Just how good can Chargers QB Justin Herbert become?

Justin Herbert, Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While he only has one victory under his belt, Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is showing a lot of promise. At times he has made some rookie mistakes, but he’s playing exceptional football early on in his career.

The Chargers have a lot of weapons surrounding Herbert. The future could be very bright for the Chargers franchise.

Although his team has had some tough losses, Herbert typically was able to keep them in games. Finally, against Jacksonville, Herbert was able to secure his first victory as a starting quarterback. There should be plenty more to come as the young Chargers quarterback grows in his role as the starter. However, he hasn’t been perfect and there are areas in which he must improve.

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn was a bit hesitant to name Herbert the full-time starter. While some were critical of Lynn for not fully supporting the young quarterback, it was actually a wise decision.

Lynn was correct when stating Herbert had to improve in some areas. Rather than babying the youngster into thinking he was perfect, he used tough love. Whatever he did seems to have worked, because the rookie is playing fantastic.

Although he is a rookie, Herbert is playing with a ton of poise. If he plays with consistency, he should win Rookie of the Year. The questions whether Herbert will be good or not are over. The new question is, just how good can he be?

Here is a breakdown of how he compares among other quarterbacks across the league.

Size Comparison – Carson Wentz

The first thing that catches your eye when looking at Justin Herbert is his size. Standing at 6-foot-6, Herbert is one of the tallest quarterbacks in the league. Size is always a polarizing topic when talking about how important it is for quarterbacks.

While scouts often look at height as a positive, there are always people turning to Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and now Kyler Murray as examples for why height isn’t that important.

While Brees, Wilson, and Murray are exceptions, size is very important. Tall QB’s can simply see the field better. They don’t have to strain to look over their offensive linemen. Tall QB’s are also less susceptible to balls being batted down at the line. Much like Carson Wentz, Herbert has a very solid frame behind him as well. He isn’t as big as Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton, but he isn’t a tall lanky quarterback like Mike Glennon.

Obviously if he can’t throw and can’t read a defense, size isn’t that important. However, Justin Herbert throws a beautiful ball. He reads a defense very well. His height also helps the Chargers’ sub-par offensive line, because defensive linemen aren’t able to bat his throws down.

Deep Ball Throws – Deshaun Watson

There is a big difference between ability to throw the deep ball, and pure arm strength. Josh Allen may have a stronger arm than Russell Wilson, but Wilson throws a much better deep ball.

While it’s still early in his career, Herbert is throwing the deep ball like a seasoned vet. The young Chargers quarterback is already showing the ability to look off safeties and deliver on beautiful throws downfield.

Check out this throw by Herbert against the Jaguars from last Sunday.

Via @NFL on Twitter

This is a beautiful throw by Justin Herbert. This is a shot play designed for Guyton. Herbert knows where he is going with the ball as soon as the ball is snapped. But when his eyes look the safety off, he draws his attention towards Tyron Johnson. When the safety creeps, Herbert delivers a beautiful pass with fantastic touch to Jalen Guyton.

The ability to draw the safety and throw a deep ball with touch is reminiscent of Texans QB Deshaun Watson.

Check out this throw from Watson back in 2017 when he looks off Earl Thomas and finds Will Fuller deep.

Via NFL

While Herbert may have a stronger arm than Watson, they both share a similar ability on deep throws. Both Watson and Herbert are very athletic and can extend plays. From what I’ve seen from Herbert so far, he could become one of the best deep throw QB’s in the NFL.

Arm Strength – Matthew Stafford

Coming into the draft, scouts were praising two aspects of Herbert’s game. His athleticism and his arm strength. Herbert can put a ton of zip on the football. That helps with those tight window throws that QB’s with weaker arms just can’t make.

Accuracy is vitally important, but the sky is the limit for a quarterback with a rocket arm and accuracy. Herbert has both of those, and Chargers fans should be very excited for the future.

Below is a touchdown from last week where Justin Herbert fires the ball between the linebacker in coverage and the safety helping over the top.

