Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Draft Profile: Rd 4 - B.W. Webb - CB - William And Mary

The following is the 5th in a series of draft profiles for the Dallas Cowboys' selected players from April's draft. These profiles are put together after watching significant amounts of game tape from each player, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and play to get an idea of how they might fit in best with Dallas come training camp in Oxnard this summer.

B.W. Webb
William And Mary
5'10, 183
40 time: 4.49, Bench Press: 14
January 7, 1990 (Age 23)

One prevailing Dallas theme as you look at this draft appears to be the idea that the Cowboys were looking to make preparations for a time when they would have to release long-time veteran contributors because of salary cap implications and more significantly, the eroding skills of players on the backside of their careers.  Any NFL team that is successful begins to make replacement plans before they have to.  Dallas, a team that has more holes than it has plugs is trying to do this on the fly, and appears to have done a decent job of such an activity last month.

One such selection, B.W. Webb - the slot corner from William And Mary, seems to cover them for the exit of Orlando Scandrick as early as next winter, but almost certainly at the end of 2014 at the latest.

In the meantime, Webb provides them with depth at a very important position in a league that attacks corners with great routine.  Cornerback is one of those positions where most general managers would agree that "you can never have too many" and now that the Cowboys can run out Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne as their top pair, with Orlando Scandrick in the slot, and now Webb as the 4th for a year is a wonderful addition.  The need for a street free agent to roll right in and contribute seems minimal with strong depth on the defensive secondary this year, despite some issues at the top of the safety position.

In watching several of Webb's performances on film from 2012, there are some characteristics that stick out immediately.  First, you are drawn to his size as he appears to be very small.  If he is 5'10, it is deceiving, because you initially think he is even smaller.  But, he battles his tail off and seems to be ready to fight for the ball in all circumstances in coverage.

And that competitive edge he played with in college will serve him well as he makes the jump to the next level.  He is certainly the type to express his feelings with the occasional primal scream and jawing that many in the position have made routine on Sundays.  His best player attribute is his desire and ability to win battles in the air.  And this is an obvious necessity if quarterbacks want to attack the short corner, he better be able to leap and contest balls thrown over his head and "jump ball" scenarios.  He did very well with this at his college and at the Senior Bowl, and for that we must give him credit and the benefit of the doubt.  But, I suppose we should wait to see if he can elevate to the necessary heights that Brandon Marshall, Hakeem Nicks, or Calvin Johnson will require this season if the situation dictates.

He seems to have quality instincts for the ball as you can best see in the 2nd video below at the 1:00 mark as he jumped a pitch in the New Hampshire game to cause a turnover.  He also jumps pass routes which will have to be monitored as he turns pro, but you would rather ask a guy to be more controlled than to be more aggressive.  You can rein a player in, but if his default setting is to be careful, then I don't think you have a pro prospect to be excited about.  If the name of the game on defense is to look for big plays, then you are going to have to occasionally have the internal confidence to make them.

Tackling is something that he does willingly.  Again, he is quite small, so he is constantly challenged on the smoke screens where he has to fight through a WR block and get to the ball, because if he doesn't, it could go a long way.  He does well in those situations.  He also competes on stretch run plays, but even at a smaller school, offensive linemen are just going to bulldoze him.

Let's be clear:  He is not going to be known as a fantastic run support tackler.  He is willing, but that isn't his specialty.  But, to play slot, you better be able to snuff out some runs.  So, can he use his quickness to preserve his health and make the play on Sundays?  Many people have issues with Orlando Scandrick, but one issue you should not have is his toughness.  And for Webb to be able to ultimately replace him, he will have to demonstrate not only the courage, but the durability that slot in the NFL requires.

In coverage, he stays with the route well, often from a fundamentally sound position and can find the ball.  He is just so athletic and fluid and then drives on the ball with exceptional quickness.  He also has reasonable return skills that perhaps have been overstated (by virtue of breaking a 91-yard return against Delaware), but still with his tools, you can bet he gives them another sound option that they will likely use if Dwayne Harris is unavailable.

This is a useful pick, especially if he can prove that size is not everything.

Here is some video to look at, if you haven't already seen it:

Webb #2 vs Maryland

Highlight Video (Music NSFW)

Summary: Again, this cannot be over-stated.  This team has not enjoyed corner depth over the years where they have even opened the season recently with just 3 corners on the roster (2011).  But, now, after losing Mike Jenkins, they appear to have an option in Webb that can help them cover themselves.  He is not strictly a slot corner, but that is his natural NFL spot, it appears, provided he can handle runs to his side.  I think the attributes that will serve him well are clearly his battle and desire to mix things up.  He is a very aggressive, emotional, and competitive player - all things that you look for in a corner who is going to be attacked on a regular basis until he proves he belongs on Sundays.

You would hope he can bulk up a bit, because science indicates that it is tough to play physical and survive at that size for long, but if he can knock that off his list of doubts, the Cowboys may have quite a find here at pick #114.  Many thought this would be the pick where they would address running back, and the Cowboys saw UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (Green Bay), South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore (San Francisco), and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor (Arizona) all go off the board between this pick and the pick at #151 which resulted in Joseph Randle, who we will examine next.

But, they saw an aggressive and courageous corner and hopped on the opportunity.  And now they actually have a plan at corner in case an injury hits the group in 2013.  This seems like pretty solid logic if they have properly projected his step up to the NFL.  From there, if he proves able, he might be in the mix to help give them a cheaper alternative at a high-leverage position in 2014.

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