Justin Herbert may have the look of a high school student (especially after that haircut), but the way he played in his rookie season screamed potential NFL franchise QB. Herbert was taken 6 th overall in the 2020 NFL draft and was behind fellow QBs Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, but easily outperformed them. Now Burrow was hurt so we can’t say Herbert is better, but the Chargers are for sure happy with their pick as of now. Not much changed for the Chargers this offseason, so Herbert has every possibility to expand on his great play. Let’s take a deeper dive into Justin Herbert’s fantasy outlook.
Justin Herbert got his chance in Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season thanks to a fluke chest injury to Tyrod Taylor. Now I am not super superstitious, but it does seem like a stroke of luck, at least for Herbert, that a doctor punctured Taylor’s lung and forced the Chargers to turn to their rookie QB. And Herbert didn’t disappoint. He almost beat the Mahomes-led Chiefs by throwing for 311 yards and 1 touchdown and rushing for 1 touchdown.
Herbert never slowed down either, averaging 286 yards per game through the air. He also averaged 2 touchdowns and less than 1 interception per game. Herbert finished his 2020 season with a 66% completion percentage and threw for 4336 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 5 touchdowns, most of them coming from within the 5-yard line. Herbert looked poised and strong as a passer and has a very powerful arm that is very dangerous when you have tall/fast wide receivers like Mike Williams.
Herbert finished 6 th in the NFL in passing yards and was well up with the likes of Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Deshaun Watson in touchdowns. He broke the record for rookie touchdowns and also was named the NFL Rookie of the Year.
The Chargers really didn’t do much to their offense this off-season. The only notable change was the loss of TE Hunter Henry and the addition of Jared Cook. Both are capable TEs, although Cook does seem to be a bit of a downgrade. The WR group of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Jalen Guyton remain the same, as does pass-catching specialist Austin Ekeler.
Probably the biggest change will be the Charger's new head coach, Brandon Staley. Staley has found success as a defensive coordinator, so it will be interesting to see if he handles the offense well or at all. He has stated that he wants the offense to run through Herbert, so the new coach obviously trusts his young QB. A defensive-minded coach usually is a bit hard on QB stats, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Chargers’ defense makes the offense more run-focused (if they aren’t chasing points).
Herbert is currently being drafted as the 6 th QB off the board and at the 6.02 spot in 12-team PPR drafts.
Herbert’s draft stock has very obviously increased over the year, and for good reason. He is going right behind Lamar Jackson and somehow before Russell Wilson, so if you want to grab him get ready to spend some capital.
Herbert’s 2021 season is hard to fully trust with a new head coach, but I believe Herbert will probably stick around his 2020 numbers with very few changes to the offensive personnel. The lack of a bruising RB should allow him to throw more dump-offs instead of just handing the ball off, and his new HC believes the offense should run through him. Herbert should throw between 4200-4500 yards and around 30 touchdowns. Experts (not myself) project Herbert for 4700 yards, so I guess I’m a bit more conservative there. If he does reach that level, he will be worth that 6 th round pick.
Herbert has shown that he is a smart QB that limits mistakes. He has a strong, accurate arm and has the weapons to build on his 2020 season. I like Herbert a lot, and if you do too, you should make sure you target him in drafts.
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