Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow: Who looks the better prospect? Our writers have their say on the big debate

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow
Photo of Andrew Wilsher

Andrew Wilsher

NFL · 1 year ago

Show Bio

Editor of Pickswise. Born and raised in jolly old London, England, with an undying love for the NFL, NBA, soccer, and horse racing. A big-time sports bettor who loves futures markets and backing underdogs. Long-suffering New York Jets fan.

We are not yet halfway through the 2020 NFL season, and already rookie quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert have received plaudits from many for their performances so far. Rightfully so.

Burrow has thrown for 2,023 yards–the third most in the league–and nine touchdown passes. He has also ran in two scores himself in his last two games. Herbert, meanwhile, has been lighting it up since taking the reins from Tyrod Taylor. He has posted 8.4 passing yards per attempt–tied for third in the NFL–and 12 touchdowns.

Neither of their teams have a particularly great record, with Burrow and Cincinnati at 1-5-1 while Herbert comes in at 2-4 with the Chargers (only one of those victories has come with him under center). But the general view is that these two quarterbacks have very promising futures based on what they’ve shown so far.

The question everyone is now asking is which of them is better? And who is likely to have a more prosperous NFL career? Three of our Pickswise NFL writers weigh in on the big debate.

Burrow looks the more complete quarterback right now

For me, it’s Joe Burrow.

The LSU product has been fantastic since day one and has posted more than 300 passing yards in five of his last six games. He also threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns against Cleveland on Sunday.

He looks comfortable in every situation, makes good decisions, and most importantly he’s shown short memory. What I mean by that is he doesn’t let his mistakes bother him. There are a couple of occasions when he’s made an error and could have started second-guessing himself. But I haven’t seen that from Burrow, and that is crucial to the development of a top quarterback.

There is no doubt he has made the Bengals a lot better than they were last season, regardless of what their record is. I don’t think the same can be said for Herbert.

I wasn’t that big on the former Duck going into the draft, so maybe I’m still holding some bias. But given the weapons L.A. has on offense, such as Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry, I would’ve been surprised if he had not hit the ground running.

One of the questions surrounding Herbert entering the draft was his ability to throw it deep. Around half of his passes last year at Oregon were within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Although he did show some signs of hitting that sweet spot downfield against Jacksonville, it’s still an area that needs to be improved–especially if he’s to use Williams to the best of his ability.

Both Burrow and Herbert have looked great so far, but to me Burrow just looks the more complete quarterback right now. Once he gets some better weapons around him on offense, he’ll really start to make his presence felt in the NFL.
Andrew Wilsher

Herbert all the way

I’ve got to disagree, and I’m rolling with Herbie here. That’s not meant as a knock on Burrow, as I’ve been quite impressed with the LSU product as well.

But Herbert has been better, for a few reasons. For starters, Burrow was the unquestioned starter all offseason. He got all of the first-team reps in camp leading up to his debut, and had a lot more time with his first-string offense than Herbert did. Herbert on the other hand was the backup to Taylor the entire time, and his first extensive reps with the first-team were when he was suddenly thrust into the starting role in Week 2.

Herbert had a lot less time to prepare than Burrow did, which is what makes his hot start even more noteworthy. While Burrow’s offensive line has been patchwork, it’s not like Herbert has had great blocking up front either. He has only had starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga for a half of one game, and Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner has been out there for only one of his starts.

He’s been under heavy pressure as well, but has done a much better job than Burrow, who often holds the ball too long, of handling it. Plenty of the league-high 28 sacks Burrow has taken have been on him and not the offensive line.

Herbert has also excelled in many areas where rookies usually do not, including on third down. In fact, he’s leading the league in third down passer rating right now, which is incredible. That’s something you’d expect from an elite seasoned veteran, not a rookie who was thrown into the fire with very little preparation.

Herbert has been getting it done no matter who is out there, and he’s making practice squad guys like Jalen Guyton look like Pro Bowlers. Burrow has shown plenty of flashes but hasn’t been as consistent as Herbert, as the Oregon alum has been excellent in nearly every game.

Herbo has now gone back to back games with at least four total touchdowns and no interceptions, while Burrow has thrown a pick in four straight games. Herbert is averaging 8.4 yards per attempt to Burrow’s 6.9. If I had to pick one today I’m going with Herbert, and it isn’t all that close for me.
Andrew Ortenberg

Burrow… but barely

Can you really go wrong with either one? The answer to that is most certainly no. Each of these guys has been extremely impressive, both in college and now in the NFL.

