Justin Herbert

Dolphins Cooling On Tua, Warming Up To Justin Herbert?

The Dolphins have been heavily connected to Tua Tagovailoa for months, but they’re far from locked in on him. The Dolphins have concerns about Tagovailoa’s ability to recover from his serious hip injury and, beyond that, they’re worried about his long-term durability, sources tell Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. At the same time, they’ve been drawn more and more to Oregon star Justin Herbert, sources say.

[RELATED: Charges Against Dolphins’ Xavien Howard Dropped]

Even owner Stephen Ross has spoken on the record about Tagovailoa’s question marks. It’s a debate that will take place in the front office of any team considering the quarterback – had he stayed healthy, Tagovailoa likely would have been the consensus No. 1 overall pick. Now, teams need to take a close inspection of his hip and also weigh the effects of his previous ankle injuries.

With the No. 5 pick, the Dolphins could have every QB available to choose from, with the exception of LSU’s Joe Burrow. Their concerns about Tagovailoa could lead them to Herbert, who boasts arm strength, size (he stands at 6’6″; one inch taller than Ben Roethlisberger), and the ability to escape pressure in a collapsing pocket.

By the same token, Tagovailoa has been the much more accurate passer of the two and has demonstrated superior field vision. The latest news doesn’t mean that the Dolphins will select Herbert at No. 5 overall, but it’s a strong reminder that draft plans are far from settled in February.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Top QB Prospects

A long list of teams have question marks at the quarterback position heading into the offseason. Well, one executive believes many of the organizations will solve their predicament via the draft. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller talked to a personnel executive who believes five quarterbacks will be selected in the top-15 of this year’s draft.

This might not sound all that shocking; among the teams with top-15 picks, only five of those organizations have used first-round capital at the position in the past two drafts. You could easily talk yourself into one of the other 10 teams selecting a quarterback, and a team outside the top-15 could easily trade up. However, it is notable that the executive was willing to speak so definitively.

As Miller explains, there’s a pretty clear pecking order atop the quarterback draft board: Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), some combo of Jordan Love (Utah State) and Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jacob Eason (Washington), and Jake Fromm (Georgia). Miller notes that the Chargers, who are selecting sixth-overall, are particularly interested in Love.

Miller himself believes six quarterbacks will be selected in the top-50, and he notes that part of the urgency to select a signal-caller could be attributed to the falloff after the top-six options. The next-best prospect, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, struggled during Senior Bowl practice this week, and Hawaii’s Cole McDonald projects as more of a fifth- or sixth-rounder.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals To Consider Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Chase Young

While favored to take Ohio native Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall, the Bengals are considering three other players for the top pick. The LSU standout is, of course, among this group. But the team is also studying Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Chase Young for the pick, Albert Breer of SI.com reports.

The Bengals have stepped back from a report indicating they will not trade the No. 1 pick, but Breer notes the team is not expected to move down. Bengals brass praised the Heisman winner recently, and while it would be a borderline shock if they did not draft Burrow, the team plans to conduct on-campus visits and bring in each player for pre-draft workouts. Burrow, however, is still believed to be the frontrunner, per Breer.

Young is regarded by some as the best pass-rushing prospect available in years, and both Tagovailoa and Herbert entered the 2019 season with much higher profiles than Burrow. Young remains a strong bet to go to the Redskins at No. 2, and if the Bengals do draft Burrow, there could be some jockeying for position at the Nos. 3-4 slots (held by the Lions and Giants) for Tagovailoa and Herbert.

After throwing 16 touchdown passes in 13 games as a junior, Burrow tossed a record-setting 60 in the Tigers’ national championship season. Zac Taylor asked Burrow’s father, Jimmy — who, like Taylor, played at Nebraska — to see if Joe would go to the Senior Bowl, Breer adds. But Joe Burrow declined to attend the Mobile, Ala., showcase.

It is interesting as well to see a pecking order emerge before the Combine, though the Bengals’ top need is not exactly a secret. As such, Young may be trailing the three passers.

