In just two professional seasons, Justin Herbert has shown enough talent and ability to soar into the pantheon of NFL quarterbacks. He’s authored numerous records in that time span, including throwing for the most yards and touchdowns during a player’s first two seasons.
He’s being dubbed one of the next big things in the league and has fans of all teams rooting for his success. By any degree, that’s the sign of something special.
In a recent, and very interesting, article from ESPN, a group of analysts went about ranking the top 10 quarterbacks in regards to 12 different traits. As you could probably tell from the title of this article, Herbert fared pretty well by the end of it. In fact, he was one of only a few quarterbacks to make the top 10 for every single trait, including eight appearances in the top six.
With that being said, let’s get right into it.
Herbert kicks off this list of traits with his highest ranking among all 12. Obviously known for having one of the strongest arms in the league, Herbert landed third here behind only Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. Look no further than the absolutely ridiculous completion he made to Jalen Guyton in last year’s contest against the Giants. Without bias, it may have been the best throw of the entire season.
Herbert exceeded many expectations as a rookie when he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL as a rookie when throwing under pressure. That sort of start to his professional career helped him build a reputation as a sharpshooter at all levels of the field. He comes in fifth in this trait behind Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, and Mahomes.
Through two seasons, Herbert currently holds a career completion percentage of 66.2.
Herbert sees his biggest dip in the rankings here as he settled in at eighth. To be fair, I think this one is fairly justified. He had some bad interceptions a year ago and he’s still learning how to manipulate his awesome arm talent. He’s pretty dang good now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be even better. Not every throw can be on a frozen rope, as much as we’d all like them to be.
Herbert has one of the cleanest throwing motions in the NFL. It’s truly picturesque at times. Being ranked sixth in this trait is more of a beauty contest, however, since production speaks for itself regardless of how pretty it looks. It’s just a plus that Herbert can produce and look good while doing it.
To be able to make some of the miraculous plays that Herbert does on a weekly basis, he has to see them first. He’s back in the top five here in field vision at fifth behind only Brady, Rodgers, Mahomes, and Burrow. Tough to argue any higher, but that depends how highly you think of Burrow. The top three are rightfully there, but I know some truly love to have the Burrow v. Herbert debate any chance they get.
Herbert falls back down a touch to number seven here when it comes to making the best decision on each play. The usual four are above Herbert here with Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson joining them.
I’m fine with this ranking since, as I mentioned earlier, Herbert did throw some tough balls a year ago that weren’t just due to wrong routes or dropped passes.
This is a weird way to word “competitive fire”, but that’s essentially what the ESPN analysts were looking for with this trait. Herbert came in with this lowest ranking at ninth which is just fine, in my opinion. Herbert isn’t the most vocal player on the Chargers and the analysts obviously favored quarterbacks who talk the talk as much as they walk the walk. It’s why guys like Brady and Mahomes top the ranking.
I don’t think anything did more for exhibiting Herbert’s toughness than the hit he took during his very first NFL start against the Chiefs. A Kansas City defender laid a massive blow on Herbert near the sideline that created an audible gasp from the crowd.
To everyone’s bewilderment, Herbert sprang right up and jogged back to the huddle while the Chiefs defender continued to lay on the turf.
Herbert wasted no time to show that he’s here and he belongs. At least, enough to rank him eighth within this category.
Being able to stand in the pocket, feel the pressure around you, maneuver through it, and then deliver a strike in the face of danger is something the greatest of quarterbacks must master to reach the upper echelons of the position. Herbert comes in a sixth in this trait. The veterans you’d expect are above him (Brady, A-Rod), along with Mahomes, Burrow, and Allen.
Herbert was named a “riser to watch” in this category with analyst Matt Miller noting that he wasn’t asked to run or manipulate the pocket at Oregon due to him being paramount to the Ducks’ success. With time, Miller believes he’ll turn pocket presence into one of his strengths soon enough.
Now where is where we begin seeing quarterbacks who have the capability of making plays with their legs when needed. Herbert, who doesn’t do a ton of scrambling himself, was ranked sixth. Unsurprisingly, Lamar Jackson leads this group with Allen, Murray, Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts falling between him and Herbert.
At his stature, the 6’6, 245-pound Herbert is a menace to take down outside of a clean run through. This opens up opportunities outside the pocket which is something number 10 has done plenty of in his first two seasons.
Designed Run Ability
Since becoming the starting quarterback for the Chargers, you can probably count the amount of times that Herbert has executed a designed run. That’s not to say he wouldn’t likely thrive if given more opportunities, but the Chargers would probably like to minimize the chances of their star passer getting hurt.
Despite the small sample size, the experts at ESPN still believe Herbert is one of the best when his numbered is called for a run play, ranking sixth.
Second Reaction Ability
Herbert bounces back into the top five, landing at fourth in the NFL in regards to the best quarterbacks who are able to pull the ball back down and make something else happen if their first intent hits a brick wall. Just like other star quarterbacks, it helps to have a little extra wiggle to buy yourself some extra time when your initial plans get a wrench thrown into them. That’s why Herbert’s one of the best in this category.