If I had to take a side, I would lead toward Burrow simply because of the sample size of success. Yes, most of that sample size is his senior year in college—when he produced arguably the best individual season (and team season, for that matter) in the history of the sport. Obviously the sledding is tougher now that he isn’t throwing the football to an array of weapons that were far superior to anything opposing defenses could offer, as was the case at LSU. Still, Burrow looks well on his way to making a once moribund franchise respectable. The Bengals have a win, a tie, and four losses by five points or fewer. They won’t admit it, but the Bengals are a team in the department of moral victories. A 1-5-1 record with four extremely competitive losses is an overall moral victory.

As for Burrow, himself, he has 12 total touchdowns (nine passing, three rushing) and five interceptions. His poise and production have been commendable while playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the business. The 23-year-old has been sacked a ridiculous 28 times, including eight in a game by Philadelphia and seven by Baltimore.

Herbert’s numbers may be better, but he got drafted into a better situation. Nothing about this is surprising.

When the Bengals eventually surround Burrow with the necessary parts, the wins are going to come. Because that’s just what he is: a winner. Both of these rookie studs pass the eye test, but the intangibles that Burrow brings to the table give him the ever-so-slight edge for me.
Ricky Dimon

Pickswise is the home of free NFL Picks and NFL Odds. Check out the latest NFL Prop Bets and NFL Parlays as well as expert NFL Underdog Picks and NFL Computer Picks.

Virginia Bonuses

See All
FanDuel Sportsbook


Get a $1,000 No Sweat First Bet

Sign up for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account and make your first deposit of $10+

Place your first bet up to $1,000!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

Must be 21+. First online real money wager only. $10 first deposit required. Bonus issued as non-withdrawable free bets that expire 14 days after receipt. See full terms at fanduel.com/sportsbook.



Bet $5+ on any Sports Pre-Game ML, Get $200 If Your Team Wins

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5+ on the pre-game ML in any sport

Win $200 if your team wins

Offer valid for new players only. Must be 21 years or older to play. Reward paid in site credit. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.



Get a $100 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $100 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $100

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.



Get 4x $200 In Free Bets

Sign up for a new PointsBet account

Bet up to $200 and If you lose, you get a refund

You will receive Free Bet(s) in the amount of the losing wager(s), up to $200 each for four days.

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

Caesars Sportsbook


Get a $1,250 risk-free bet

Sign up for a new Caesars Sportsbook account

Place your first bet of $10 or more

If your first bet loses, you’ll receive a refund up to $1,250 from Caesars in free bets

21+. Terms and conditions apply.



Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.



Get Your First Bet Risk-Free Up To $500

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make your first deposit & get up to $500 in free bets

To get $500 in free bets, wager $500

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF



Bet $5+ on MLB and get $100 in Free Bets Instantly!

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5+ on any MLB team to win their next game

Win $100 no matter what!

Offer valid for new players only. Must be 21 years or older to play. Reward paid in site credit. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.



Get 5x $100 in Free Bets With PointsBet's Second Chance

Sign up for a new PointsBet account

Make a bet of up to $100 and receive a refund if you lose

Get this offer once a day for the first 5 days you sign up

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.



Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.



Get $2,000 in Free Bets

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit

Receive a free bet refund up to $500 if your first fixed odds bet loses

& a free bet refund up to $1,500 if your first two PointsBetting Wager loses

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

Monkey Knife Fight


Claim Instant Deposit Match up to $100 + Free $5 game

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.



Get Your First Single-Horse Win Wager Back Up to $200 if you don't win

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $200

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.



Get a $200 Sign-Up Bonus with Twinspires Racebook!

Open your TwinSpires.com account using offer code BET200

$200 bonus cash will be credited in increments of $100 for every $400 wagered

To earn the full $200 bonus players must wager $800 within 30 days

21+. Terms and conditions apply.

Underdog Fantasy


First deposit is 100% matched up to $100 with Underdog Fantasy

Sign up for a new account with Underdog Fantasy

Make your first deposit

Every dollar (up to $100) will be matched! Deposit $25, get $50; deposit $100, get $200, etc

Must be 21+ to play. Terms & conditions apply