Young quarterback? Yes. Talented? Yes. On a high-powered offense? Yes. Top-3 QB in fantasy ppg in 2021? Yes. Justin Herbert is a great fantasy football quarterback #analysis.
I just set the Club Fantasy FFL record for the shortest article on the website. Not so fast, PLOT TWIST…
Yes, Justin Herbert is a great quarterback, but you should not draft him at his current ADP. Before you unfollow me on Twitter, please read the rest of the article, and let me help you win your leagues.
Justin Herbert in Fantasy Football
Look Back at 2021
Justin Herbert went into his second season with plenty of hype after a great rookie season. Herbert’s second season was even better than his first! He threw for over 5,000 yards, scored 41 total touchdowns, and was the QB3 in fantasy ppg with 26.9 points. That was a slight improvement from 26.3 points/game his rookie season.
The Los Angeles Chargers’ offense was more dynamic in 2021 with their new coaching staff. Herbert did not throw it more per game but pushed the ball further down the field. He improved his air yards thrown per game from 139.4 yards/game to 157.5 yards/game. Mike Williams stepped up in 2021 to be a reliable big-play WR2 behind Keenan Allen.
Herbert was 3rd in touchdowns thrown (38), 2nd in passing yards (5,014), 3rd in air yards/game (310.3), and 5th in deep-ball completion % (43.7%). He is performing like an elite quarterback. All signs indicate that he will continue to be elite in 2022 too.
I just waxed poetic about why Justin Herbert is already an elite quarterback. So why am I telling you not to draft him this year? It is about draft value, specifically value at the quarterback position.
The best redraft ADP we have in June is utilizing Underdog Fantasy, a best-ball format. On Underdog, Herbert is drafted as the QB2 as the 44th pick (mid-4th round). That is not an outrageous ADP. However, there is a lot of depth at quarterback.
In 2021, Kirk Cousins was the QB10 in fantasy ppg with 22.9 points. That is exactly 4 points/game fewer than Justin Herbert. I think it is reasonable to expect comparable output from both in 2022. On Underdog, Cousins is drafted as the QB15 as the 117th pick (late-10th Round). That is a significant difference in draft capital.
Selecting another position with that 4th Round pick is a better value with a better opportunity cost. For example, wide receivers have a wider range of outcomes. Therefore, choosing one earlier in the draft will minimize your chance of picking one with high variability in scoring.
Let’s illustrate the difference in positional value. You could draft Terry McLaurin (ADP 44.9), 12.6 ppg in 2021, and Kirk Cousins in the 10th Round. On the flip side, you could draft Justin Herbert in the 4th Round and Rondale Moore (ADP 119), who had 7.8 ppg in 2021. We expect McLaurin and Moore to score better in 2022, but it demonstrates the example. I understand that 0.8 points/game between those two scenarios does not seem significant. However, 4th-Round WR/RBs are less risky draft picks than 10th-Round WR/RBs. There is not as much risk between a 4th-Round QB and a 10th-round QB.
The key to drafting well is understanding the range of outcomes and risk tolerance between rounds, positions, and specific players. When looking at the entire position, the range of results for quarterbacks is narrower than for running backs and wide receivers. In 2020, Justin Herbert scored 26.3 points/game (0.6 fewer than 2021), but he was the QB9.
Herbert has elite talent, but he is not a rushing quarterback. He averaged fewer than 18 rush yards/game in 2021. Therefore, Herbert needs to throw for A LOT of yards and A LOT of touchdowns to be an outlier. In 2021, he threw for 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns and wasn’t even close to being an outlier. Jalen Hurts scored the same points/game as Kirk Cousins in 2021 (22.9) and only had 3,144 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns. However, Hurts also ran for 784 yards and ten touchdowns. Those rushing yards in fantasy points are the equivalent of throwing 13 touchdowns! In 2019, Lamar Jackson had a significant outlier season because he threw for 36 touchdowns but also ran for 1,206 yards (equivalent to 20 touchdowns).
Justin Herbert does not have that in his range of outcomes. That is not how he plays quarterback, and it’s not the team’s offensive scheme. We can expect elite production from him, but not outlier production. You have a better chance of drafting an outlier RB/WR in the 4th Round (Kupp drafted in the 5th in 2021) than Justin Herbert being an outlier in points scored in 2022. I love Justin Herbert, but he does not provide enough potential upside to be worth a 4th round draft pick.
A Look Inside the Los Angeles Chargers
Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Zach focused on Justin Herbert in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Chargers, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse.
Austin Ekeler: He took hold of the Alvin Kamara role in this offense last year and set career highs in rushing attempts (206), rushing yards (911), and rushing touchdowns (12). He also tied his career-high in receiving touchdowns (8). Can he do it again? With the Chargers spending a 4th-Round pick on Isaiah Spiller, the general thought is probably not. While his yardage totals may decrease to keep him fresher, I still expect a high TD total, which should easily keep him locked in as a top-5 RB on the season. – Josh Hudson
Isaiah Spiller: I’m higher than most on Isaiah Spiller. He was my RB3 coming into this draft, but Day 3 draft capital did him no favors. Most initially wrote him off, but they are are coming back around. There are 150 or so touches available, and he only needs to beat out other Day 3 backs. He is the most talented backup RB on the roster and will have a fantasy impact. -Ryan Weisse
Keenan Allen: Allen is still the best route-runner in the NFL and is a PPR god at this point. He gets no respect, and you can probably get him in the 5th Round of your fantasy draft. Please do it. Herbert will throw to him a ton, and he will outplay his ADP. He is the perfect WR2 and even a WR1 if you went RB-heavy or took an early TE. -Ryan Weisse
Mike Williams: It finally happened. Mike Williams lived up to the hype. He did everything we expected him to do as the X receiver in this offense and set career highs in targets (129), receptions (76), and receiving yards (1,146). But you wouldn’t know it, judging by his current ADP (WR20). The Chargers kept the offense intact, so barring injury or extreme regression, there’s little reason to think Williams won’t outperform his ADP and rival his 2021 numbers. – Josh Hudson
Gerald Everett: You are not drafting Everett unless your league is crazy deep, but remember him. If you are streaming TE, Everett will be on my list many times in 2022. Jared Cooks was the TE18 last year, scoring four TDs and racking up over 500 yards. Everett is younger and faster. -Ryan Weisse
We hope you enjoyed our look at Justin Herbert for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here if you’re preparing for your dynasty drafts!