We continue our four-part series analyzing each top quarterback prospect and his chances of landing in Miami, especially considering the Dolphins are armed with an NFL-high three first-round picks and 14 total selections. Last week, we discussed whether an ambitious trade up for LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was a realistic option and whether Utah State’s Jordan Love could be a surprise pick because of his upside. Today, we focus on Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
The expectation is the Dolphins will select a quarterback in the first round of this draft, sources told ESPN. Miami has done extensive homework on each of the top quarterbacks in the class: Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Herbert and Love.
If we’re handicapping the most likely quarterback to land in Miami, Tagovailoa and Herbert are the leaders with Love as the dark horse. It’s quite possible Miami could remain at No. 5 and be pushed into a choice: a more talented Tagovailoa with notable injury concerns, or a healthy, more prototypical Herbert with questions about leadership and passing anticipation.
In ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft, he selected Herbert for the Dolphins with pick No. 5 — a change from the previous one that had Miami selecting Tagovailoa.
This decision has been made more complex because the coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted each team’s pre-draft process and the amount of information available on each prospect. Regardless, it’s the most important Dolphins draft in recent memory, and they can’t afford to get the quarterback wrong. No one will give them a pass in three years if the player they pick doesn’t work out.
So, will the Dolphins’ comfort in Herbert’s skill set and health make him their pick over riskier options?
Introvert or quiet leader?
Dan Orlovsky dissects former Oregon QB Justin Herbert’s greatest strengths and his areas of improvement ahead of the NFL draft.
The NFL is beginning to evolve in how it views quarterbacks. Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson are recent examples of nontraditional prospects who have experienced early NFL success despite perceived size or stylistic disadvantages. But the prototypical quarterback still looks like Herbert in a lot of teams’ eyes: 6-foot-6, 236 pounds with a big arm and mobility.
Former Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, now an analyst for ESPN, has liked Herbert since 2018, when he began scouting him for Miami. He believes Herbert can become a franchise quarterback, comparing him to Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
“He has the requisite height, weight and speed. He’s tough. He’s smart. I like his size, athleticism. He has a really good arm,” Tannenbaum said. “He could throw a little bit more with anticipation. Sometimes he has to see it before he lets it go, but I think you could work on that and coach that. He’s dangerous outside the pocket. His running ability is underrated.
“If you look at the whole notion of the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling, he has a high floor and a high ceiling.”
So what’s the problem?
Well, as Tannenbaum mentioned, Herbert has some issues throwing with anticipation. Too often he looks like a robot as a passer, can be overly cautious and doesn’t consistently hit his targets in stride — especially under pressure.
Some of the biggest concerns that have come out in the pre-draft process relate to his leadership. He was admittedly shy and quiet early in his career at Oregon, and some scouts have labeled him an introvert — a moniker he challenged at the combine.
“Physically, he’s awesome. Great arm, really good athlete,” a scout for a team unlikely to select a first-round quarterback told ESPN. “But he’s not a leader, can’t be the face of a team. Has never left Eugene, Oregon. No swag. No ‘it’ factor. Never has been the best player on the field in any game I’ve watched.”
Leadership and “it” factor are very important qualities, but often they are in the eye of the beholder. Herbert impressed some teams with his assertiveness at the Senior Bowl, where he won MVP.
“Leadership manifests itself a lot of different ways. One of the best leaders I’ve been around in my career was Curtis Martin, who was an introverted person by nature but was a great lead-by-example guy,” Tannenbaum said of the Hall of Fame running back. “When you’re high-character, you’re smart and you care, those are attributes about leadership. Is [Herbert] as demonstrative as Joe Burrow? No. But I don’t think that’s a fatal flaw for him to be successful.”
Singles and doubles
In this draft, league executives believe teams will be more risk-averse than ever. A common refrain from execs: Expect teams to aim for more singles and doubles rather than swinging for boom-or-bust players.
If it’s on talent and pro-readiness alone, Tagovailoa would seem to be an easy choice for Miami. But health and long-term durability matter, and in that way, Herbert — even with his flaws — is the safer pick. It’s also more likely that he will be available at No. 5 for the Dolphins without a trade up. According to ESPN’s NFL Draft Predictor, Herbert has a 93% chance of being available at pick No. 5 and Tagovailoa a 29% chance.
Even so, one NFL executive who has interacted with Dolphins officials said he believes Miami will choose Herbert over Tagovailoa if given the choice.
Bill Parcells was one of Dolphins GM Chris Grier’s mentors, and the Parcells quarterback rules — which are somewhat outdated today — favor Herbert greatly over Tagovailoa.
As we highlighted in our Dolphins quarterback checklist last month, Herbert is the only first-round quarterback prospect to pass all seven of the Parcells rules. Herbert has the size, 42 starts, is a graduate of Oregon and lifted a team that went 4-8 his freshman year to 12-2 with a Rose Bowl win last season.
The Dolphins have been studying Herbert for two years, and a transition to offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s spread scheme could also minimize some of his on-field flaws. If the Dolphins don’t feel good about Tagovailoa’s medicals and long-term durability, Herbert becomes the favorite for pick No. 5.
But Miami has to feel comfortable that it’s getting enough leadership and the “it” factor for Herbert to be the choice. That’s where the good evaluators shine, because those are qualities you can’t always see immediately.
Otherwise, the Dolphins would be settling at quarterback. A safe pick doesn’t necessarily make it the right pick.
Source : ESPN