Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert just got paid. Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow should be next in line. While both QBs have thrived early in their NFL careers, it’s been Burrow who has had more playoff success. Herbert won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 while Burrow was recovering from injury. Burrow would return to win Comeback Player of the Year. Last season, Burrow progressed while Herbert took a step back. In 2023, we find both players at a crossroads of sorts.
Here we’ll go over who you should draft first in fantasy football.
Fantasy football showdown: Joe Burrow vs. Justin Herbert
Case for Joe Burrow
First, we have to address the obvious. Burrow is injured again. He suffered a calf strain early in training camp and could miss all of preseason. There’s an outside chance Burrow misses a week or two during the regular season as well. That definitely hurts his stock heading into draft season. It may not impact his overall stats during the regular season, however.
If those stats aren’t impacted, Burrow should finish among the top-5 QBs in fantasy football. The Bengals have arguably the best offense in the NFL, at least the best WR group. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are all back along with RB Joe Mixon. Cincinnati still may have issues on the offensive line but improvement should be expected. Despite the line woes, Burrow still threw for 4,475 yards with 35 TDs, finishing as the QB4 in fantasy last season. His five rushing TDs on 275 yards helped aid that finish.
The only thing holding Burrow back are injuries. Starting the season with the calf issue isn’t great. If he can get healthy and not miss any games, there’s no cause for concern (at least no more than normal). The Bengals have a pretty soft schedule until their Week 7 bye. The second half will be tougher in terms of opponents but great for fantasy scoring. If Burrow stays healthy and plays 15-16 games, there’s no reason to believe he’ll regress at all. That should mean another season around 4,500 passing yards and 35 TDs. What could regress is the rushing stats. Even so, that would only knock Burrow down a spot or two in the QB fantasy ranks.
Case for Justin Herbert
Herbert has a lot of hype heading into Year 4 for a player who had a rough 2022. He managed to finish second in passing yards with 4,739 but only threw for 25 TDs, which ranked tied for eighth. That total was significantly less than 2021 and 2020, his rookie season. Many believe that a healthy offense and the addition of Quentin Johnston will help Herbert get back to posting top-5 fantasy numbers.
Speaking of that WR group, Johnston was brought in to serve as the No. 3 wideout behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Both veterans have had issues staying healthy and that will be the key factor in Herbert getting back to elite TD totals. RB Austin Ekeler is also entering a contract year and should be motivated to land another deal. So as long as healthy holds up, this Chargers offense has top-5 upside overall.
Again, if health stands up, there’s no reason why Herbert shouldn’t improve on last year’s totals. The Chargers should be in position to chuck the ball a ton in the AFC West but their schedule overall is tough. Competitive games are good for Herbert, though. If anything we see the passing yardage regress but Herbert gets back to throwing over 30 TD passes.
This is as close as two players might get in fantasy at QB. Burrow has a higher ceiling but you run the risk of injury. Herbert should bounce back but we also might see Ekeler vulture more touchdowns. Burrow and the Bengals should be throwing the ball more than any team in the NFL. Knowing Burrow was a top-5 QB last season playing behind that offensive line makes it feel like things can only get better. If that’s the case and Burrow doesn’t have any setbacks with injury, he gets the slight edge over Herbert. Maybe in dynasty we rethink that given Burrow’s injury history.