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How does Davis Webb compare to QBs in 2018 NFL Draft class?

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Let’s take a deep dive into the film and try to find out

NFL: New York Giants at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 offseason is a momentous, potentially historic, one for the New York Giants. Not only did they take the rare step of firing their head coach mid-season, but they fired their general manager for the first time in franchise history.

Facing the Giants’ new brain trust is the question “What about life after Eli Manning?”

In some ways, the question couldn’t have come at a better time. The 2018 quarterback class is regarded as one of the best in recent memory, with as many as six potential franchise players up for grabs. Making matters even better, the Giants will have the second overall pick of the draft, and could very well have their pick of the lot.

With that in mind I am pouring over everything available on these quarterbacks — game tape, combine workouts, and interviews — to get as complete a picture of them as possible.

The Giants also, however, have another potential option already on the roster in Davis Webb, their 2017 third-round selection.

The popular consensus is that Webb’s presence shouldn’t prevent the Giants from drafting one of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, or Mason Rudolph if they feel that one of them is a franchise quarterback.

However, before we get that far the Giants need to make the determination whether or Webb is, himself, a potential franchise quarterback.

With that in mind, we are going to do our due diligence and look at Webb in the same frank light as the other quarterback prospects and ask “Why not Davis Webb?”

Measurables

Athleticism

Webb has no athletic limitations, at least with regards to the normal needs of the quarterback position. While not regarded as a great athlete, he stacks up well against other quarterback prospects and was a top performer in all Combine events in 2017, and would have been as well in 2018.

Perhaps part of the reason why Webb’s athleticism isn’t more heralded is because it wasn’t on display in Cal’s offense. Unlike many spread systems, Cal’s offense did not feature the zone-read in their scheme. However, that does not mean that there weren’t instances where his athleticism was on display.

While Webb would likely never be considered “Dual Threat” quarterback — athletic ability aside, it simply isn’t his game — his size and mobility should allow him to extend plays in the NFL.

There is some concern over his 9 14 inch hands, particularly when it comes to ball security and throwing with touch in the elements in December. However, seemed to be able to grip and control the ball in rain at Cal, and only had five fumbles (one lost) in his senior season.

Arm Talent

Arm Strength

This is Webb’s calling card.

Prior to the draft, Webb claimed that he is able to throw the ball at least 75 yards in the air. On tape, he shows ability to effortlessly generate power and drive the ball to any area of the field with apparent ease.

Much of Cal’s offense featured quick passes, screens, and bubble screens, but Webb is able to throw deep passes with rare touch and accuracy.

Unlike some young quarterbacks with prodigious arm strength, Webb is able to take heat off his underneath passes and throw with touch. This pass is from the Giants’ final preseason game, and was part of a drive which led to a last-second win.

This is “only” a 15-yard throw, but in reality it is a fairly long 15 yards. Webb starts on the left hash mark and is throwing outside the right numbers, taking a quick three-step drop (with a hitch), making the throw at least 23 yards in the air. He is still able to land the ball in his receivers hands, in stride, relatively softly, allowing for some small run after catch and the clock to stop.

Mechanics

From the waist up, Webb’s mechanics are sound. He has a quick, compact, easily repeatable over-the-top release that gets the ball out in a hurry. He is able to throw from a variety of platforms, as you can see above when he has to find his receiver on the run.

He does show a peculiar “tic” of patting the ball as he makes up his mind to throw. It is a small thing and doesn’t happen all the time, but it does slow his release and could tip defensive backs to break on routes in the NFL.

Despite his impressive physical talent, Webb only only completed roughly 62 percent of his passes his senior year, to the tune of 37 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. The most glaring culprit was inconsistent lower-body mechanics. When in rhythm, Webb’s upper and lower body are generally smooth and in sync.

However, when forced off his tempo, either rushed or stalled by coverage, his mechanics would occasionally break down.

The good news is that Webb does show proper mechanics at other times, even when under duress. So, with enough work and practice, these mechanical inefficiencies and issues should be correctable.

Intangibles

Mental Processing

Webb’s mental processes are an interesting paradox. On one hand, he is credited by his coaches for his study habits and football IQ.

“I probably gave him more freedom than any quarterback I’ve coached,” [Cal offensive coordinator Jake] Spavital says. “He just had a great understanding of what was trying to be accomplished. And he could go out there and execute it. Now, if he wanted to put in new plays or if he was going to check into certain things, he would definitely run it by me first and ask my opinion of it. Or if he liked certain concepts that he wanted to get installed, he’d make a huge cut up and a big presentation of it, just to let me know he’s thought of all the ends and outs, and the what ifs of a certain play -- just all the contingencies of what can happen on a certain play.”

(via CBSsports.com)

Eventually, Spavital allowed Webb to run the Friday morning meeting with the skill position players.

“I would break down film through the week, and make a 40-50-play cut-up for my receivers and running backs the day before the game,” Webb recalled. “I would run that meeting, it would be about 30 minutes long, and I would make sure that we were all on the same page. What I was looking for, how we were going to be successful against whatever defense we were facing, and we came out of those meetings more confident and looser and ready for Saturdays.”

(via BleacherReport)

However, as often happens with strong-armed quarterbacks, Webb is something of a “See it, Throw it” quarterback. He has a tendency to wait until he sees a receiver come open before throwing the ball.

