By: Matthew Zimmer
Everyone and their mother seems to have an NFL Mock Draft out there nowadays. I’m here to try and clean some of that up for you Justin Herbert fans out there.
Let’s take a look:
Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock (paywall), released on Feb. 18, has Herbert going to the Miami Dolphins at No. 5. In Kiper’s mind, Herbert is the third quarterback on the board behind Joe Burrow, who Kiper has at No. 1 to Cincinnati, and Tua Tagovailoa, who Kiper has going No. 3 to Detroit. In the brief paragraph on Herbert, Kiper wonders if the Dolphins will go with a veteran free agent QB, like Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton, before he says Miami should pick Herbert. Kiper believes “Herbert has the highest ceiling of any of the quarterbacks in this class.” So, he’s got that going for him.
Todd McShay last put out a mock draft (paywall) almost three weeks ago (Feb. 3), and he thinks Herbert will be on the board at pick No. 13 for the Indianapolis Colts. He admits the Colts “get a little lucky here” with Herbert still available in the middle portion of the first round. McShay appears more speculative with Herbert to the Colts. His decision is predicated on the Colts not being “completely sold” on Jacoby Brissett as their franchise QB, and that Indy will choose to overlook other needs like wide receiver, defensive line and defensive back in order to pick Herbert. Going to Indy, McShay thinks, would be helpful for Herbert because Brissett is under contract next year, so the former Oregon Duck wouldn’t be thrown to the wolves too early. McShay has Herbert as the third QB off the board as well, behind Burrow at No. 1 and Tagovailoa at No. 5.
There are a lot of CBS Sports Mock Drafts floating around, so here’s what I found.
Five of the six analysts have Herbert getting drafted sixth to the LA Chargers.
Pete Prisco latest mock, earlier today (Feb. 20), hints at the Chargers looking for a veteran QB in free agency, but says LA “could still take Herbert” with Philip Rivers leaving.
(Feb. 19) Chris Trapasso also thinks the Chargers could go the veteran route, either trade or free agency, to get a quarterback, but follows that thought with “if they can’t land one, they could go with Herbert, who wouldn’t have to start right away, and could ultimately be a game-manager early in his career.”
(Feb. 13) Will Brinson says the Chargers can use Tyrod Taylor this year while grooming Herbert for the future.
(Feb. 17) Ryan Wilson believes Herbert falling in LA’s lap at No. 6 is the “best case” for the Chargers. Wilson is confident in Herbert despite the iffy 2019 campaign, “he possesses all the physical attributes to be a star in this league.” But Wilson thinks a year behind Taylor, or another QB, is right for Herbert and “we’ll see if L.A. has that kind of patience.”
(Feb. 12) R.J. White thinks the Chargers should “plan for the future” by drafting Herbert, even if they go the veteran QB route everyone else is suggesting at CBS. White seems not completely sold saying, “Why not add [a QB] here and have him battle a solid vet for the 2020 starting job?”
(Feb. 14) Josh Edwards deterred from the pack and thinks Herbert will make it to No. 7 and Carolina. Edwards says nothing on Herbert or his skills as a passer. Instead, he reminds us that new Panthers owner David Tepper “made it clear” Cam Newton will likely not be in Carolina next year. Edwards then ponders what Carolina will do, “fill the void with a veteran, draft a rookie or punt for a year and make a run for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields?” He reminds us that planning for the future is “always dangerous” and to just look at what happened to Tagovailoa and his hip injury for an example.
All six CBS analysts have Herbert being drafted after Burrow and Tagovailoa.
Luke Easterling’s Feb. 17 mock draft jumped on the Herbert to LA bandwagon as well. He admits quarterbacks “come at a premium at the top of the draft” so the Chargers may need to trade up to get their top choice at QB. Easterling believes Herbert is a “perfect” fit to replace Rivers. He’s also the first mock draft analyst to reference Herbert’s Rose Bowl performance instead of Herbert’s “meh” regular season.
Michael Renner shockingly also has Herbert going to the Chargers at No. 6. Renner says the Chargers are “just the team to pull the trigger” on Herbert. In his Feb. 11 mock, Renner mentions the tape can be rough for the former Duck, but “Herbert can pretty much be penciled into the top-10 with his arm talent,” so that’s something. Renner is also the first analyst to admit Herbert’s Senior Bowl week was a little overblown, yet his arm talent “noticeably stood out among the group there.”
Bucky Brooks and Lance Zierlein released their mock drafts soon after the Senior Bowl, Brooks on Feb. 27 and Zierlein on Feb. 29, and both have Herbert to (you guessed it) the LA Chargers at No. 6. Brooks says Herbert “could be a nice fit as an athletic, high-IQ passer with intriguing physical tools,” while Zierlein believes the Chargers are “in desperate need of finding their next QB1”. Zierlein believes Herbert helped himself at the Senior Bowl.
Daniel Jeremiah put out his only mock (to this point) on Jan. 21, which was before the Senior Bowl. He has Herbert dropping the farthest, of all the reputable mock drafts I’ve found, to No. 14 and Tampa Bay. Despite the fall to 14, Jeremiah says Herbert would fit perfectly with Bruce Arians system because the former Duck is “big, strong and smart.” No arguments here on those three things.
I figured I might as well throw myself in the ring, and I’m going to be a tad different. Where I think Justin Herbert WILL land is either the LA Chargers or Carolina Panthers. I think both teams would be crazy to let him get away. Herbert could be in for turbulence in LA if the Chargers struggle again and fire Anthony Lynn. The Panthers would be the better fit of the two I think he WILL end up with, because Matt Rhule is coming in fresh and will have a longer leash than Lynn.
However, the place I think Herbert SHOULD land is with between Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. I will give you that the talent around the Colts and Bucs isn’t exactly top tier (no offense T.Y. Hilton and Mike Evans), but the coaches are some of the best offensive minds in football. Indy’s coach, Frank Reich, won a Super Bowl with Philly and Nick Foles against New England. Bruce Arians salvaged a season with Arizona in 2014 where Drew Stanton won five games, and the Cardinals made the playoffs at 11-5. Indy and Tampa would be great landing spots for Herbert to learn and develop because he would avoid being Joey Harrington’d, aka being drafted by a terrible team that wants him to perform right away and defenses eating him alive.
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