Justin Herbert to the Chargers: What Kind of Fantasy Football Impact Will Herbert Have?
Justin Herbert has been a riser throughout the draft process, and that culminated with him going sixth overall to the Los Angeles Chargers in Round 1 on Thursday night.
How does Herbert look as a prospect, and what should we expect of him in 2020?
Some Good and Some Bad as a Prospect
When the draft process started, Herbert seemed to be a tier below Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, especially going off a statistical view of Herbert's college output. But as the draft got closer, it became pretty apparent NFL teams valued Herbert as an elite prospect, and that matters a great deal. NFL evaluators are generally good at what they do.
With that said, Herbert's college numbers aren't nearly as gaudy as Burrow's or Tagovailoa's. Each offseason, our Jim Sannes does a numbers-based study on the incoming rookie quarterbacks, and his study of this group put Herbert a good chunk below Tua and Burrow. That's far from a death sentence, though, given the elite numbers those two studs put up.
Two of the big positives for Herbert are his age (22) and how many games he played (41 games with at least 10 pass attempts). And while Herbert's final-season adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) of 9.0 isn't elite by any means -- Tua's was at 13.4 and Burrow's was 12.5 -- it's still a solid number. Guys like Matthew Stafford (9.0), Jared Goff (9.4) and Aaron Rodgers (8.5) had similar final-year AY/A clips in college.
On the flip side, Herbert is tough to evaluate because the passing scheme at Oregon relied on a lot of short-yardage, horizontal passes. While you can't blame a guy for running his team's offense, Herbert's average depth of target (aDOT), per PFF, was only 8.8. That mark tied Tua for the lowest aDOT among the top signal-callers in this draft (Jalen Hurts: 11.3, Jake Fromm: 10.3, Jordan Love: 9.9, Burrow: 9.6 and Jacob Eason: 9.3).
Also, it's worth mentioning that Herbert's AY/A as a sophomore in 2017 was 10.0 across 206 attempts, so he's flashed the type of efficiency we covet. However, his junior-year AY/A of 8.3 over 404 attempts is even worse than his final-campaign clip (9.0).
In all, there's some really good (loads of experience at a young age) and not as good (somewhat middling efficiency stats) in Herbert's profile. Given his size (6-foot-6) and those positives, it's no surprise he was enticing to NFL teams, and even though Herbert's college numbers aren't at the elite level of Burrow's or Tagovailoa's, a successful NFL career is well within his range of outcomes.
Fantasy Outlook With the Chargers
The Chargers are a pretty great landing spot in terms of fantasy football. With Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler, the Bolts have some sweet weapons. LA is also good up front, ranking ninth in pass protection in 2019, per Football Outsiders.
Herbert has a little running to his game. He rushed for at least 160 yards in three of his four college seasons, although the lone exception was this past year when he totaled a mere 50 rushing yards. He did have four rushing scores in 2019 and finished his Oregon career with 13 rushing tuddies. No one is going to confuse him with Lamar Jackson, but any rushing production is a boost in fantasy.
Herbert will enter a quarterback competition with Tyrod Taylor, and it's a competition Herbert will likely win sooner rather than later. Time will tell if Herbert starts Week 1, but he's a safe bet to log meaningful snaps under center as a rookie. It could wind up being a similar situation to what we saw in Baker Mayfield's rookie year, when Taylor opened the season as the starter but lost the job early in the campaign.
Herbert is unlikely to be a big factor in one-quarterback redraft leagues as a rookie outside of streaming. In superflex formats, he'll be on the radar as a lower-end QB2 as soon as he's named the starter, and with a good supporting cast in LA, Herbert could wind up being a decent QB2. Herbert is worth a high rookie draft pick -- maybe as high as the 1.02 or 1.03 -- in dynasty superflex leagues.
Our JJ Zachariason projects Herbert for 2,944 yards and 15 scores with 280 rushing yards in 2020.