We know what Joe is on tape; we know what Tua is on tape; we know what Justin is on tape,” Bengals player personnel director Duke Tobin said, via Breer. “Our role right now is to try to find out what we don’t know — how his leadership works, how his football mind works, how quickly he adapts to different situations, what his overall personality is, what it’s like being around him on a regular Tuesday. How much passion do they have for the game? … We’re trying to get at those types of things, with every player we do, but particularly the quarterbacks.

“… I feel like I’ve got a long way to go, because I’m just now starting the process of asking people close to them what they think of them.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Joe Burrow Declines Senior Bowl Invite

With Joe Burrow becoming one of college football’s all-time rising stocks, NFL evaluators will not see the LSU star in pads again before the draft. Burrow will pass on the Senior Bowl, according to the game’s director, Jim Nagy (on Twitter).

Burrow’s record-setting 60-touchdown pass season rocketed him from later-round NFL prospect to near-surefire No. 1 overall pick. The Bengals have praised the Ohio native’s abilities and are likely to bring him aboard as their next quarterback.

The former Ohio State talent debuted as LSU’s starter in 2018 but threw for only 2,894 yards and 16 touchdown passes as a junior. Working with new Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady this past season, Burrow got to 5,671 yards and more than tripled his TD output. It seems unlikely his stock will climb higher by working out in Mobile next week.

The next opportunity teams will have to see Burrow in action will be at the Combine. However, his absence in Mobile, Ala., will open the door to Justin Herbert commanding the spotlight at college football’s top all-star game. The Oregon product bypassed the draft last year to play his senior season and will suit up at the Senior Bowl. So will Utah State’s Jordan Love. Michigan’s Shea Patterson, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Washington State’s Anthony Gordon and Colorado’s Steven Montez will join them.

With Tua Tagovailoa out, Herbert has a chance to potentially snare the position of second quarterback drafted. While the Dolphins have been linked to Tagovailoa at No. 5, they also did extensive work on Herbert when he was a possible top-10 pick in the 2019 draft. The Redskins, Lions and Giants (Nos. 2-4) are almost certain to be out of the quarterback market and could double as trade-down candidates for teams looking to invest in either Herbert or Tagovailoa.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Lions, Giants, Dolphins

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller:

  • Miller would be positively stunned if the Bengals don’t draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall and the Redskins don’t grab Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the No. 2 pick.
  • With that in mind, Miller feels the draft truly starts at No. 3 overall, where the Lions pick. Sources tell Miller that they’ll look heavily at Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown. Then again, it’s a prime trade-back spot – teams like the Dolphins, Chargers, and Panthers could move up to land a QB.
  • Unless new head coach Joe Judge sways him in a different direction, Giants GM Dave Gettleman is expected to look at edge-rushers, left tackles, and wide receivers with the No. 4 pick. “He can’t help himself with linemen, so slot your top-rated offensive tackle there,” one scout who previously worked with Gettleman said. Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr. and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas rank among the top tackles in this year’s crop.
  • No team has done more work on Oregon’s Justin Herbert than the Dolphins, who own the No. 5 pick and two more selections later on, Miller writes. The Dolphins will almost certainly go QB here, then shift their attention to offensive tackle, edge-rusher, and running back help.
  • The same source who tipped Miller off to the Cardinals‘ love of Kyler Murray last year says they’re wild about Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. But, internally, they also feel that the offensive line need is too big to overlook.
  • The Raiders, with two picks in the first round, are looking to go defense and wide receiver, Miller hears.
  • The Bills are already nervous about other teams leapfrogging them for wide receivers, Miller hears. The Bills own the No. 22 overall pick and nine total selections in the draft.
  • The Patriots are impossible to read, but none of Miller’s sources believe that they’ll draft a quarterback early on. Tom Brady has vowed to continue playing, but he’ll also explore his options in free agency.

Justin Herbert To Return To Oregon

Long rumored to be heading back to Oregon for the 2019 season, Justin Herbert confirmed (via Twitter) he will do so on Wednesday.

Perhaps the top quarterback prospect who could have been part of April’s draft, Herbert will instead stay with the Ducks and then be part of the 2020 class. This further depletes the quarterback talent pool in the 2019 draft. Herbert almost certainly would have been a top-10 pick. He rated sixth overall on Mel Kiper Jr.’s big board.