Here we see Cal running a simple Sail Concept at the top of the screen with three layered routes to stress and expose coverage on one side of the field.

Webb makes the correct read here, getting the ball to his tight end along the sideline for the first down. However he clutches, double-clutches, then triple-clutches the ball while waiting for his receiver find the hole in the coverage.

Preferably, Webb wouldn’t clutch the ball once, but rather throw to the spot where his tight end would be, denying the coverage the chance to break on the pass and give his player even more of a chance to run after the catch.

It is an easy habit for college QBs to fall in to, particularly when they have arm strength like Webb’s. Windows are larger and his arm allows him to wait an extra beat or two and still fit the ball in.

He doesn’t always do it, and isn’t afraid to challenge tight windows when he has to. However, he will need to speed up his processes and make his decisions faster in the NFL. Windows are smaller, the action is faster, and there just isn’t time for indecision.

Character

Webb doesn’t come with any character concerns, and his work ethic is considered his greatest asset. He is regarded as an obsessive worker; Both a gym rat and a film rat, and a leader on his team.

Ask The Expert

Because of the importance of Giants’ decision regarding the second overall pick and the future of their quarterback position, I wanted a second opinion, and backstop, on these players.

I reached out to Mark Schofield of Inside The Pylon. Schofield is a former quarterback for Wesleyan University and provides expert, and excellent, film breakdowns for ITP. He was kind enough to consent to contributing his expert opinion to this series.

When studying the quarterbacks for the 2017 Draft, I did not share the excitement many had about Davis Webb, who was my QB7. He came in behind the “Big Four” of Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer, as well as Nathan Peterman and the vaunted Brad Kaaya, who was my QB5 and someone I’ll be taking a well-deserved L on when I revisit those rankings in the future. But I digress.

Looking back on him, I still think that Webb delivered perhaps the best vertical route in this class, and my notes are littered with phrases like: “great deep ball here on 9 route to right, good placement, good job of looking safety off, + deep accuracy and + manipulation” (0:26 versus Utah on the DraftBreakdown cutup); “great touch on 9 route for TD” (4:50 versus Utah); and “tremendous deep ball...whew on this 9 route” (2:00 versus Washington State). Throws like that are going to get people excited about his ability to play the position in the NFL. So when the discussion turned to Webb as a potential first-round selection, there was a particular narrow path where even to me, it made sense. For a vertical-based passing system, say the Arizona Cardinals, Davis Webb is a perfect fit. He has the big arm and the deep passing ability to thrive in a Coryell-based scheme.

But that being said, I have reservations about Webb transferring to another style of play. While his accuracy downfield is impressive, on shorter or even more intermediate routes, he can miss a number of throws, particularly high, such as on hitch or quick curl routes. There are times when he tends to be indecisive with the football, and the ball does not come out when it should or he functions as more of a “see it, throw it” type passer. So for systems such as a West Coast scheme or even an Erhardt-Perkins offense, the successful transition is more of a projection right now than one backed up by tape. Also, he will face some questions about the transition coming from an Air Raid-style of play. While his tape does have some examples of him working through progressions (0:37 versus Washington State when he sees a mesh concept, reads the mesh, comes off it, and throws a deeper dig route) and Doug Farrar recently studied film with Webb to work through his ability to progress to a more pro style offense, that learning curve will still be there.

We didn’t get a chance to see Webb this past season, but from seeing clips on Twitter it does seem like he is working on the more intermediate areas of the field.

One- to Three-Year Projection:

Given his (in my opinion) scheme dependency at this point, I think Webb could play early in his career in a Coryell-style of offense, but will need some more time to transition to another scheme. This is why I believe the Cardinals do make some sense, as he could play as a rookie in that scheme, depending on the health of Carson Palmer next season as the veteran did battle with some injuries according to Bruce Arians. Considering that the Cardinals need to find their next quarterback, the pairing of Webb and Arizona does make sense. In that offense he could start on a week-to-week basis early. Any other type of scheme, and you’re looking at more of a two-year transition, similar to Paxton Lynch last season or even Jared Goff. With the New York Giants, it does seem like he’s taking that longer developmental path. The potential is still there but with the second-overall selection, the Giants might decide to take advantage of the early pick and address the quarterback spot, clouding the picture for Webb.

Summary

Webb was generally considered between the fourth- or fifth-best quarterback prospect in the 2017 draft. That assessment was largely driven by the fact that he would likely need a “red shirt” year of development to acclimate to an NFL offense and be able to contribute.

He also needed time to work on his mechanical issues, as well as learn the mechancis of playing from under center (though that need is considerably less than it was even a few years ago).

However, his size, athleticism, arm strength, are all intriguing, and his work ethic is such that he is a viable candidate to capitalize on those traits.

In many ways Webb is the “seventh” top quarterback prospect who will be under consideration by the Giants. But unlike this year’s draft prospects, he does have the advantage of having a year’s worth of practices in an actual professional offense on tape for the Giants’ decision makers to study. How they grade the 2018 version of Webb remains to be seen, as does his fit with the 2018 quarterback class. While Webb shouldn’t keep the Giants from drafting a quarterback if they believe he can’t be their future, he has to be a factor in their calculus.

And it’s possible that the Giants could decide to go with the hard-working Webb as the bird in hand.