Thursday, December 27, 2018

Justin Herbert is Returning to Oregon for 2019 Season, Here's Why He's Right To Do So.

Although he was a projected first rounder in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, Justin Herbert recently announced on Wednesday that he would return to the University of Oregon for the 2019 season. In what has seemed to be an unpopular decision in recent years (that is, foregoing the NFL draft to return to college), this decision actually caught me off guard. I believe Herbert's decision to return will ultimately benefit him once he arrives in the NFL via the 2020 Draft. This 2019 QB class has looked very shallow when it comes to NFL ready talent, and Herbert of course was no exception to that if you asked me. There is no quarterback in the 2019 class that I would feel confident starting week 1 of the 2019 NFL season, and for that reason, I fully back Herbert's decision to return to Oregon. Whether he was projected a first rounder due to the shallow QB class or for his raw talent combined with his mouth-watering 6-6 frame, it matters not now. What matters now, is his 2019 campaign at Oregon which begins in Arlington, Texas against Auburn. Barring injury, this decision should only benefit Herbert, who will likely be at the top of the 2020 QB draft class and a projected top 10 or dare-I-say top 5 pick.

Herbert has the Brock Osweiler size that made NFL scouts fall for him...Okay, disregard that comparison. In his Junior Season, he completed 221 of his 371 passes for a 59.6% completion rate while throwing for 2985 yards with 28 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions. His 28 touchdowns were good enough for third in the Pac-12 behind only Gardner Minshew and the absurd air-raid offense that is Washington State, and K.J. Costello of Stanford. While there was some regression in his stat-line from his Sophomore to Junior year, this was his first season playing all 12 games. The biggest drop was Herbert's completion percentage. In 2017 he completed 67.5% of his passes over 8 games. That number dropped to 59.6% in 2018 over a full 12 game slate which rates him 8th in the Pac-12, easily in the bottom half. Herbert has complied a 16-12 record as a starter over his first 3 seasons.

 An improvement in his completion percentage is a necessity for his senior season, as a sub-60% completion percentage will certainly not benefit his draft stock and could make his NFL career short-lived. Hypothetically, if Herbert were to throw sub-60% in the NFL, he would join a list that he, nor any other quarterback would want to join, a list including the likes of Mark Sanchez, Derek Anderson, Blake Bortles, Josh Freeman, and Donovan McNabb. While some of these QB's had their moments, such as 2004 McNabb, the 2010 Mark Sanchez that led the Jets to the AFC Championship, 2017 Blake Bortles who led the Jags to the AFC Championship, most of these players ended in duds (save McNabb based on your opinion).

Justin Herbert has now bought himself an extra year of play to show NFL scouts that he can be an NFL ready QB. We have seen a few examples in the last couple of years of Quarterbacks entering the draft too early. Culprits of this include Deshone Kizer. Kizer jumped the gun on declaring for the draft and was then thrown to the wolves in Cleveland as a starter where he should have sat for a year or two behind a veteran QB. Deshone is really the poster child for why declaring for the draft after three years in college is sometimes a bad idea.

His decision to return to school will often be looked at in the future, whether he is one of the next big superstars in the NFL or he ends up in the junkyard with all the other first round busts. This move also exemplifies his maturity level and shows he is still seeking that improvement that can separate himself from the rest of the class of 2020 QB's.