The Chicago Bears added more talent to their backfield on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft in providing a running mate for quarterback Justin Fields when they drafted Khalil Herbert. The former Virginia Tech running back is one of my sneaky-favorite Dynasty values and could return 2021 redraft value as well. Herbert is a bit of a late-blooming running back prospect whose breakout didn’t come until the 2020 season after transferring from Kansas (where he first arrived in 2016) to Virginia Tech. But don’t let his age, diminutive size (which actually works his favor, but more on that later) or late breakout lead you astray. Herbert can ball, and in my mind, he’s the most underrated prospect at his position in the entire class.
Herbert is used to being underrated and unheralded. He never topped 1,000 rushing yards in any season out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., so he entered college football as a three-star RB recruit (247Sports). In fact, Kansas was his only Power Five offer. While Herbert showed some signs at Kansas, his breakout came at Virginia Tech once he got into the right system and environment. Some may view that negatively, but I take the opposite approach, leaning instead on his untapped upside.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Herbert from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
2021 Fantasy Impact
Herbert joins a Bears backfield that includes 2020 breakout second-year back David Montgomery, Damien Williams and Tarik Cohen. While expectations will be high for Montgomery in Year 3, it’s important to note we’ve seen Chicago scale back his workload in the past with coach Matt Nagy opting to go with different backs in different situations. Williams was likely signed as insurance for Cohen, if the latter’s return from injury takes longer than expected — both are likely to be viewed as passing down specialists.
For Herbert, his clearest path to playing time in Year 1 comes as a change-of-pace back. Whether or not he can return value on this role is entirely dependent on his effectiveness and whether that can lead to a role in the red zone. Herbert is limited as a receiver after hardly being used in the passing game at both Kansas and Virginia Tech. However, Herbert showcased big-time YAC ability in 2020 on limited receiving touches. It’s possible that Herbert can evolve into a bigger contributor in the passing game but less likely to happen right away in 2021. Ultimately, Herbert’s redraft value is likely dependent on injuries opening up opportunities.
Herbert’s age, late breakout in college and size will all be used against him in the Dynasty community. I get it — it’s the nature of the game, and generally speaking, prospects who have those factors working against them have to be outliers to succeed. But let’s not leave out the fact that Herbert has legit mid-4.4s speed and game speed that allows him to break away easily on film. He also joins a coaching staff and system that fits his skill set in Chicago. You’ll likely be able to grab Herbert at the back end of your rookie drafts with one of your final picks, and he’s a lottery ticket I’ll be looking to acquire in every rookie draft.
Scouting report StrengthsRuns incredibly low to the ground and has a great center of gravity, making him extremely difficult to tackle in the open field.Herbert has a thick lower body and derives a lot of strength from his lower half.Contact balance is one of the most important traits for any RB, and Herbert demonstrates a borderline-elite ability to stay balanced on contact.Herbert is more than just timed speed fast — he consistently breaks long runs and has breakaway game speed.A broken tackle machine who creates yards after contact with ease. Displays excellent patience and vision as a runner while also maintaining plus burst.Although he’s being billed as a one-year wonder, he found his stride in 2019 with Kansas before transferring (over a small four-game sample size).Offers immediate upside on special teams as a returner.Light on his feet, and this is most noticeable in his cuts in space.Impressive ability to stop-and-start once he gets rolling.Demonstrates the traits and toughness necessary to hold up in pass protection.ConcernsHerbert will enter the NFL as an older prospect for the position and in general (fifth-year senior).Not much production or experience as a receiver — just 34 receptions in 46 career collegiate games. It’s not clear why he ended up transferring from Kansas midseason in 2019.Although he has the traits to become a serviceable back in pass protection, there are times on film where he looked disinterested and unaware of where to be in pass pro. Stats breakdown GAttRuYdsAvgTDRecReYdsAvgTD20201115511837.6141017917.912020 v top 252291455.01284.002019 v top 25N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/ACareer4647529186.122342978.71 Advanced stats to know
(all from 2020)
19 carries of 15-plus yards — sixth-most in the nation782 yards after contact — eighth-most in the nation42 missed tackles forced — 14th-most in the nation NFL comparison
When I watch Herbert, who earned the nickname “Juice,” and it’s not hard to see why, I see shades of former Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s not quite as powerful in the lower half as MJD was, and he’s not quite as fast, but he has similar traits to the ones that made Jones-Drew such a special back in the NFL for a short period.