*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

The first two times I did some basic/preview scouting of Justin Herbert, I didn’t like what saw. In the era of great passer prospects coming from college football, he just didn’t strike me as having an ‘it’ factor like Baker Mayfield or Patrick Mahomes or Kyler Murray. To me, Herbert appeared to be a robotic QB who didn’t read the field as well as other top names of the recent past. He was getting the ‘big guy, big arm’ love from analysts…but in the end, my quick/preview analysis found Herbert lacking.

So, now that he’s headed to the NFL Draft, and I dove deeper, I expected to see that same guy. But after watching tape of several of his games and running an analysis of his college work/output with a focus on his work against top opponents – I’m starting to move away from my initial dismissal and disinterest. I’m starting to see an NFL prospect here.

Herbert is still not my favorite QB prospect, but I’m not going to mock or discount him either. I do think Herbert is a bit more robotic and doesn’t have a ‘feel’, an ‘it’ factor to just dominate opponents and leave watchers going ‘wow’. I don’t think we’ll ever see Herbert wearing a gold jacket and making a speech in Canton. But can he start and be effective in the NFL? I believe he can.

The valuation question is – how good of an NFL prospect is he? Is he an NFL franchise QB?

I’ll tell you what started to change my mind a bit on Herbert…it has to do with Daniel Jones. Let me set the scene for you…

Here are some things I like about Herbert:

-Obviously he has the size/arm you want in an NFL QB prospect. NFL coaches and scouts crave his type of size and arm.

-He can move a little bit for a big guy/big QB. He’s not Lamar Jackson by any means, but he can run enough…like move around in the pocket and if he needs to, take off and pick up some yards…like an Aaron Rodgers can. They don’t look for it, but they’ll drive you nuts side stepping and picking up a 1st-down here and there. He’s not ‘slow’ from the looks of things…maybe a 4.7-4.8 runner.

-He’s smart. Multiple time PAC-12 All-Academic. And you can see it in his play. He plays within himself. He doesn’t force a lot of passes. He can read defenses decently. He will take the check downs just waiting for the defense to loosen up medium-deep. He reminds me of Carson Wentz in that way.


-His mechanics are really nice.  The more I watched, the more I see that what I thought/perceived as robotic, was a product of my bias…  As I watched more of his work this year, I started to appreciate that Herbert has visibly either worked on his mechanics for years or he’s just a natural. He gets his body in the right position to throw, he rarely throws off his back foot/fading away, and his whole release/snap and follow through is kinda textbook.

I look at all my notes on Herbert and we have: size, arm, enough mobility, mechanics, results/output, IQ, humble personality. Why was I disliking this guy?

The downside that I see is that he can get flustered in muddy situations and not make plays. Some guys just make miracles or ‘things’ happen…and others are just regular old ‘good’. You don’t get 1-2 miracle highlights a game from them, but you do get a sound QB with all the tools…that’s worth something.

Back to Daniel Jones

Jones was an inexplicable 1st-round pick to me last year, and even more egregious as a top 10 pick. I thought Jones was OK but with a lot of flaws… compared to the prospects I thought had some/a lot of greatness (and I was not alone in this assessment of Jones). Jones looked like a backup/low-end starter prospect for the NFL…not a franchise changer to me. But Jones survived the NFL as a rookie…because he’s smart, has size, studies, and is groomed/raised in the 7-on-7 era. About every QB who did well at a major program in college hits the NFL and does fine now.

If Daniel Jones wasn’t humiliated in the NFL as a rookie…then Justin Herbert is going to be fine for the NFL as well. Herbert has more size, more arm talent (a lot more), and better numbers in college than Jones. Herbert is clearly, to me, a better passer prospect than Daniel Jones or Dwayne Haskins…and both those guys were OK-ish as NFL rookies in 2019.

