterback, there is no chance the Bengals would ever consider changing their selection if they could. Cincy got its guy in Burrow.

Washington Commanders select Chase Young with the second pick

Well, this selection has not aged as gracefully. Chase Young was viewed as a can't-miss defensive prospect coming into the league and Washington still managed to miss on the talented edge rusher even after a great rookie season.

Young's Defensive Rookie of the Year season has been the best of his career thus far. Injuries completely derailed his sophomore and junior season before he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 2023. After being perceived as a sure-fire home run, Young was traded before the end of his rookie deal.

Young now finds himself as a member of the New Orleans Saints on his third team in five years. The elite potential is there but there is no doubt Washington would go back and change this pick to Herbert.

Detroit Lions select Jeff Okudah with third pick

The Detroit Lions somehow figured out the quarterback position with Jared Goff, even giving him a massive contract extension this offseason. But still, Detroit would probably be the Super Bowl favorite with Herbert instead of Goff, especially when Jeff Okudah was the actual pick.

Like Young, Okudah did not even make it to the end of his rookie deal with the Lions. After missing 25 games in his first three seasons, Okudah was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a fifth-round pick. Now, after one year with Atlanta, Okudah is with the Houston Texans.

Although disappointing, Young is at least an easy bet to be a productive starter for the Saints next season. The same cannot be said for Okudah on the Texans.

New York Giants select Andrew Thomas with the fourth pick

This is the team that should really be kicking itself and that has nothing to do with Andrew Thomas, who was a second-team All-Pro in his third season. Instead of getting a serviceable tackle, the Giants could have drafted a legitimate franchise quarterback instead of being forced to rely on Daniel Jones.

Thomas has been a perfectly fine tackle during his four-year career but he definitely has not been worth the fourth-overall pick. The Giants definitely weren't hoping to get a league-average tackle with one good year with the fourth pick.

The Giants' recent first-round selections should be a warning sign for Chargers fans. Many Chargers fans assume Joe Alt is a lock to be a future Pro Bowler and while he certainly has that potential. there are so many offensive linemen who have that potential and never live up to it. New York took two of these guys in three years between Thomas and Evan Neal.

Miami Dolphins select Tua Tagovailoa with fifth pick

The easiest replacement on this list is for the Miami Dolphins, who chose the wrong quarterback with the fifth pick. Granted, taking Tua seemed like the right move at the time but four years into their careers it is clear Herbert was the choice.

Miami is all but admitting the team doesn't fully believe in Tua by dragging its feet during contract extension talks. The Chargers extending Herbert was a no-brainer and the same cannot be said for Miami with Tua.

Chargers fans should be beyond grateful that Miami didn't take Herbert instead of Tua. If the Dolphins did that then they might have reached the Super Bowl in one of the last two years. Meanwhile, the Chargers probably would have already moved on from Tua as there is no way he would have succeeded in the poor environment Herbert played in.