2019 NFL Draft QB Stock Watch: Justin Herbert moves into top spot, but will he declare for NFL?

Justin Herbert looked brutal in the first half of Oregon’s trip to Pullman to take on Washington State, as he went 4 of 11 for 36 yards before halftime. 

In the second half, Herbert was a completely different quarterback. He went 21 of 33 for 234 yards with a touchdown as the Ducks made it a game in the third quarter. Beyond the stats, Herbert was considerably more patient in the pocket, subtly drifted away from pressure repeatedly and threw with impressive velocity and accuracy to the intermediate level. 

But even if he’s ultimately QB1 in the 2019 class, will he enter the draft? Sources tell our NFL Insider Jason La Canfora “it is far more likely that the junior actually remains in school for another year.” 

Here’s the latest edition of QB Stock Watch. 

1. Justin Herbert, Oregon: Stock Up

In the first half against Washington State, Herbert — and the entire Oregon team — looked completely out of sorts. He misfired on a variety of downfield throws and took hits as he threw on a handful of plays. The Ducks’ offensive line and Herbert were significantly sharper after halftime, and his pocket presence did a 180.

I saw good anticipation and consistent pocket-drifting while he kept his eyes downfield. Herbert’s deep-ball accuracy was never good in this game, but he was surgical at times in the second half as the Ducks charged back to make it exciting. And he’s probably the best throw-on-the-run quarterback in college football. The first half was scary. The second half against the Cougars was the best I’ve seen Herbert play this season. 

2. Ryan Finley, NC State: Stock Down

Finley had a game to forget at Clemson, and the Wolfpack got rolled. He uncharacteristically was late on a few out-breaking routes. His first interception came on a dig that really wasn’t there and got deflected. Finley did loft a perfect ball to Kelvin Harmon downfield early, but his usually trusty receiver dropped it. The second pick came on a tremendous play by a backup linebacker running down the middle of the field in a Tampa 2 look, and the pass should’ve been more back-shoulder than leading the receiver to the post. 

Finley made a nice back-shoulder toss later in the game and had a nice step-up in the pocket and throw on the run late, but he seemingly had troubles acclimating to the speed of the Tigers defense all afternoon. The arm-strength concerns were certainly there too, and a few of his passes had bad ball-placement, which typically isn’t an issue for the veteran quarterback. Not an absolutely brutal game for Finley, but certainly worrisome.

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3. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Stock Steady

Lock got a reprieve from seeing stingy SEC defenses, and his Tigers hung 63 points on Memphis at home. The senior went 23 of 29 for 350 yards with four touchdowns and no picks but, from an individual-quarterback-skills standpoint, Lock wasn’t that good. A lot of Missouri’s production came on throws to wide open receivers. 

He certainly wasn’t bad though. As will always be the case, the vast majority of his throws rocketed out of his hands, and he was patient behind what was a brick wall offensive line. A few throws that should’ve been completions were low or wide of their intended target too. Lock destroyed Memphis’ soft zone coverage all day. 

4. Will Grier, West Virginia: Stock Down

Grier needs to bounce back in the worst way after five touchdowns and four picks in his last two outings. West Virginia plays Baylor at home on Thursday. 

5. Daniel Jones, Duke: Stock Down, Slightly

Jones was constantly harassed by a good Virginia pass-rush all afternoon in game that featured rain for the majority of the contest. In the first quarter, the junior quarterback made a spectacular deep throw down the left sideline after he pulled the safety away from his target by initially looking toward the right sideline, but the ball was dropped. Both of his interceptions came on underthrown deep balls that hung in the air too long. 

He made what’s become his usual anticipation throws toward the sideline with plenty of zip and took what the Cavaliers’ zone coverage gave him underneath. Jones was also used — and was effective — on a variety of designed runs, and he scrambled well. He naturally moves up in the pocket but a few times he did so into an avalanche of defenders. 

Honorable Mention: Brett Rypien, Boise State 

I had my eyes on Rypien a season ago, and he’ll be even more of an intriguing prospect in the 2019 class with more experience. The senior quarterback went 22 of 28 for 308 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in Boise State’s thrashing of Colorado State. 

He’s completing just over 69 percent of his passes at a higher yards-per-attempt average (8.36) than a season ago (8.27). If Rypien stays healthy, he’ll have played in 50 games in college, a big plus for any quarterback prospect. In 2018, he’s thrown with more velocity than I noticed in 2017, he’s been very decisive with the football, and has shown high-quality touch downfield. 

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