Chase Young or Justin Herbert? ESPN experts hit rewind, make Washington's 2020 pick

ASHBURN, Va. -- When the Washington Football Team drafted defensive end Chase Young with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, it was a no-brainer. A local kid who played a premium position and was ranked as the draft's No. 1 player by ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay.

Washington made the right pick. Young had 7.5 sacks, forced four fumbles and recovered three -- returning one for a touchdown -- and was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

However, four selections later at No. 6, the Los Angeles Chargers drafted quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns as a rookie and plays the game's most important position. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Herbert will face Young when Washington plays host to the Chargers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Washington will start Ryan Fitzpatrick, its 31st starting quarterback since Mark Rypien, who led it to a Super Bowl win in 1991.

Teams can't operate in hindsight, and one front office executive with another team said Washington got it right with Young. Period. However, in a poll of seven ESPN NFL analysts, the majority said they would have selected Herbert, knowing what they now know.

But Washington's choice did not come down to Young or Herbert. Had the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Young with the No. 1 overall pick instead of quarterback Joe Burrow, Washington would have pounced on Burrow at No. 2, according to sources.

As for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, drafted No. 5 overall by the Miami Dolphins, and Herbert, there were mixed opinions as to who Washington would have favored. More context: when Washington hired coach Ron Rivera in January 2020, he pitched owner Dan Snyder on his plan for quarterback Dwayne Haskins -- the team's 2019 first-round pick. Though Haskins was drafted No. 15 overall against the wishes of the coaches and scouts, he finished the 2019 season with a respectable Total QBR of 60.1 over his final three starts.

None of it mattered, because Washington viewed Young as a player who could impact the defensive line and the whole organization. But it's still tempting to hit the rewind button and wonder what might have been with Herbert.

"Herbert has a chance to be a special player," said Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety and analyst on ESPN's The Matchup Show. "With the physical tools that compare to Buffalo's Josh Allen, Herbert could develop into a scheme-transcendent player; a quarterback who can read it out from the pocket and deliver the ball with location, or use his second-reaction ability to create plays outside of structure."

Bowen's take on Young?

"The arrow is pointing up. And we saw clear signs of his development as his rookie year progressed. In addition to winning off the edge with speed and power, Young is also building a deeper tool box of counter moves. He can be one of the league's premier edge rushers."

Here is how the seven ESPN analysts answered when asked to choose between Young and Herbert for the No. 2 overall pick Washington held in 2020, taking into account a season of hindsight:

Mina Kimes: "I'd take Herbert. He looks like he has top-five upside to me, and is already sitting close to [the top] 10 after one year. I just don't think you can pass on that at that position [as good as Young is].

Matt Hasselbeck: "You can't look at it in a vacuum. [Washington] had just drafted Haskins, so the safe bet was Young. It reminds me of what the Browns did with Myles Garrett [taking the pass-rusher No. 1 overall in a 2017 draft that included QBs Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky]. They could have gone QB or Myles. ... The guy they went with was a sure thing in Chase. There's something to the kid from Oregon being a quarterback in L.A. and staying on the West Coast. Young is a great fit for Washington. He feels like an NFC East player for me."

Marcus Spears: "[Herbert]. If you don't have the QB, you have no shot. Pass rush is a premium, but that's third most important to me: QB, tackle, pass rush."

Bowen: "With Burrow off the board at that point, you don't pass on a player like Young who has an incredibly high-ceiling at an impact position. ... [But] you have to look at positional value here. Even with the ceiling of Young, and the tape that points to his ascending talent, it's the quarterback. And, in today's NFL pass game, you can't skip over a chance to land a franchise player under center."

Ryan Clark: "[Young] was the absolute right choice. No one knew Herbert would be an alien as a rookie. He had been built up to be that the last two to three years at Oregon, but you never saw it materialize ... now all that talent explodes on the scene in the NFL. If you find a Hall of Fame quarterback, you're in a good position. But if you find a Hall of Fame pass-rusher, that's the second-best position you can be in from a player pick. [Washington] got that in Young. You can't be upset about what happened. This isn't [deciding between] Mitch [Trubisky] and Mahomes, so you can feel pretty good about your pick. ... [Young] can be one of the best ever to do it."

Dan Orlovsky: "You'd definitely take Herbert. I don't know if teams got to spend as much time with Justin [pre-draft] as they would have hoped. There were two big questions in relation to Justin. Why did he play so OK in some games against average competition? I called two of them, one against Arizona, and I just sat there going, 'Come on, man.' I couldn't get past that. ... And then: What kind of leader he was. The more you read up on him and listen to him and spend time with him, you're going: How did anyone question his leadership skills or his ability to relate to teammates or his ability to control the locker room? That's not a knock on Chase; he's a great player. But Herbert looks like a guy who can win a Super Bowl. I'm sure if they could re-do it, and if they knew what they knew now, [Washington would] love to have Herbert."

Kiper Jr.: Young was his top-rated player in 2020; Herbert was ninth. "I love Young ... but if you put Herbert on that team right now, how are we viewing Washington? If the quarterback is right there with another player, you've got to get the quarterback if you don't have one. That's an easy decision to make. If, like Todd [McShay], you say, 'I don't like this guy,' then you're taking Young. He's clearly one of the elite players in this [2020] draft, if not the best player."

In his first season, Young helped settle a defensive line room that struggled to adapt to a new position coach and system, and leads the way like a strong quarterback would.

For example, he has grown tight with fellow defensive end Montez Sweat and has been a big factor in helping Sweat develop, whether through workouts or approach. Now, the two of them talk about setting records for combined sack totals.

"We always talk about being the best," Young said, "but we always talk about doing extra work and things like that, too."

While it's easy to assume Washington's defense would still be ascending without Young, it would have a lot more work to do. It simply would not be the same team plus Herbert. Nor is there a guarantee Herbert would have been the same player in Washington last season, considering the struggles its offensive line endured and the need for more quality wide receivers.

Said Hasselbeck: "Sometimes you have to build the team and then figure out your quarterback. Other times you get your quarterback and figure out your team. A win is a win."