The NFL is almost becoming easier than college football – better blockers, far superior receivers, the best of the best of everything. All these ‘kids’ raised to be QBs all their lives in elite camps and passing offenses in grade school on up – they are ready to work as passers in the NFL…the NFL isn’t as scary as it was 5-10-15+ years ago for old-time QBs who were raised to know the playbook, hand the ball off for two downs and throw to spots on 3rd-down as needed. Today’s QBs are freewheeling and confident and the NFL is a safe environment for the passing game – and if that is the case, Justin Herbert is going to be fine in the NFL. Heck, he’s built more for the NFL than he is college really.

Herbert looks like he likes to follow a script and will take the check downs. He’ll play checkers or chess on the field, it looks like. He’s smart on and off the field. He’s humble and dedicated. He’s going to be some head coach’s dream QB – a kid with all the tools who will follow directions and not question them. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s not…but I know NFL coaches will love it. And if Herbert plays within himself and has nice weapons around him…he’s going to be fine. I don’t know if he’ll be great, but he should be OK/good for sure…and definitely not flustered by anything at the pro level. His ceiling will be largely determined by which coaching staff/team he ends up with.

Justin Herbert, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:

3 TDs/3 INTs and 179.0 yards passing in his three bowl appearances…way off his usual marks/outputs, and that’s what scares me – when the competition gets tougher, does Herbert have enough grit to shine? In the 2019 PAC-12 title game…1 TD/0 INT, 193 yards against Utah. Pretty flimsy numbers in these bigger games, BUT he did win the PAC-12 title game and did win two of the 3 bowl games. He was 27-8 the past three seasons as the Oregon starter…and he was the offense.

In his four-year career: 95 TDs/23 INTs…he’s not careless with the ball.

59.4% Comp. Pct. in 2018 was what made me nervous previewing him in the summer of 2019, but prior to that, in 2017, he was a 67.5% guy, and he bounced back with a 66.8% accuracy in 2019.

Rushed for 30+ yards in a game 12 times in his 43-game career with 13 rushing TDs. He’s not slow/ineffective as a runner.

Has thrown for 5 or more TD passes in a game four times in his career, including his 2nd ever start as a freshman vs. Cal (6 TD passes).

Projected measurables:

6’5”+/225, 10” hands, 4.80 40-time. 7.2+ three-cone.

The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Justin Herbert Most Compares Within Our System:

I guess Carson Palmer makes some sense – big body, big arm, good mechanics…never great but was pretty good/quality. Palmer feels like he had more ‘QB sense’/intuition to make plays than Herbert, but Herbert has more tools and was raised in the pass game era…so, that may be an offset.


LJax Rating







Adj Comp Pct

Adj Yds per Comp

Adj Pass per TD

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NC State








*’LJax rating’ – new for 2020, as we re-do our grading systems to better identify/reward the spread offense QB prospects…looking for the runner-passer talents.

**“Adj” = A view of adjusted college output in our system…adjusted for strength of opponent.

***A score of 8.5+ is where we see a stronger correlation of QBs going on to become NFL good-to-great. A scouting score of 9.5+ is rarefied air—higher potential for becoming great-to-elite. 

QBs scoring 6.0–8.0 are finding more success in the new passing era of the NFL (2014–on). Depending upon the system and surrounding weapons, a 6.0–8.0 rated QB can do fine in today’s NFL—with the right circumstances…but they are not ‘the next Tom Brady’ guys, just NFL-useful guys. 

2020 NFL Draft Outlook:

I think everyone in the mock draft world had Herbert in the 1st-round, but within that, there is a wide variation – I’ve seen him projected top 5-10 for some, and outside the top 25 for others. I think Herbert will fall to the #11-25 range with Tua Tagovailoa entering the draft and Burrow obviously going #1. I think Herbert will end up ahead of Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason in the end – beating out Eason on IQ and leadership, among the big QB prospect names known for their size-arm combo.

NFL Outlook:   

I think Herbert is going to be drafted to be a team’s starter in short order…whether midseason or in a year. I think he’ll debut solidly, not spectacularly…and then he’ll grow from there. So much will depend upon what coaching staff he falls in with. In general, I think Herbert is going to be fine…but don’t see a star. Bust possibilities…slight, but possible. Star potential, less possible. Solid/good/capable…I think that fits.