Watch Now: Oregon QB Justin Herbert discusses facing Stanford (0:57)

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert could be a polarizing prospect during the NFL Draft process. He possesses all the traits: size, enough mobility to extend the play and a cannon attached to his right arm. However, he has been inconsistent with his accuracy and other fine details. CBS Sports took a deep dive into the Oregon native's tape against Montana.

What Herbert did well

As noted, Herbert possesses ideal size. He has devoted his offseasons to gaining weight necessary to withstand the brutal hits that he could sustain within the Pac-12 and NFL. His sturdy frame allows him to shake off would-be tacklers and have a second chance to make a play. It was on display Saturday in the team's 35-3 win over Montana. On one of his five touchdown passes, Herbert side-stepped a defender, rolled out of the pocket and threw a duck to wide receiver Johnny Johnson III for an 18-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first half. 

Oregon did not receive much competition from the Grizzlies. The quarterback completed 30-of-42 pass attempts for 316 yards and five touchdowns. There were a lot of screens where yards after the catch boosted his statistics, but that happens with all quarterbacks. Last season, Herbert completed just 59.4 percent of his passes. Those results were due to poor footwork in the pocket. It looks as though he worked hard on his technique this offseason because he has completed 77.3 percent of his passes in 2019. 

The 21 year old looked really calm and comfortable in the pocket this weekend. He was able to establish a solid base and align his body with the target for most of the game. Montana senior inside linebacker Dante Olson and senior safety Josh Sandry are both potential draft prospects, but it is difficult to compete against an Oregon offensive line that features five future NFL linemen. 

On this touchdown to tight end Jacob Breeland, Herbert pump fakes to the running back in the flat (reminder, they threw a lot of screens) and it drew Sandry up, which allows Breeland to sneak up the sideline for an easy pitch and catch. 

Those are some of the small details that Herbert needs to continue improving upon. I wanted to start with those because it is always easy to take the check down in the end: his arm strength. There are not many college quarterbacks who can throw the out route like Herbert. On the first play of this montage, the 6-foot-6, 237 pound quarterback shows off his arm by throwing the ball just as Breeland gets his head around to find the ball. 

When a strong-armed quarterback can throw with this much anticipation, the defense has no chance. 

Where Herbert could improve

While there were more positives than negatives this week, Herbert can always find an area for improvement. When pressured, it appears that Herbert gets flustered and is known to take his eyes from downfield. He does not have a natural feel in the pocket yet. There are quarterbacks playing on Sunday who seemingly have eyes in the back of their head and can detect the faintest sense of danger. 

Ball placement could be better for the Eugene, Oregon native. He made a dangerous throw down the sideline that should have gone to the back shoulder. The defender was in the hip pocket of the wide receiver every step of the way. 

He has done a better job of manipulating the defense with his eyes, as noted in the wheel route that went for a touchdown above. There are times where he will stare down a receiver. On this play, as Ian Wharton notes, he senses a little bit of pressure and tries to fit the ball into a tight window but it sails low and behind. The ball falls harmlessly to the ground, but the linebacker was watching his eyes the entire time. If he could have held the linebacker with his eyes for one more second, then a window may have opened. He was already feeling the pressure of the blitz though. 

Herbert can get away with that at the collegiate level but the success rate will not be nearly as high in the big leagues. He has a strong arm but he can ill afford to give the defensive back an advantage. On a wide receiver screen, he did not see the linebacker playing up and it could have been a pick six had it been six inches lower. 


Herbert has already shown better accuracy and more consistency in his mechanics this season to go along with his strong arm and ideal frame. If he can improve his pocket awareness and his understanding of what the defense is showing him, as well as how to manipulate the defense with his eyes, then he will be impossible to defend. 

NFL teams will continue to monitor his progression but there are several reasons to like what he brings to the table. There is no way that the Ducks quarterback falls to the second round. Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa is his primary competition to be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. He has the higher upside but his floor is starting to rise as well.