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Justin Herbert
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QB KlassRoom

Quantifying Quarterbacks: Justin Herbert

by Derrik Klassen
Updated On: February 5, 2020, 1:05 am ET

Quantifying Quarterbacks is an NFL Draft focused quarterback charting project geared toward providing as much information about as much of a quarterback's recent career as possible. Over 20 data points are recorded for any given pass attempt, ranging from down-and-distance, personnel grouping, play-action, depth of target, accuracy, and much more. Quantifying Quarterbacks charts the entirety of a quarterback's final college season, as well as a smaller sample (four games) from their previous season. All of this charting is done manually by me during and after the college football season. For a more in-depth look at what exactly Quantifying Quarterbacks is, here is a link to last year's final product: 2019 Quantifying Quarterbacks.


Justin Herbert Charting Profile
Distance (Usage Rate) Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside Total
20+ (16.08%) 9/19 (6 TD) 11/20 (3 TD) 10/16 (3 TD) 13/23 (5 TD) 43/78 (17 TD)
16-20 (9.28%) 9/15 (1 TD) 4/8 (1 INT) 5/10 (1 INT) 8/12 (3 TD) 26/45 (4 TD, 1 INT)
11-15 (14.64%) 5/9 (1 TD) 12/21 (2 TD, 1 INT) 21/27 (3 TD, 2 INT) 8/14 46/71 (6 TD, 3 INT)
6-10 (14.64%) 6/11 (1 TD) 13/18 (2 TD) 14/19 (1 INT) 16/23 (1 INT) 49/71 (3 TD, 2 INT)
1-5 (22.89%) 22/25 24/28 (1 TD) 30/35 (2 TD, 1 INT) 19/23 (1 TD) 95/111 (4 TD, 1 INT)
0 (22.06%) 23/24 (6 TD) 32/34 (1 TD) 28/33 (2 TD) 14/16 97/107 (9 TD)
Total (485 plays) 74/103  (15 TD) 96/129 (9 TD, 1 INT) 108/140 (10 TD, 5 INT) 78/111 (9 TD, 1 INT) 356/483 (43 TD, 7 INT)

Games Sampled: Bowling Green (2018), Stanford (2018), Cal (2018), Washington (2018), entire 2019 season (except Washington State game — could not find)

CHARTING EXTRAS

Blatant Drops: 15

Forced Adjustments: 22 (4.54%)

Contested Drops: 39

Passes Defended: 29

Explosive Plays (25+ yards or a touchdown): 62 (12.78% of plays)

Throwaways: 2

Almost one-quarter of Justin Herbert’s pass attempts were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. Some of that is because Oregon uses screens as an extension of the run game and, to the same tune, some of that is because Oregon frequent RPO (run-pass option) territory. By itself, throwing at or behind the line of scrimmage isn’t terrible — heck, Haskins did it about 20% of the time at Ohio State and he ended up as my QB1 — but it does play a part in Herbert’s target map being a bit lopsided. 

As would be expected, a portion of those screen throws are siphoned from instances in which other offenses may be using more legitimate quick-game passes to target the 1-5 yard area, which makes sense of why Herbert’s usage to that area is relatively low. Herbert also comes in with below average target rate in the 6-10 yard area, though. To be fair, Herbert does not come in dramatically low in those two sections, but to come in low in both is unusual for a quarterback. 

Conversely, Herbert’s 9.28% target rate in the 16-20 yard area is very high and his 16.08% target rate beyond 20 yards is about average. He appears plenty capable and willing to attack the downfield areas of the field. When coupled with his high volume of screen passes, Herbert’s target map doesn’t have much of a middle ground. 

Only 29.28% of Herbert’s passes were in the 6-15 yard range. For whatever it is worth, all three 2019 first-round QBs targeted that area at least 34% of the time, and even second-round pick Drew Lock came in at 32.35%. The same held true in 2018: none of the four first-round QB picks targeted the 6-15 yard area less than 32.28% of the time. The only three QBs to target the 6-15 yard area less than 30% of the time in last year’s class were Tyree Jackson, Gardner Minshew, and Jarrett Stidham, all of whom were Day 3 picks or went undrafted. 

Considering the intermediate area of the field is the most valuable section of the field, it would have been nice to see Herbert let loose there a bit more often. He’s proven he is plenty effective when doing so, particularly on play-action concepts, but the expected volume just isn’t there. It’s as if there is a disconnect between his play style and what his physical tools suggest he should be getting away with. 

 

ACCURACY AND ENVIRONMENT

Adjusted Accuracy: 73.08%

Outside the Pocket Percentage: 12.99%

Adjusted Accuracy Outside the Pocket: 66.51%

Under Pressure Percentage: 17.94%

Adjusted Accuracy Under Pressure: 61.26%

Most Common Personnel Package: 10 and 11 personnel (42.27% each)

Shotgun Percentage: 100%

Empty Formations Frequency: 3.51%

Play-Action Percentage: 36.70%

Play-Action Adjusted Accuracy: 78.82%

Designed Rollout Frequency: 8.04%

Let’s start with the basic adjusted accuracy score. At 73.08%, Herbert is in the upper echelon of prospects in my database with respect to accuracy. However, if you ask many analysts, myself included, a gripe with him may be that consistent ball placement isn’t always present in Herbert’s game. To a different degree, the same sentiment and accuracy success was true of Lamar Jackson. 

