The New England Patriots selected three offensive linemen during last month’s draft, with Justin Herron being one of them: the team invested the 195th overall selection in the Wake Forest offensive tackle, who is projected to be moved inside to guard at the next level — potentially serving as versatile and experienced depth behind starters Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. But while Herron’s positional flexibility is one of his most impressive traits, he does not enter the next level without some questions.
His strength and inconsistent anchor could both become problems when going against NFL-caliber defenders, for example, while he needs to work on his hand technique and feel for the game as well. On top of it all, Herron also brings a significant injury history to the table. With that said, let’s dive into the his reported medical history and find out what it means for his development and the Patriots’ possible projection of him.
2016 (redshirt sophomore): Herron earned Wake Forest’s starting left tackle role during his 2015 redshirt junior campaign, and returned in the same capacity the following year. But while he appeared in all 12 of his team’s games the previous season, he had to miss one in 2016 due to an ankle injury: Herron left the Week 2 contest against Duke after injuring his ankle in the fourth quarter. He missed the following week’s game against Delaware due to the ailment before eventually returning and starting 10 straight to end the season.
2018 (redshirt senior): Herron’s redshirt senior campaign lasted just seven minutes: on a third down play in the first quarter of the Demon Deacons’ Week 1 contest against Tulane, his left knee buckled and he stayed on the ground with what was later diagnosed to be a torn ACL. While Herron was able to gingerly walk off the field unassisted, the injury forced him to miss the rest of the season and to apply for a second redshirt to be able to return to the field as a graduate player the following year.
What this means for the Patriots
The fact that Herron returned to the field for the 2019 season and not just start all 13 of Wake Forest’s games but also be named a team captain and voted third-team All-ACC certainly put any doubts about his recovery from the torn ACL to bed. His medical examination was still important heading into the pre-draft process, however, given his overall résumé. That said, it looks as if there were no major concerns on the Patriots’ part.
For the 2020 season, this means that the 24-year-old should therefore expected to be good to go and compete for a backup role along the offensive line. While there is always a chance for another injury, especially considering the physical nature of offensive line play in the NFL, Herron cannot be labeled as “injury prone” despite missing a combined 13 games during his college career because of ankle and knee issues. Both of his injuries should rather be classified as freak accidents and are not necessarily an accurate representation of Herron’s durability.