On April 23rd, the Miami Dolphins will once again attempt to find a quarterback that will hopefully bring the Dolphins back to the glory, they had in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Like many other Dolphin fans, looking for the next Dan Marino, I have personally anointed Tua Tagovailoa as the guy I would pick to be the next franchise quarterback. With reports from both local and national media saying there is a real chance that the Dolphins select Oregon Quarterback Justin Herbert, I decided to do a deep dive on Justin Herbert. For the last few days, I have looked at tape from both his junior and senior season at Oregon. I wanted to understand his strengths and weaknesses so I could come to my own conclusion on Herbert. So, let’s get started.
Members of the media and scouts often like to say that Justin Herbert has “all the physical tools”. This is 100% accurate: Herbert is an absolute athletic freak of nature standing at 6’6 and 240 pounds. That’s a physical profile that gives him a pro comparison of Cam Newton and Carson Wentz. His resume reveals a four-year starter at Oregon, whose team made improvements each year he was there. In his senior season Justin Herbert had 3471 passing yards with 32 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions, he also led the Ducks to a 12-2 record and capped it off with a Rose Bowl victory. These impressive stats don’t reveal his athleticism and escapability; tremendously underrated parts of Herbert’s game.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 10, 2020
Need proof? Look at the Rose Bowl, where Herbert ran for three touchdowns. Herbert’s size, resume, and athleticism are extremely appealing to NFL scouts and their teams, because Herbert fits the traditional mold of a prototypical Quarterback who has always been successful in the NFL, so it’s no surprise Herbert is expected to be drafted in the top 10 and potentially drafted by the Dolphins at 5.
Then there is his arm. The media rave that he has the best arm in the draft: supreme arm strength and arm talent. In my eyes, there is a huge difference between arm strength and arm talent. Does Herbert have arm strength? Absolutely. In my opinion, Herbert has the strongest arm in the draft, meaning he can throw it farther than anyone else. Is that a valuable metric to judge him? 100%.
However, arm talent is way more important than having arm strength. Arm talent includes the ability to throw from different platforms, throw from different arm angles, the ability to lead a receiver, and to throw with touch and accuracy. On tape, Herbert showed the ability to throw with different arm angles which allows him to fit the ball around the defense. He also showed the ability to throw from different platforms: Herbert can throw on the run effectively, and thanks to his incredible arm strength he can still drive the ball downfield even if he can’t step into the throw.
Herbert throws the ball at one speed and that’s fastball. While that is a helpful tool, especially when attempting to make tight window throws, sometimes you need to have the ability to take some heat off the ball and throw the ball with touch. This is where Herbert really struggles. The tape reveals that Herbert doesn’t have the ability to throw the ball with touch, which brings down his accuracy. Herbert also struggles with leading the receiver; he would rather drill it into a guy’s chest, rather than lead him and give the receiver has better chance to make a play after the catch.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 9, 2020
My biggest concern with Justin Herbert though? His football I.Q. While Herbert is definitely a smart guy (he had a 4.0 GPA), he struggles to read defenses. What that means is he doesn’t seem to be able to identify what defensive package the other team is playing. He also struggles to adapt and go off script. While Herbert does show the ability to throw on the run, almost all of his best throws on the run are scripted for him to do so. In other words, they are designed plays to get him on the move such as a play action or a roll out play. However, when a play breaks down and he needs to go off-script, Herbert struggles to make a play; he will either run it himself and try to gain some yards, or, in most cases he will just throw the ball away.
A term that a lot of people use when describing Herbert is that he is a “one read Quarterback”. The tape definitely shows that Herbert struggles to go through his progressions and all of his reads. Too many times I saw Herbert stare down a receiver, and while you can get away with that in some college games, you cannot in the NFL, that will lead to many interceptions. On the flip side, there were a lot of plays where Herbert went through all of his progressions and when the first or second option wasn’t open, he did end up finding the third or fourth option, so that is promising. I would say it is a stretch to call Herbert a “one read Quarterback”; he does struggle sometimes to go through his progressions, but it is a skill that is coachable and that the right coach can help him improve.
Some in the media, have floated the idea that that Herbert is a bad leader or that he can’t “rally the troops”. This is one of those unconfirmed rumors, that has not been corroborated by either his past coaches or teammates. If anything, his head coach at Oregon, Mario Cristobal just did an interview with the Miami Herald where he ranted and raved about Herbert’s leadership ability, so I am going to take his word on that.
I truly believe that almost all of his mistakes with his game are fixable with coaching. Which is why for Herbert, the most important thing in deciding the fate of his NFL career is the coaching staff of wherever he lands. I trust that the Dolphins coaching staff led by Brian Flores would be able to correct some of the flaws in Herbert’s game.
My conclusion: Herbert is a B+/A- Quarterback prospect who has fallen victim to unnecessary criticism and over analyzation. Herbert is definitely a better player than a lot of people will lead you to believe, but he is not a perfect prospect. My biggest problem with Herbert isn’t even him; I just believe that there are two better Quarterback prospects in this draft in Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. However, if Burrow and Tua were gone I would 100% draft Herbert and be happy with the selection. Herbert has the ability to be an elite and a Superbowl winning Quarterback, and isn’t that what the Dolphins and us fans are searching for? Not to mention he’s got Dan Marino esc hair, which is cool.