After watching Patrick Mahomes lead the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title in 50 years, the Los Angeles Chargers entered the 2020 NFL draft with their sights set on finding their own franchise quarterback. Like their AFC West rival, it hasn’t taken long to realize the Chargers hit a home run with their first-round QB.
Just four games into his NFL career, Justin Herbert has already proven he has the necessary skills to become an elite player. And after watching the 22-year-old torch the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, one thing is clear: The Chargers have found their own version of the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
Justin Herbert shares some uncanny similarities with the NFL’s biggest star
When you take a closer look at Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, it’s scary how many similarities the young quarterbacks share. Both played multiple sports growing up, and that athleticism shows up in their ability to escape pressure and gain yardage with their legs.
In college, the two talented signal-callers also put up eerily similar stats. Mahomes completed 63.5% of his passes for 11,252 yards, 93 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions in 32 games at Texas Tech. Herbert connected on 64% of his attempts for 10,541 yards, 95 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions in 43 games at Oregon.
Despite putting up prolific numbers in college, neither Mahomes nor Herbert went No. 1 overall in their respective draft classes. In fact, they weren’t even the first quarterbacks selected.
The Chiefs made Mahomes the second quarterback taken after they traded up to the 10th overall pick to secure his services. Herbert became the third QB off the board after the Cincinnati Bengals took Joe Burrow first overall and the Miami Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick.
Even after becoming top-10 picks, both Mahomes and Herbert entered their rookie seasons as backups. Of course, Mahomes took the league by storm in his first year as a starter. And while the Chargers didn’t plan on Herbert playing so early, they have already gotten tremendous results from their top draft pick.
The next Patrick Mahomes just announced his arrival
Once the Chiefs transitioned from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, it quickly became clear that Kansas City had found a generational superstar. It appears as though the Chargers have accomplished the same feat.
Since taking over for Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert has shown rapid improvement. Ironically, his first NFL start came against none other than the Chiefs. The rookie completed 22-of-33 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. Though he did throw an interception, Herbert also ran for a score in a close loss to the defending Super Bowl champions.
After going toe-to-toe with Mahomes, LA’s first-year quarterback put together another solid effort against the Carolina Panthers in Week 3. However, Herbert has taken his game to another level in the last two weeks.
Squaring off against Tom Brady, Herbert arguably outplayed the six-time Super Bowl champion. Though LA lost by a final score of 38-31, it certainly wasn’t because of their rookie quarterback. Herbert completed 80% of his passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in just his third start.
On Monday, he once again faced off against a future Hall of Famer. This time, Herbert left no doubt about who was the better quarterback on the field. The 6-foot-6, 236-pounder thoroughly outplayed Drew Brees, as he finished the night with 264 yards and four touchdowns in an overtime loss to the Saints.
While LA fell to 1-4, Herbert showcased excellent patience and toughness. He made clutch throws under pressure and evaded oncoming rushers thanks to his athleticism. Overall, the performance cemented the fact that the former Oregon star is clearly a franchise quarterback. And in many respects, Herbert’s physical skill set, toughness, and early NFL success should remind many of Mahomes.
Can Herbert put the Chargers in the playoff mix?
While the Chargers clearly have a star in the making, Justin Herbert still has a long way to go to reach Patrick Mahomes’ level. First, he must find a way to help the Chargers climb out of an early 1-4 hole that has them at the bottom of the AFC West.
Luckily for LA fans, a post-bye week turnaround looks realistic. The Chargers’ remaining schedule features some winnable matchups:
- Week 7 – vs. Jacksonville
- Week 8 – at Denver
- Week 10 – at Miami
- Week 11 – vs. New York Jets
- Week 14 – vs. Atlanta
- Week 16 – at Denver
Plus, Herbert will have two cracks at the Las Vegas Raiders, who rank just 27th in points allowed despite getting off to a 3-2 start. If LA takes care of business against the opponents listed above, that would put the team at seven wins. A split with the Raiders would at least keep them in the playoff hunt, especially given the addition of another wild card spot.
Can Herbert continue playing at a high level and help LA get over .500? That will be a fun storyline to watch as the season progresses.
For now, Chargers fans should relish in the fact that LA has found its own Patrick Mahomes.