NFL teams in need of a quarterback have scouted Herbert this season, the Broncos and Giants among them. The Dolphins, too, were high on the junior Ducks passer. Instead, Herbert will be part of what is, as of now viewed as a stronger quarterback crop in 2020. Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa are eligible to enter that draft. Herbert’s decision could have key ramifications for teams this year.

The respective values of other passing prospects, such as Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (who has yet to declare himself but is expected to do so after receiving a first-round grade) and Missouri’s Drew Lock, will be inflated because of Herbert’s choice. Although, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller categorizes West Virginia’s Will Grier and Duke junior Daniel Jones — who also has not declared yet, though he’s expected to do so — as the top non-Haskins passers who could be available (Twitter link).

Prospective free agent passers Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor may be more popular commodities in March as a result of this as well. Joe Flacco is now going to be available via trade; perhaps the Ravens’ price will rise. Herbert not being available will take a key option off the board for teams lacking a long-term answer.

Herbert’s decision coincides with younger brother Patrick Herbert’s Oregon signing. The class of 2019 tight end will join the Ducks next season. This year, Justin Herbert has thrown for 2,985 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While his completion percentage dropped to 59.6 percent, down from 67.5 percent in 2017, the 20-year-old quarterback intrigued teams in a way the other 2019 QBs have yet to.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Patriots, Eagles, Redskins, Fins

While the Patriots haven’t historically paid up for free agent defensive lineman, Trey Flowers could be a special case, as Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets. For one, Flowers is highly respected within the New England locker room — Howe deems Flowers a “model human being” with zero off-field issues. Second, Flowers and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick share the same agent (Neil Conrich), which could theoretically help push negotiations along. Flowers, 25, is part of stacked 2019 free agent edge rusher class that also includes Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Frank Clark, and DeMarcus Lawrence. While he’s posted only 3.5 sacks, Flowers ranks sixth in the NFL with 31 quarterback pressures.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

2019 NFL Draft Notes: Haskins, Jones, Patterson, Herbert

With college football season starting to wind down, scouting and draft talk is starting to ramp up. Opinions are being formed on the top draft-eligible prospects, and many teams are beginning to shape their evaluations of players. Rumors are also starting to swirl about which players will and won’t declare for the draft. One potentially surprising name is Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who is expected to leave school early for the draft after this season, sources told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.

According to Miller, “barring injury or a massive drop-off in play down the stretch”, Haskins plans on entering the draft. Miller writes that he had previously heard Haskins was likely to return to Ohio State, but the player appears to have had a change of heart recently. Ohio State has been having a bit of a rough season, and there’s some reported dysfunction surrounding the team, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s what ended up pushing Haskins towards the draft.

Here are more notes from the 2019 NFL Draft:

  • Speaking of quarterbacks, Duke signal caller Daniel Jones is also likely to declare, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. Pauline says on his podcast that sources told him the “decision has already been made and he’s gone.” Pauline supports the decision, and doesn’t think he has much more to gain with another season. Jones wasn’t known by many coming into the season, but has quickly risen as a sleeper in this class. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted about him last month, calling him “one of the top QBs we’ll all be talking about in April” despite him being “under-the-radar.”
  • In addition to Haskins, another Big Ten quarterback could be leaving early. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson is also likely to leave for the draft after this season, according to Miller. Miller writes that multiple sources expect Patterson to declare, and one told him Patterson thinks he can “benefit by not competing with the 2020 group that includes Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa.” It’s an interesting strategy, and one that has paid off in the past. Quarterbacks that aren’t actually elite prospects often get taken much higher in the draft than they normally would if there isn’t a very strong class available.
  • We heard last month that Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is likely to stay in school for another year, and Miller confirms that report. Herbert is widely seen as the quarterback with the highest ceiling and most potential, but Miller writes staying in school is seen as “the best thing for Herbert, as he’s often cited as not having the mental toughness right now to handle the NFL.” Many have declared Herbert a likely top overall selection in this year’s draft, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be available.

