Whole Nine Sports

Justin Herbert, A First Overall Pick

Justin Herbert
Photo by Vasha Hunt, USA TODAY Sports
Kaleb Jones
Follow Kaleb @HonestKabe
Follow Whole Nine Sports @WholeNineSports

Many opinions seem to be set in stone in terms of draft prospects, but one thing that should not be is the idea that Joe Burrow should be the first selection in the NFL Draft. That’s because I believe Justin Herbert should be the first overall selection in the NFL Draft. With that being said, I should preface this article with a few statements. First off, this has little to do with relative ability but instead about fit. Secondly, should you have any questions or critiques you can leave them at my personal twitter @HonestKabe. Finally, I ask that you read the entire article before you attempt to debase my character over my opinion. Now, let’s get started.

Editor’s Note: Whole Nine Sports is looking to expand! Please consider donating to our GoFundMe so we can continue to bring you a high level of content. Not a fan of GoFundMe? How about our brand-new Patreon, where you control what we do with your generous donation? Anything helps. We appreciate your readership!

The Battle for #1

Tua Tagovailoa
Photo by John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the 2019 season there was a familiar discussion: who was going to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft? At the time, two names were at the forefront: Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Herbert, who was seen as an intriguing prospect with a lot of favorable qualities who struggled with consistency, chose to return to college for his final season. The narrative of the season began with the “tank for Tua campaign”, which seemed to be a charge led by the Miami Dolphins. As the season progressed, the projected first overall pick belonged to several teams before landing with the Cincinnati Bengals.

While this draft position was being solidified, a new name entered the discussion for being selected first overall: Joe Burrow. Joe Burrow had enrolled at Ohio State in 2015 and stayed there until 2018, when he transferred to LSU. In 2018, Burrow put together a decent season with the Tigers: he had a 57.8 completion percentage, over 2800 yards and a 16-5 TD-INT ratio. These numbers were decent, but paled in comparison to the numbers we would see in 2019. Burrow would finish his historic 2019 season with a 76.3 completion rate, over 5600 yards, and a 60-6 TD-INT ratio. This season would culminate in an LSU National Championship victory, but what happened to Herbert? 

Career Retrospective

Justin Herbert
Photo by Jaime Valdez, USA TODAY Sports

Justin Herbert arrived at Oregon in 2016 and found himself in the role of QB2 for the Ducks. It would not take long for this to change, as he became the starter for the team after just five games. His career would be a strong and successful one where he consistently hovered around or above 60% completion percentage, and had a good TD-INT ratio:

2016- 63.5 completion rate, 1,936 yards, 19-4 TD-INT ratio, in 8 games.

2017- 67.5 completion rate, 1,085 yards, 15-5 TD-INT ratio, in 8 games. (Injury) 

2018- 59.4 completion rate, 3,151 yards, 29-8 TD-INT ratio, in 13 games. 

2019- 66.8 completion rate, 3,471 yards, 32-6 TD-INT ratio, in 14 games.   

(Stats per sports-reference.com.)

Herbert constantly showed improvement during his time at Oregon, even though he had to learn a few different offenses. His incredibly successful 2019 season, which resulted in a PAC-12 championship, was overshadowed by the historic season that Burrow had. Herbert’s next important step would be the Senior Bowl, where he would have a great performance, which resulted in a Senior Bowl MVP. There are a lot of similarities between Justin Herbert and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. Both are big bodied QBs with great mobility, and both have cannons for arms although Herbert’s arm strength is a notch below Allen’s. Both had good Senior Bowl weeks, and I expect Herbert to have a good Combine/Pro Day performance much like Allen.

The Case for Herbert at #1

Justin Herbert
Photo by Chris Pietsch, AP Photo

Time to wrap this up with a summation of why I feel that Justin Herbert is a better fit for the Bengals than Joe Burrow. Zac Taylor runs an offense that stems from the Shanahan coaching tree, which is predicated around the run and play actions off the run. We see several QBs in the league benefit from this type of offense: Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Aaron Rodgers, to name a few.

LSU ran a similar offense to this in 2018, an offense which used close tight end sets. In this 2018 offense, Burrow had much less success, but when playing in an offense similar to a Sean Payton or Mike McCarthy offense in 2019, he soared to new heights. Burrow has a great ability to read the field and progress through his reads quickly and efficiently when the offense is spread out. I do not feel that he is the best fit for Zac Taylor’s offense.

Justin Herbert seems like a better fit for Zac Taylor’s offense due to his combination of size, mobility, and arm talent. Herbert has proven that he can succeed in a variety of offensive schemes, which can be beneficial for him at the next level. This is not to say that Burrow would not have success in an offense like this, but the only evidence we have supports the idea that this type of offense may not be a fit for him. Burrow is absolutely worth a first overall selection, but I feel that he would be better suited for a more wide open style of offense.

The Fallout

Joe Burrow
Photo by Jonathan Bachman, Getty Images

The fall of Burrow past the first pick will result in a tremendous ripple effect, which I plan to cover in a mock draft at a later time. As a final point, I find it odd that a player who was in the discussion for being the first overall pick has fallen out of that discussion. Not only that, but many view him as a reach in the top 10 at this point. This fall comes after a very successful season, capping off a great collegiate career, and a fantastic off season which will only be bolstered through the combine/pro day process. For those of you who are flabbergasted, overwhelmed with shock, and possibly filled with anger, I ask that you take a deep breath and collect your thoughts.

With that, we have reached our conclusion and I will be more than happy to discuss my stance further on Twitter. To keep up with all of my work, past and future, follow me @HonestKabe and @WholeNineSports.