The disconnect with QBs who fall into this perplexing category is this: when they (Herbert, in this case) miss, it looks bad, and a good portion of their misfires seem to come in situations that should have no excuse for a bad throw. Even though Herbert is “on” a lot of the time, at least with respect to accuracy, he has a handful of confusing misses from clean platforms or rockets that fly behind a WR’s head each game. Since the ugly is so bad and apparent, it may stick around in our mind more than it actually should, which is a sentiment I’m willing to buy into given how impressive his adjusted accuracy score is. 

All of Herbert’s situational accuracy numbers are impressive, too. With over 65% accuracy outside the pocket and nearly 80% accuracy on play-action, Herbert has proven himself someone who can function on long-developing plays, whether that is by design or forced upon him by the defense. Granted, a decent portion of Herbert’s play-action passes are RPOs, but Oregon did call for standard play-action shots down the field quite often and Herbert often executed them well. The two categories even overlap a bit as just over 8% of Herbert’s attempts were on rollouts, which almost always are preceded by a hand-off fake before the QB rolls from the pocket. 

Even Herbert’s accuracy under pressure is solid. Herbert has often been criticized for his play under pressure, which is fair based on his tape, but when he lets it rip, he does a good enough job of getting it to his man. The bigger issue with Herbert under pressure is that he will freeze and take sacks that he shouldn’t, which obviously won’t show up in passing chart numbers. 

The main gripe I have with Herbert in this section is the same gripe I had with Tua Tagovailoa: a low rate of snaps played out of empty formations. To reiterate, empty formations spread the field horizontally, which both forces defenses to declare their coverages more clearly while also giving a defense’s pass rush a clearer picture of what the protection will be. In turn, QBs get a clearer picture of how to attack a defense, but have to do so very quickly because the pass-rush can get home almost instantly. While playing out of empty a lot in college isn’t a necessity, it’s a bit of a barometer for me in terms of which teams trust their QB to see the field well and act on it without delay. For comparison, LSU QB Joe Burrow played from empty formations about 17% of the time through his sample. This is by no means a killer for Herbert, and it doesn’t even really hurt him in my eyes, but rather it was a chance to earn a “boost” from me and he didn’t earn it. 

 

PASS RUSH

Avg. Number of Pass Rushers: 4.32

Three or Fewer Pass Rushers Frequency: 11.34%

Four Pass Rushers Frequency: 50.93%

Five Pass Rushers Frequency: 32.37%

Six or More Pass Rushers Frequency: 5.36%

Nothing major stands out from this section. His average number of opposing pass-rushers is normal and none of his frequency splits are abnormal. If anything, it may be worth noting that Herbert’s rate of seeing six-or-more pass rushers is at least a full percentage point lower than both Burrow and Tagovailoa, but I don’t think that’s beyond the scope of reasonable deviation. That is not a significant enough difference to make any conclusion from. Herbert’s five pass-rusher frequency might be a tad high, but similar to Tagovailoa, the high presence of RPOs in the offense can lead to plays that are muddied as to how many pass-rushers a team is actually bringing.

 

SITUATIONAL

3rd/4th Down Adjusted Accuracy: 70.00%

3rd/4th Down Conversion Rate: 44.00%

4th Quarter/Overtime Adjusted Accuracy: 72.23%

Red Zone Adjusted Accuracy: 67.86%

Herbert has exactly a 26% difference between his adjusted accuracy and his conversion rate on 3rd/4th down. That is even higher than Burrow’s difference, which I had noted was a wide enough gap to raise concern. With Burrow, however, the gap didn’t match the eye test and what I remembered from Burrow’s film, so it gave legitimate reason to go back to his film and see where I can fill in the gaps. Herbert, on the other hand, isn’t a surprise candidate for someone who completes many passes short of the sticks. 

3rd/4th down conservatism doesn’t fit Herbert’s physical skill set. He is an impressive athlete with absurd arm strength and a dash of creative spirit when moving outside of the pocket. In theory, that would be all the makings for a daring and effective 3rd/4th down passer, but that isn’t the case with Herbert. The Oregon senior is more than willing to check it down to a running back out of the backfield or hit a shallow crosser early in the play in hopes that their yards-after-catch ability will bring them to the sticks. He isn’t quite Alex Smith, but considering his physical tools, he is much closer to Smith than he should be. 

As for 4th quarter/overtime accuracy and red zone accuracy, Herbert passes each test with flying colors. He won’t finish with best-in-class marks in either category, but there isn’t anything to worry about with his accuracy scores over those two splits.