It’s was only a matter of time before the folks at ESPN got to their quarterback section of their recent rankings series and the Chargers fan base got to see how Justin Herbert fared.
According to the 50+ coaches, execs, scouts, and players surveyed by ESPN, Herbert is a bonafide top-10 quarterback, but his rankings varied quite a bit. After ESPN calculated all of their results to make their final rankings, the third-year passer landed as the seventh-ranked quarterback in the league.
Herbert’s highest ranking he received on individual ballots was fifth. As for his lowest, he was pushed out of the top 10 entirely by some. In the end, his ranking at seventh still pushed him two spots higher than his place in these rankings a year ago.
“In December, when Herbert rolled deep to his right and calmly heaved a deep ball that traveled 61.2 air yards (per NFL Next Gen Stats) across the field for a Jalen Guyton touchdown against the Bengals, I texted a screenshot of the play to a high-ranking NFL source,” said ESPN NFL analyst Jeremy Fowler.
“;You’ll become less and less surprised as the game goes,’ the source said. ‘He’ll be the best QB in the game.’”
That’s some incredible praise, no matter who the source is.
As great as that play was, the magic wasn’t close to being done for Herbert and the Chargers offense. The very next game, the entire NFL was put on notice by a throw that many struggle to properly describe.
“The following week, Herbert rolled out to his right and made perhaps the play of the year, throwing the ball 63.8 air yards — via NFL Next Gen Stats tracking — while being tackled from behind to hit Guyton in stride for a score against the Giants.”
I mean, seriously. That throw solidified Herbert as a lot of people’s favorite quarterback’s favorite quarterback.
“Winning helps in the voting, which explains Herbert’s standing. The two quarterbacks ahead of him are coming off the Super Bowl, while Herbert’s Chargers fell short of the playoffs. But he probably won’t be outside the top five for long. Consider that his 65.6 QBR last season was No. 3 in the NFL, behind only Rodgers and Brady.”
“‘When you’re that talented physically and you’re smart, it’s mind-boggling,’ a longtime NFL coordinator said. ‘Adding his strength and power, he’s hard to tackle, all of that; and he’s seeing things for another season so will have a better understanding.’”
It’s interesting that Fowler mentions winning as being a factor in the voting/surveying process. He says it helps the player’s case, but Lamar Jackson, one of the winningest quarterbacks of the past three season, was left out of the top 10 entirely. If anything, seems more like an example of recency bias than anything else.
Either way, apart from a playoff appearance and a double-digit win season, Herbert has the necessary stats to put him amongst the league’s elite.
“Since entering the league in 2020, Herbert has the second-most completions (839) and attempts (1,267), along with the third-most passing yards (9350). He also ranks fifth in passing touchdowns (69), and his 25 completions gaining 40 or more yards trail only Stafford.”
The six quarterbacks ranked ahead of Hebert are (in descending order): Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, and Matthew Stafford.
There aren’t really any surprises here as the top four are expected and the two immediately in front of Herbert are the pair that just played against each other in the Super Bowl. The three quarterbacks who round out this top 10 are Russell Wilson at eighth, Deshaun Watson at ninth, and Dak Prescott at 10th.
Any upward movement from year-to-year is positive. At this pace, Herbert should be in the top five a year from now and if he can will his team to a playoff appearance in 2022, the top five will be just the bare minimum when it comes to expectations.