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Why the Vikings should, shouldn't consider Justin Herbert in the NFL Draft

Could the Vikings land a Duck in the NFL Draft?

Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his $84 million contract and the Vikings need a plan to stabilize the quarterback position for the future.

After examining Tua Tagovailoa in the first part of our NFL Draft quarterback series, we go a little further down the ranks for another possible trade target in Oregon's Justin Herbert. 

The former Duck has a bit of a polarizing standing within the draft community, but after a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, he figures to be one of the draft's top quarterback prospects.

Why the Vikings should draft Herbert

Herbert has long had the eyes of NFL scouts as he could have been a top pick in last year's class. Instead, he opted to return to Oregon to continue his studies, which saw him post a 4.0 GPA and win the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is reserved for college football's best scholar-athlete.

On the field, Herbert didn't have the gaudy stats that you would expect from a first-rounder, but he showed plenty that could make him a fit for a team like the Vikings, including an arm that makes it look like there's a bazooka attached to his shoulder.

It's one thing to have an arm like this, but it's another to have the desire to use it in any situation. Herbert threw 95 touchdowns during his time with Oregon and averaged 8.2 yards per attempt. While he has some gunslinger to him, it hasn't resulted in interceptions – just 23 interceptions in 43 games.

This doesn't mean that Herbert is just a deep ball quarterback either. His completion percentage won't raise eyebrows at 64 percent, but he still works the intermediate levels of the field, which is something that would work well in Gary Kubiak's offensive scheme.

To top things off, Herbert is an athlete in the pocket and uses his feet to extend plays and occasionally break off a big run such as the one that put away Wisconsin in last year's Rose Bowl (second play of the highlight reel above). All of these traits make him a fit as an heir apparent to Cousins, but there are still some things that raise concern.

At the Senior Bowl, Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan raved about Herbert

"He’s very talented physically. He’s got prototypical size and athletic ability. He has a really, really strong arm." Callahan said, "On top of that, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s very conscientious. He gathers information, he can process it and he can call it."

Why the Vikings shouldn't draft Herbert

Just like with Tagovailoa, Herbert carries a significant injury history coming into the draft. In 2014, his junior season of high school was cut short due to a broken femur and in 2017, he missed five games with a broken collarbone, in which the Ducks posted a 1-4 record in his absence.

Herbert has been able to stay on the field the past two seasons, but with the Vikings' shaky offensive line history, it would be a slight concern to place someone with injury concerns under center.

Despite Callahan's testament to Herbert's ability to process a defense, not everyone looks at him the same way. As The Draft Network's Jordan Reid explains: 

"The former Ducks QB was involved in a system that incorporated a mixture of quick game and true drop back passing concepts. Because all of the rapid and inconsistent mixtures, it became a detriment to his eyes and being able to disguise where he wants to navigate the ball. On throws in the intermediate-to-deep areas that involve development, Herbert becomes fixated and locks into his first few reads, not knowing when to progress through to the next. Telegraphing throws has been a constant bad habit."

That screams "system quarterback," but it's also similar to what many draft experts said about Patrick Mahomes when he was going through the pre-draft process. How'd his rocket arm and system QB label work out for the Super Bowl champs?

That said, another extension of Herbert's perceived weakness at reading a defense can be seen in a review of his 2019 interceptions by Mark Schofield, who pointed out that Herbert has a tendency to place the ball as opposed to using his cannon arm to rifle it in there.

Outlook

If the Vikings want Herbert, odds are they are going to have to trade up to get him. There are some great things about his game such as a willingness to throw 50/50 balls that would help Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen refrain from in-game meltdowns, but a bit of injury history and system QB label are drawbacks from the outside looking in. 

Herbert has the traits to become a leader of a franchise, but odds are he'll need a year or two before he's ready to become just that. The Vikings can afford to give Herbert the time he needs in the final year of Cousins' deal, but for the amount of assets it would take to get him to Minnesota, the Vikings might be wise to look somewhere else.

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