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Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes: Fantasy football showdown

We go over the fantasy football outlooks of Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes and pick who we’d draft first.

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

If you want an elite fantasy quarterback on your roster then you’re likely targeting the stereotypical “gunslinger” in every sense of the word. What better division to get your guy than in the wild AFC West, where the likes of Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes will vie for the division title. Herbert and Mahomes represent the future of the quarterback position in the NFL. Subsequently, they also represent two of the elite quarterback options in fantasy football.

With these two battling for wins in a tightly contested AFC West there are sure to be more than a handful of high-scoring games. Both Herbert and Mahomes bring elite arm talent to the table as we assess which passer you should roll with in fantasy this coming season.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Herbert has only played two seasons of professional football and some have him pegged as the favorite for the 2022 NFL MVP. That belief alone speaks to how elite the Chargers’ quarterback is. Herbert finished last season as the second-best quarterback in total fantasy points and averaged 23.28 fantasy points per game. Herbert finished second among all quarterbacks in passing yards (5,014), attempts (672), and completions (443). With the arms race that is the AFC West don’t expect Herbert to slow it down going forward.

The third-year quarterback has two elite options on the outside in Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, and he has a dynamic running back in the backfield with Austin Ekeler. Given how every team in his division upgraded in the offseason it’s widely accepted that to beat their division rivals the Chargers will need to outscore every one of them. For fantasy managers, that’s a match made in heaven with Herbert as your QB1.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Herbert had an outstanding 2021 season, but his quarterback rival in Kansas City wasn’t far behind. Mahomes finished right behind Herbert in completions (436), passing attempts (658), and just one-shy in touchdowns (37). Mahomes also finished in the top five in passing yards with 4,839 last season. The rest of the AFC West may have loaded up in the offseason, but don’t expect that to phase Mahomes in the slightest.

While the departure of Tyreek Hill is a detriment to the Chiefs’ passing attack, Mahomes still has his reliable target and matchup nightmare Travis Kelce by his side. Kansas City also offset the loss of Hill with the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The rich continue to get richer as Mahomes heads into the new season with more than enough weapons at his disposal.

Fantasy football verdict

The numbers are nearly identical side-by-side and if you miss out on drafting one you can’t go wrong with drafting the other. But I’m putting my chips on Herbert in this matchup with the number of weapons that he’s already formed chemistry with as a slight advantage. I have no doubt that Mahomes will continue to post big numbers, but even an elite talent like him will need to adjust to Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling on the outside.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Herbert will be ready to make a push toward the postseason and potentially a division title. He was the second-best fantasy quarterback last season and jumped into the elite tier of quarterbacks in just Year 2. Williams gives him a deep threat, Allen is one of the best route runners in the league, and Ekeler is a threat on the ground and in the passing game too. Herbert and company already have that rapport as a whole and that gives them the slight edge in this pick ‘em scenario.