There have been plenty of rumblings that Oregon QB Justin Herbert would opt for a return to school for his senior season and not declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, but it's still surprising given he likely would have been a top-10 pick and first quarterback selected had he declared.
One year after five quarterbacks were selected in the first round, the 2019 QB class is shaping up to be a much weaker class. While key decisions from Duke's Daniel Jones and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins still loom, the 2019 crop pales in comparison even if they come out. With Herbert staying in school, the group is arguably the weakest since 2013 when EJ Manuel was the first passer taken and the only first-round selection.
With Herbert putting the NFL on hold for another season, he faces much stiffer competition to be the first QB drafted in 2020. Joining the draft-eligible discussion are highly-accomplished passers in Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia's Jake Fromm.
Who this decision is bad for
Obviously the rest of the Pac 12 would love to see a potent passer like Herbert playing his football on Sunday's next year, but from an NFL perspective, Herbert staying in school is unwelcome news for almost every team.
With a premiere QB prospect now officially out of the mix, teams needing a QB have diminishing options in a weak group. With the QB-needy Jaguars and Giants likely to pick in the top-10, there is no consolation prize for the team that doesn't get its pick of quarterback.
For teams picking early in the draft that are set at quarterback, Herbert staying in school no longer pushes a prospect down the board where Herbert would have been selected. It also reduces the opportunity to trade back and acquire assets from a team in desperate search of its answer at quarterback that is looking to trade up.
Who this decision is good for
The Oregon Ducks are obviously elated with this news. Finishing 4th in the Pac 12 North with an 8-4 record, the revenge tour is set to commence next season.
The rest of the 2019 QB crop stands to benefit greatly with Herbert not in the mix. Missouri's Drew Lock, in addition to the aforementioned Jones and Haskins should they declare, become even more valuable.
The biggest beneficiaries are the teams in need of or are soon to be in need of a quarterback that were out of striking distance to get one. Teams like Miami, Washington, Denver and Cincinnati that must identify its next course at the most important position in football but are picking outside of the top-10 are pleased to see the 2020 QB crop strengthened. With Haskins likely going to the highest bidder, the Dolphins, Redskins, Broncos and Bengals can focus their attention on improving their rosters elsewhere and positioning themselves to land a QB in next year's draft.
Herbert staying in school is delightful news for several current NFL quarterbacks hoping to land starting gigs on a new team next season. Whether its free agents like Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor or vets likely to be cut/traded in Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill, more openings now exist for them to have chances to be "the guy" again.
Criticizing any prospects decision to stay in school or declare for the draft is challenging given all of the factors, hypotheticals and unknowns that exist. All indications are that Herbert would have been a high selection with significant financial implications at stake which he chose to delay for another year. Let's hope he stays healthy, develops and is thought of even more favorably one year from now.
Between the new draft-eligible prospects, Herbert and other prospects that will ultimately stay in school, 2020 is already shaping up to be a loaded draft class. Look for teams to stockpile assets in the coming months so they can be in the mix to take advantage of all the talent next year has to offer.