Coaches in the NFL are always convinced they can take raw physical talent and push it to reach maximum potential. And that’s exactly what the New York Giants will hope to do with third round selection, Davis Webb.
Webb started his collegiate career at Texas Tech, thriving in the Air Raid offense early as a freshman with four 400-yard passing performances, 20 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. But he struggled to avoid mistakes and get wins, so he was eventually replaced by Patrick Mahomes and transferred to California for the 2016 season.
In his only season with the Golden Bears, Webb racked up 4,295 passing yards, 37 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions — not far behind the 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions Jared Goff put up in 2015 before going No. 1 overall a year ago.
But the Air Raid offenses of Texas Tech and California have produced stat monsters in the past, who struggled to transition to the NFL. Webb will need plenty of grooming before he’s ready to be a starter, but New York is banking on his physical talent making the selection worthwhile.
Why did Giants pick Webb?
Webb is likely going to take some time to take over as a starter, so it’s his potential for the future that made him worth the pick.
He fits the NFL quarterback bill
Physically, Webb may check more boxes than any other passer in the 2017 NFL draft. He was the tallest quarterback at the NFL Combine at 6’5, 229 pounds and was one of six with a hand width of more than 33 inches.
Mitchell Trubisky, who went off the board at No. 2 to the Bears, stands at 6’2, 222 pounds with 32-inch hands.
Webb’s clean throwing motion and strong arm mean most of his development can be on the mental side of the game and there isn’t much need to break down and rebuild his mechanics.
Intelligence and drive
It’s one thing to teach a quarterback plays on a whiteboard, and another to hope those lessons stick when 300-pound bodies are flying around. Webb’s aptitude to develop into a field general who can pick apart defenses is tough to evaluate, but he’s impressed during the pre-draft process.
When Webb traveled to the Senior Bowl in January, he arrived two days early to throw with receivers and prepare for the week of practices.
“You’ve got to do a lot of research,” Webb told USA Today. “That’s the biggest thing: I try to gather as much information as I can to maximize myself. Because if you’re just standing still, you’re going to be a dinosaur and everyone else will go around you. That’s like my biggest fear.”
That personality and character won over many in the months leading up to the draft, and there were many teams rumored to have interest in Webb as a first-round prospect.
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What are the concerns about Webb?
The biggest and most obvious problem with Webb is the offense that he played in. The biggest success story in the history of Air Raid offenses is Nick Foles, while the list of disappointments includes Tim Couch, Brandon Weeden and John Beck, among others.
It’s a system that often asks quarterbacks to get the ball to playmakers on short passes, doing very little to test the passers’ aptitude as a tactician capable of diagnosing and analyzing opposing schemes.
“I think it’s not gonna be a problem for Davis,” said Chad Hansen, his top receiver last year at Cal and a fellow draft prospect. “Obviously, he’s been in air raid offenses all his college career, at Texas Tech and here. But he’s such a student of the game, and I think that he’ll be able to pick up any type of offense that’s thrown at him.
“And he has such arm talent. I think he’s just a hard worker off the field as well as on the field, so I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem for him. I know that there are a lot of air raid quarterbacks that don’t really work out in the league, but I don’t think Davis is one of them. I think he’s gonna be very successful at the next level.”
That will be a necessary part of Webb’s development into an NFL quarterback, but there were red flags about his abilities in that area. He threw 34 interceptions and often looked as though he threw into coverage because of pre-determined decisions prior to the snap.
How Webb fits with Giants?
It wouldn’t have made much sense for a team without an established passer like the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, or Chicago Bears to take Webb. The last thing the Cal product needs is to be put in the same position as Jared Goff and asked to step in as a rookie.
Patience is rare in the NFL, but the best situation for Webb is to have time to sit and adjust to the challenges of the league like Aaron Rodgers was able to do early in his career with the Green Bay Packers. Luckily, he’ll get that with the Giants, where Eli Manning isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.