It’s been an offseason of surprising and aggressive moves on the college football quarterback front. Wednesday saw
Justin Herbert toss the sport another curve with the announcement he’d return to Oregon for his senior season.
Projected as a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft cycle, Herbert is the rare college QB with that sort of pedigree who chooses to return. Oregon certainly benefits from Herbert choosing to play the 2019 season in Eugene, and Herbert will likely improve as well. But the ramifications of Herbert’s decision reverberate in a far wider than Eugene.
Herbert altered the fate of many 2019 and 2020 signal callers. He also shook up the way we’ll view the Pac-12 in 2019.
These are the important takeaways from Herbert’s big Wednesday choice.
1. Herbert takes the Andrew Luck / Matt Barkley Route
Andrew Luck /
Matt Barkley Route
Infrequent are the occasions in which a surefire first round quarterback opts to return for his senior season. Two of the recent notable recent examples are Stanford’s
Andrew Luck and USC’s
Matt Barkley , both of whom opted to return for a fourth season despite being projected at one point as the top QB in a draft cycle.
Things worked out well for Luck. While he came a few votes shy of a Heisman Trophy, Luck’s redshirt junior season solidified his stock as the draft’s top prospect and allowed him to earn a Stanford degree – something that can’t be discounted.
Barkley had a much different path. USC entered the season at No. 1, but Barkley worked through a shoulder injury as the Trojans stumbled to 7-6 overall. Barkley’s shoulder injury prevented him from throwing at the NFL Combine, and he dropped to the fourth round.
There are less extreme examples. But more than likely Herbert’s decision will mirror either Luck’s or Barkley’s. In other words, he’s going to make himself money or lose it by returning to Oregon for another year – if you put aside the fact he’s voluntarily tossing aside a prime earning year in pursuit of a degree.
I’m not here to question any player who wants to earn a degree. I applaud it. Plus, Herbert’s brother, 2019 four-star tight end Patrick, will get to play with him for a season.
I am, however, going to point out the risk of this decision.
Herbert would’ve been a part of a shaky 2019 QB crop this cycle. Next year, even if Herbert balls out, he’ll be competing with Tua Tagovailoa for the top draft spot. At the same time, the NFL is a quarterback-needy league. He’ll be a top-10ish pick no matter who else is in his class if his 2019 film is worthy of that distinction.
Herbert can both improve his accuracy and decision-making as a senior. Show a bit of progress and stay healthy, and Herbert will again be in the QB1 conversation a year from now. But that's never a sure thing as Barkley not long ago experienced.
2. Oregon Is Now the Pac-12 Favorite
Oregon just went from a young, talented on-the-rise roster with a looming QB question to a preseason top 10 team. That’s how important Herbert’s return is for the Ducks’ 2019 chances.
Pending a few other NFL Draft decisions, Oregon's poised to return 11 offensive starters and eight defensive starters off what could well be a nine-win team under first-year head coach
Mario Cristobal . To boot, Oregon’s incoming recruiting class is a top 10 group set to bolster the Ducks at nearly every level.
Herbert is the key to all of that.
There were some hiccups (Arizona comes to mind), but for the most part Herbert was a difference-maker all season. Oregon, under Herbert’s direction, finished 18th nationally in points per game. Barring something odd, those numbers will only improve with another year of cohesion and an opportunity for offseason growth.
When it comes to the Pac-12 as a whole, Oregon should peak under Herbert’s direction at an opportune time.
The Pac-12 South is on shaky ground with stalwart USC having more questions than answers despite Kliff Kingsbury riding in to save the day. Stanford, Washington and Washington State are each set to lose key contributors, including a pair of record-setting QBs for the latter pair.
Washington, pending Jacob Eason’s emergence, will likely present the toughest test for Oregon. And it’s also worth noting Oregon must travel to Stanford, Washington and USC. But when it comes to talent and returning experience, it’s hard to bet against the Ducks in the Pac-12.
And if Oregon can beat Auburn in Week 1 and reach its bye at 4-0, then watch out. The Pac-12 might have a legitimate playoff contender for the first time since 2016.
3. Dwayne Haskins Should Rejoice, 2020 Gets More Crowded
Dwayne Haskins Should Rejoice, 2020 Gets More Crowded
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has an NFL Draft decision to make himself, but it just got a heck of a lot easier with Herbert withdrawing his name from 2019 consideration. Haskins, a redshirt sophomore, should go.
Dwayne Haskins has an NFL Draft decision to make himself, but it just got a heck of a lot easier with Herbert withdrawing his name from 2019 consideration. Haskins, a redshirt sophomore, should go.
Haskins is now likely the top QB option in the 2019 cycle – unless Kyler Murray wants to jump into the fray.
Considering Haskins hasn’t yet finished his first year as a starter, that’s rather crazy. But that’s the reality this year. Haskins is a special talent and he'd be silly to pass on the NFL. This QB draft class is just too inviting.
On the other hand, the 2020 draft cycle just got a lot more quarterback rich. Along with Herbert and likely Tagovailoa, the 2020 crop of QBs could/will include: Jacob Eason , K.J. Costello and Steven Montez , among others.
Jacob Eason , K.J. Costello and
Steven Montez , among others.
Source : https://247sports.com/Article/Justin-Herbert-Oregon-return-what-it-means-for-Pac-12-2019-NFL-Draft-126882036/1259