NFC Notes: Dez, Seahawks, McCarthy

Saints WR Dez Bryant suffered a brutal blow when he tore his Achilles just two days after signing with the club, thereby shelving him for about eight months. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) noted that Bryant’s recovery timeline could make his 2019 foray into free agency just as complicated as his 2018 one, though RapSheet does report in a separate piece that the Saints are open to bringing Bryant back next season (which Jay Glazer of FOX Sports [video link] also hears). Rapoport also says that Saints head coach Sean Payton fully expects Bryant to continue his playing career, and that Saints players quickly got to know Bryant and were stung by the injury (Twitter link). Given that, and given that Bryant made a concerted effort to improve his route running this offseason, perhaps he will still end up playing for New Orleans.

Let’s round up a few more items from the NFC:

  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com details (via Twitter) the $500K in incentives (all tied to receptions) that were built in to Bryant’s contract with the Saints, which is obviously a moot point now. Earlier today, Schefter reported that the Saints are expected to pursue Brandon Marshall now that Bryant is on IR.
  • Rapoport writes that, when the Seahawks are sold to a new owner, the beneficiary of the transaction will be the Paul G. Allen Foundation, which consolidated the causes of recently-deceased owner Paul Allen. That means that the proceeds of the sale — which could exceed $2.5 billion — will be going to charity. As of now, Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, has taken more of a visible role in team operations, but the club is still expected to be sold (though it will remain in Seattle). Potential buyers are already preparing for the Seahawks to hit the market.
  • Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com confirms what we have been hearing for some time: that something is off in the relationship between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy, which could lead to McCarthy’s ouster at the end of the season. McCarthy is widely perceived to be on the hot seat, though Dougherty points out that team president/CEO Mark Murphy thinks highly of McCarthy and has final say over all football matters. However, Murphy will give a great deal of credence to the opinion of new GM Brian Gutekunst when it comes to the head coach’s future with the club.
  • We learned that top decision-makers for the Giants were in attendance at the Oregon-Utah game yesterday to scout Oregon QB Justin Herbert, even though Herbert is unlikely to enter the 2019 draft. Greg Joyce of the New York Post confirms that GM Dave Gettleman was one of the attendees, along with assistant GM Kevin Abrams and West Coast scout Jeremy Breit. If Herbert changes his mind and declares for the draft, New York will certainly be in play for him.
  • We learned earlier today that the Cowboys nearly fired OC Scott Linehan during last month’s bye.

East Notes: Bills, Barkley, McCoy, Giants, Dolphins, Herbert

It’s been a crazy season for the Bills. While the defense has been promising, the offense has been an absolute train-wreck. They’ve cycled through quarterbacks, and will now get their fourth new starting signal caller of the season this Sunday. Recently signed Matt Barkley will get the start for Buffalo over Nathan Peterman, according to a release from the team (Twitter link).

There was some hope that rookie Josh Allen would be able to return this week, but the Bills ruled him out with his elbow injury. Derek Anderson has still been unable to clear the concussion protocol, so he won’t be able to play either. That left Barkley, who was only signed ten days ago, and Peterman as the only healthy options. It’s been reported before that coach Sean McDermott risked losing the locker room if he started Peterman again, so it makes sense why the team is turning to Barkley here. Barkley hasn’t appeared in a regular season game since 2016, when he started a few games with Chicago down the stretch. In those starts Barkley was up and down, looking awful at times and competent at others.

Here’s more from the league’s Eastern divisions:

  • Top brass from both the Giants and Dolphins are at the Oregon-Utah game today to scout quarterback Justin Herbert, according to Albert Breer of SI.com (Twitter link). Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill both have uncertain futures with their respective teams, so it makes sense why they’d be taking a look. Herbert is widely considered the best quarterback prospect who’s draft eligible, but is reportedly considered unlikely to enter the draft after this year.
  • The Bills’ season might be circling the drain, but star running back LeSean McCoy insists he is happy in Buffalo, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (Twitter link). McCoy said that while “a lot of teams” wanted to trade for him at this year’s deadline, he is in the Bills’ longterm plans and is happy where he is. McCoy is getting up there in age, but still has his same burst and trademarked cutting ability. He’s hardly responsible for the Bills’ offensive woes, as opposing defenses completely sellout to stop the run.
  • In case you missed it, former Jets draft bust Christian Hackenberg signed with the upstart football league the AAF yesterday.