Teams kicking around the idea of targeting a young franchise quarterback this offseason now have to reconsider their offseason draft strategy. Broncos general manager John Elway tried to put on a brave face on Wednesday after hearing the news.
Elway added: "All it will do is help him and make him a better football player. ... As far as what people think of him, it's not going to go down between his junior and senior year."
As it stands, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, who was given a first-round grade by the advisory board last week, could be the only quarterback to hear his name called in Round 1 -- and this assumes he doesn't return to college either (Haskins is a redshirt sophomore).
It's worth noting: Haskins -- and Herbert before his announcement -- stands to make a lot more money by coming out now; in a year's time, the quarterback class could be stacked; in addition to Herbert, there will be Michigan's Shea Patterson, Georgia's Jake Fromm and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.
In the coming weeks and months, NFL teams desperate for a quarterback -- the Jags top the list but the Broncos, Buccaneers,Giants, Dolphins and maybe even the Bengals and Redskins could all be in the mix -- will be tasked with finding another first-round talent. Here's an early look at the top prospects.
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State. Here's a stat that should get your attention: Haskins, a redshirt sophomore, completed 70.2 percent of his passes this season as he transformed Ohio State's offense. He attempted a whopping 496 throws, completing 348 of them, 47 of which found the end zone for touchdowns. Forty-seven! He also threw for 4,580 yards but his best effort came in the Buckeyes' two more recent games; he had six touchdowns and no interceptions against Michigan, and followed that up with a five-touchdown effort against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. In those two outings, Haskins completed 75 percent of his passes and had just one turnover.
Drew Lock, Missouri. Here's our quick and dirty assessment of Drew Lock: He's a lot like Jay Cutler -- both the good and bad. Lock can throw the ball a mile but he has never met a coverage he couldn't squeeze a pass into, and sometimes his decisions leave you wondering if he even had his eyes open on the play. But when he's on ... whew boy, it's fun to watch.
Daniel Jones, Duke. We like Daniel Jones a lot for all the little things he does to make the players around him better. But there are also warning signs that teams will have to evaluate to determine if he's a worthy first-rounder. For starters, Jones completed just 59 percent of his throws this season, slightly up from 56.7 in 2017. He also managed just 17 touchdowns, which is considerably less than Haskins' 47 and Lock's 25. But some of that can be blamed on the players around Jones, many of whom aren't quite at the level of what Haskins and Lock have had to work with.
Will Grier, West Virginia. Grier has a very good understanding of the defense prior to the snap, and he gets the ball out quickly on shorter routes. He also shows good touch on sideline routes, though he sometimes tries to make plays when throwing the ball away would be the prudent move. But there's something to be said for taking risks; there aren't a lot of by-the-book NFL franchise quarterbacks. We still have questions about his downfield arm-strength accuracy, though he did throw 37 touchdowns in 2018 after throwing 34 the season before.
Ryan Finley, NC State. First things first: We don't see Ryan Finley as a first-round pick. But that doesn't mean he can't play in the NFL, or that he won't get over-drafted because of the lack of depth in the 2019 quarterback class. He reminds us of Kirk Cousins, who signed an all-guaranteed $84 million deal last offseason and has been a top-12 quarterback this season, according to Football Outsiders, despite playing behind a dreadful offensive line.
Brett Rypien, Boise State. We were excited to see Rypien square off against Boston College in the First Responders Bowl on Wednesday but it was canceled because of weather. He leaves Boise State having his best season to date, completing a career-best 67.3 percent of throws for 3,705 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He can carve up a zone defense with quick accurate throws though he occasionally struggles to get through his progressions. Rypien could change a lot of minds with a good East-West Shrine Bowl performance, NFL combine and Pro Day.
(Note: In the table below, the teams are sorted from "most likely to have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft" to "least likely" using two different methods. The "Current record" column does what the name suggests: Teams are first sorted by their '18 records, strength of schedule, via Tankathon. The other column is sorted by the "SportsLine's preseason projected draft order." Finally, if you'd like to see who we have each team taking.)
SportsLine preseason projected draft order
San Francisco (4-11)
New York Jets (4-11)
Tampa Bay (5-10)
New York Giants (5-10)
Green Bay (6-8-1)
Oakland (via Cowboys)* (9-6)
Chicago (to Oakland)** (11-4)
Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)
New England (10-5)
Los Angeles Rams (12-3)
Kansas City (11-4)
New Orleans (to Green Bay)*** (13-2)
* Dallas sent its 2019 first-round pick to Oakland as part of the Amari Cooper trade.
** Chicago sent its 2019 first-round pick to Oakland as part of the Khalil Mack trade.
*** New Orleans sent its 2019 first-round pick to Green Bay to draft Marcus Davenport in 2018.
Jacksonville at Houston
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Texans have to win and hope the Jets can outlast the Patriots in order for Houston to regain the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which they can also accomplish with a Chiefs loss, a Chargers loss and a Texans win. The Jags have nothing to play for and if recent games are any indication, they won't show up on Sunday.
Dallas at New York Giants
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
As NFC East champs, the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed. The Giants are playing for pride, as the old saying goes, and perhaps more specifically, 37-year-old Eli Manning is making his case for why he should be the starter in 2019. Dallas may play their starters for a while but there's no reason to leave them on the field for the entire meaningless game.
New York Jets at New England
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
It's hard to imagine Todd Bowles will be back in New York, even if the manages to beat the Patriots on Sunday. Too much has gone wrong too often. New England has been in this situation countless times before and they'll look to hold onto the No. 2 seed and first-round bye.
Detroit at Green Bay
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Two of the most disappointing teams in the NFC North, there's nothing to play for here. That said, first-year Lions coach Matt Patricia desperately needs a win; as it stands, this group, now 5-10, is four wins off what Jim Caldwell managed in back-to-back seasons, and that ultimately got him fired.
San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
The 49ers are, for the second straight season, the worst-best team in the NFL, going 2-1 in recent weeks with wins over the Broncos and Seahawks. That will be little consolation to coach Kyle Shanahan, who lost several of his best players to injuries, but things are (again) looking up for next season. The Rams can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a victory, which they'll do without Todd Gurley, who will again be replaced by just-signed C.J. Anderson.
Arizona at Seattle
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
The Seahawks are locked into the fifth seed while the Cardinals have long been eliminated from the playoffs. Perhaps the only real drama is whether first-year coach Steve Wilks will keep his job after an abysmal season.
Oakland at Kansas City
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
The Raiders are playing better down the stretch and the Chiefs haven't been quite as explosive as they have early in the season. That said, if Kansas City wins, it'll win the division and the No. 1 seed. It won't be easy but Andy Reid isn't going to let Jon Gruden keep him from home-field advantage throughout the postseason.