Justin Herbert Should Already Be a Lock for This Prestigious NFL Award

With Joe Burrow’s untimely injury in November, the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award just got more interesting. While Burrow wasn’t necessarily the runaway choice for the award before his injury, the quarterback’s name was in the mix. Now that Burrow is gone, Justin Herbert’s case for the prestigious award just got a little bit stronger.

Joe Burrow’s rookie NFL year

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Burrow’s rise from successful, albeit obscure quarterback to No. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year favorite was jarringly quick. The QB had a five-year college career. But Burrow spent three of those years coming off the bench at Ohio State. He transferred to LSU. Thanks to a redshirt exemption, Burrow was given a fifth year of eligibility after an unspectacular first year at Louisiana. 

The following year, everything changed. Burrow led LSU to the college championship. In his 5,671-yard, 60-touchdown season, he went from a relative unknown to one of the country’s best. Entering the conversation of the No. 1 pick, he eventually went to the Cincinnati Bengals.

As a Bengal, Burrow has shown that he has NFL talent. He also demonstrates the difference between leading a top-tier college team and leading a bottom-feeding NFL offense. Despite the Bengals’ lack of success, however, Burrow’s impact is undeniable. Burrow threw for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions at a 65% clip.

The Bengals may have only been 2-7-1 during those games, but Burrow’s impact on the team has been undeniable. However, Burrow’s season was cut short after he tore both his ACL and MCL in a game against Washington. Now that Burrow out for the foreseeable future, Justin Herbert might have his gaze on the Rookie of the Year award. 

A case for the Chargers’ Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers on the field
Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers | Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

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Herbert didn’t have the quick rise that Burrow did. Taking over the legendary Oregon offense in 2016, the young quarterback maintained a starting role for most of his college tenure. While Burrow had to rot on the bench, Herbert had a balanced skillset, which helped him get better every year that he stepped foot on the field. After two decent seasons to start his college career, however, Herbert went to another level during his junior season. 

In 2018, the Oregon quarterback threw for 3,151 yards, 29 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions. The following year, he one-upped himself, with 3,471 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He started to get murmurs as an early pick in the 2020 draft. The LA took a chance on him with the sixth-overall pick. 

Like Burrow, however, Herbert is quickly learning the difference between leading a good college team and a bad NFL one. Through nine games, the team holds a 2-7 record. However, Herbert’s numbers are promising. He’s thrown for just under 2,7000 yards and 22 touchdowns on six interceptions on a 68% clip. 

Herbert may have had big shoes to fill after the Chargers let longtime quarterback Philip Rivers go, but he’s making the best of it. .Even without Burrow’s injuries, he may have been a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year. 

Is the award Herbert’s to lose?

While Burrow had a case for the Rookie of the Year award, details Bleacher Report, one could easily argue that Herbert was already performing better before Burrow’s injury. He threw the ball with more accuracy, found the end zone more, and also threw fewer interceptions. Burrow’s knee injury may have taken him out of the running, but it also might not have mattered when it came to the award. 

Other players like Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Jaguars running back James Robinson, and Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire might have a shot at the award too, speculates Sportsnaut. The voters historically give quarterbacks a greater chance unless another position proves to be a superstar from the get-go.

Being the first overall pick comes with many perks, but it doesn’t make someone a guarantee for the Rookie of the Year award. Burrow and Herbert could have gone back-and-forth gunning for the prize, but with Burrow out of the picture, Herbert has the most straightforward path to ending his first NFL season on the highest of notes.