2019 NFL Draft QB Stock Watch: Maybe Justin Herbert actually needs to stay at Oregon for another year

Justin Herbert probably needs to return to Oregon for his senior season. 

Last week, I touched on Jason La Canfora’s report that sources told him Herbert was “far more likely that the junior actually remains in school for another year,” and after Herbert’s play of late, it’d probably be in the best interest of his chances at long-term success in the NFL to get one more year of experience at the collegiate level before turning pro. 

However, I’ll never fault a college player for entering the draft to start earning money, and I still assume Herbert would be the first quarterback taken in the 2019 Draft if he declared for it. But he’s now had three-consecutive games of completion percentages under 60 percent and has five such outings on the season. He had an average game against Washington, then was bad in the first half against Washington State before dazzling in the second half, and he had his worst game of the season at Arizona on Saturday night. 

Here’s the latest edition of QB Stock Watch. 

1. Ryan Finley, NC State: Stock Up

In a game that seemingly featured two offensive coordinators calling “four verticals” all game, Finley put a handful of impressive deep balls on film in the loss to Syracuse over the weekend. His first touchdown was a 35-yard rope down the seam to his tight end for a score, and he found Kelvin Harmon a little over 50 yards down the field for what was ultimately a 74-yard touchdown. Late in the second quarter he connected with Harmon again on a perfectly placed sideline deep shot for a big-gainer. They created splash play in the fourth quarter too on a similar play. His third score was a touch on his patented back-shoulder fade to Harmon.

His worst play of the day came when he forced a pass on an out-breaking route as he was hit and was interception, which essentially ended the game. He had a few high misses too. Overall, Finley showed he could easily stretch the field from the pocket, a big plus for him as his arm strength has been in question. 

2. Justin Herbert, Oregon: Stock Down

After his best half of football this season in the final two quarters in the loss to Washington State, Herbert was not sharp whatsoever in the entire contest against Arizona, as the Wildcats steamrolled the Ducks. His first throw of the night had great timing and accuracy on a routine comeback route, but after that, almost all of his throws were either clearly late or simply inaccurate. 

By now we know Herbert can be patient and drift in the pocket, necessities for playing quarterback at a high level. But he’s had trouble reading coverages, making sound decisions when his first read isn’t open, and, occasionally, with ball placement. He was late and underthrew the football on his interception and had two other passes that should’ve been picked following him releasing the football a second later than it needed to be out. He wasn’t able to connect with his receivers deep, and the high and wide throws at the intermediate level against Arizona were concerning. The Wildcats play a lot of man-to-man, which heightens the priority of ball placement. When they went to zone coverage, the junior quarterback had trouble recognizing where the ball should go. Herbert just didn’t have it on Saturday night. 

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3. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Stock Steady

It was a classic day for Lock against one of the stingiest defenses in the SEC. For every time he stood in the pocket, surveyed the entire field, then threw a laser to his second or third read, he had a play that featured him leaving the pocket too early and throwing high and wide of his target. 

His first half was better than his second half, and he did drop a few passes in the bucket down the sideline. I noticed him find holes in the zone well but a few of those throws were a tick late which allowed Kentucky defenders to get their hands on the football. Not a stock-dropper but not a stock-raiser either for Missouri’s senior quarterback. 

4. Will Grier, West Virginia: Stock Up, Slightly

After a few downfield misses early, Grier found David Sills on a long ball then hit him in stride for a score in the second quarter before hitting him again down the sideline for a touchdown. West Virginia pummeled Baylor, and as the game got out of hand, Grier wasn’t asked to do too much. 

And, actually, in the first quarter, the Mountaineers offense was very screen-heavy. He went 17 of 27 for 353 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. It wasn’t a game that significantly helped his draft stock, but it was a much-needed performance after back-to-back poor outings against Kansas and Iowa State. 

5. Daniel Jones, Duke: Stock Steady

In the rain in Pittsburgh, it was an up and down day for Jones. And there were more ups than downs. His touchdown in the second quarter to T..J. Rahming was a spectacular display of touch on fade from the slot near the goal line, and he fit the ball through a small window to Rahming on a slant later. 

Jones threw with great anticipation and rhythm for the vast majority of the game at the short and intermediate levels, but his ball-placement was lacking on a few of those tosses. For a good portion of the contest, Jones seemed uncomfortable inside the pocket when his first read was covered and was hit or miss down the field with his downfield accuracy. The weather conditions likely had an impact on his footwork and grip on the ball, but not a bad day for Jones, who finished 27 of 42 for 396 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. 

Honorable Mention: Brett Rypien, Boise State 

Second-straight week for Rypien at this spot. He went 20 of 34 for 399 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Broncos win over Air Force. He now has 23 passing scores to just five picks on the season and has routinely demonstrated fantastic touch down the field. 

The deep ball is his strength but beyond that, he’s not amazing in any area but the rest of his game is well-rounded. He has a good, not great arm, throws with anticipation at times and doesn’t struggle with ball-placement. He is the senior sleeper at the quarterback position in this class. 

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