Anonymous NFL Scout: Justin Herbert, Not Joe Burrow, Is NFL Draft's 'Safest QB'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2020

TEMPE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Oregon Ducks warms up before the NCAAF game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Although Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa are widely considered to be the top two quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL draft class, Justin Herbert is gaining some late momentum ahead of Thursday's first round. 

The Athletic's Ben Standig spoke to one scout who said the Oregon star is the "safest" signal-caller on the board:

"Several sources made Herbert over Tagovailoa claims to The Athletic in the last 3-4 weeks. All led their decision with the Alabama lefty's medical concerns. Some acknowledged they had yet to fully process Tagovailoa's recent individual workout or medical report on his surgically repaired hip.

"While the rationale for this switcheroo primarily focuses on Tagovailoa's lengthy injury history, Herbert's high-floor, along with his arm talent, stands out. 'The safest QB is Herbert,' said a scouting source. 'That includes Joe Burrow.'"

Dr. Lyle Cain, Alabama's team surgeon, told Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm that Tagovailoa's recovery from a hip fracture had gone exactly according to plan—and perhaps went even better than expected.

"I am extremely pleased," Cain said. "If you told me four, almost five, months ago now that he’d be where he is now, I think I would have been very happy. I think he’s done extremely well for where he started out."

Still, the hip injury is a significant wild card for any team interest in selecting the Crimson Tide star, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated the possibility of an in-person evaluation beyond the NFL Scouting Combine.

Tagovailoa also had ankle surgery last October, so his health concerns aren't limited to his hip.

Burrow, meanwhile, is almost universally expected to be the No. 1 pick based largely on the strength of his senior season. His 2019 production (5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns) dwarfed what he had done through his three previous seasons (3,181 yards, 18 touchdowns).

One NFC coach was particularly critical of Burrow to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero:

"He ends up with a pro coach (Joe Brady) in a really good system with the best players. He's a great processor and he is everything I'd want in a quarterback -- if I took him in the second or third round. He's not a natural thrower, can't really pump it down the field. Now, he can throw it back-shoulder and uncovered and he's got anticipation, but that ball's wobbling. Love him, but I think he's a high-risk guy at 1."

Herbert arguably has a more proven track record than Burrow. He finished with 10,541 yards, 95 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 43 career appearances with Oregon.

He isn't without his own detractors, though, who question whether he has the right personality to thrive in the pros. 

In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had Burrow, Tagovailoa and Herbert going Nos. 1, 5 and 6, respectively.