Via @NFL on Twitter

When looking at arm strength, he is similar to Matthew Stafford. Herbert doesn’t have the ability to toss the ball 80 yards downfield, but he could sling it 50 yards downfield on a rope. That’s very similar to Stafford, who for a long time had one of the stronger arms in the league.

Arm strength is just as important when firing between two defenders as it is when heaving the ball downfield. Let’s take a look at this throw by Stafford from a few seasons ago. He fires the ball between a corner and safety for the big play.

Via @Lions on Twitter

Both Stafford and Herbert have the unique ability to put the ball on a laser between coverage. Very few quarterbacks have the arm strength, accuracy, and confidence to pull these throws off. While this is a positive aspect, it does involve some risk.

Herbert, much like Stafford when he was younger, is a bit over confident with his arm strength. That could lead to throws in very tight windows, and in turn lead to interceptions.

While Herbert is at his best when slinging the ball and playing with confidence, coaches must make sure he stays grounded early in his career.

Athleticism – Ryan Tannehill

Before the draft, one of the most common comparisons for Herbert was Titans QB Ryan Tannehill. That was justifiable, as they are both tall, have strong arms, and are extremely athletic. However, Herbert is at a better place early in his career.

However, scouts were spot on with the athleticism comparison. They are very quick, can buy time with their legs, and when lanes open up they can take off running.

Herbert doesn’t have the speed of Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, but he is a very athletic quarterback. He takes long strides and is able to make some defenders miss with quick cuts. He is able to throw a solid ball on the run as well.

Like Tannehill was early in his career, Herbert is behind a subpar offensive line. At times, plays break down and he’s forced to run the football. Sometimes they design rollouts that leave him open running lanes.

Herbert had a rushing touchdown last week on one of those play-action rollouts.

Via @Chargers on Twitter

This run is very similar to a Tannehill rushing touchdown last season against the Jags where he rolled right and took off downfield. Check out the play below.

Via NFL on YouTube

Both of these quarterbacks are very tall and very athletic, and are capable of making plays with their legs when the opportunities arise.

Short to Mid Range Accuracy – Jared Goff

Justin Herbert is doing a very good job of completing his short to mid range throws. He is comparable to Rams quarterback Jared Goff in that regard. The reason this comparison can be made is because both QB’s throw the ball with tremendous accuracy when throwing towards the sideline. Goff is one of the best at throwing the ball outside the numbers on those intermediate throws. Herbert is showing that same ability.

Like Goff, Herbert will throw a bad pass or two, but he rarely ever misses an open receiver. On timing throws he is brilliant. Herbert still has to make some improvements when feeling pressure, but that’s common for young quarterbacks. With more experience and a better understanding of the speed that NFL players play with, Herbert could grow to be one of the better mid-range QB’s in the league.

The battle of Los Angeles should be very interesting with both of the quarterbacks leading their respective teams. Goff is a quarterback with a lot of arm talent. Herbert has truly limitless potential. Both guys are very skilled and have the ability to dissect opposing defenses.

Final Comparison – 50% Ryan Tannehill, 25% Matthew Stafford, 25% Carson Wentz

Herbert is a mixture of a lot of different players. He has the size, toughness, and ability to shed tackles behind the pocket much like Carson Wentz. He has the athleticism, ability to throw on the move, and efficiency that we are now seeing out of Ryan Tannehill. Herbert also has the ability to throw absolute darts between coverage, much like Matthew Stafford.

It is still early in his career, but so far from what we’ve seen, Herbert has the makings of a star quarterback. There is nothing that tells me he won’t be the answer in Los Angeles for the next 10-15 or so years.

The franchise is lucky to go from Philip Rivers right into Justin Herbert. Now the Chargers’ front office should focus on building a solid team around him. The offensive line must improve and that should be priority number one.

Overall, Herbert has an incredible ceiling. From what I’ve seen, he has All-Pro maybe even MVP potential. It is still very early in his career, however. Not long ago we were ready to crown Carson Wentz as the future of the NFL. Now there are questions about his job security going forward.

Herbert has an Aaron Rodgers level ceiling, a Ryan Tannehill level base, and a Carson Wentz level floor. Any of which are starting and star caliber quarterbacks.