After reading this article from Tom Pelissero about Joe Webb’s recent comments about moving to wide receiver, it got me thinking more about his potential at that position. And so I did a little digging around the web to see what I could find out about his potential skills as a wide out. As we all know, Webb spent the last 3 years working primarily as a QB for the Vikings and displayed amazing athleticism and potential, but was not quite ever able to put it all together on the field. And as many know, he was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft as a wide receiver. After seeing Webb throw some passes during the rookie minicamp immediately following the draft, then coach Brad Childress moved Joe Webb from his drafted position of WR to QB. But was that the best decision? What could Joe Webb have been as a WR? So, let’s flash back to before the 2010 draft and check out some of his scouting reports.
His play at quarterback the past two seasons could force NFL teams to give him a shot there next summer, but his combination of size and speed have caused most teams to project him to receiver.
He proved himself a capable receiver with 30 catches for 459 yards and three scores in 2007…NFL teams really wanted to see him as a receiver at the Senior Bowl, and he looked good enough to warrant a mid-to-late-round draft pick. His pro day performance (4.44 40, 42.5" vertical, 11'05" broad jump, 4.40 short shuttle, 21 reps, 6.71 three-cone) would have received the same type of hype Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell did at the Combine - if only he had been invited. Webb's skill set could see him drafted much higher than people expect.
Release: Takes time to get to full speed, but should improve here when coaches teach him to explode from his stance like he does the starting block in the 40. Accelerates past cornerbacks once in stride. Strong enough to handle the jam. Does not have a second gear downfield.
Hands: Huge hands (10.75") and arms (33.75") for the position; can use them to create separation downfield and snatch passes out of the air. Nice body control on the sidelines; able to keep his feet down. Makes tough catches in traffic, and will win jump balls with his height and vertical leap. Needs time on the Jugs machine to secure balls more consistently and tucking them away before making a move. Can track the ball over either shoulder down the sideline.
Route running: Relatively inexperienced as route runner; will round them off and give defenders clues before he makes the cut. Owns the agility to handle any route on the tree, however. Uses his big frame to shield defenders on slants and to muscle cornerbacks off the ball in the end zone. Has the deep speed and foot quickness for double moves and comeback routes to be effective; learning the head fake to sell the first move.
After the catch: Large man who is difficult for defensive backs to drag down, especially when in full stride. Quick enough to make a move to shed cornerback after the catch and gain additional yardage. Has a bit of elusiveness for his size; can stop and use his long rams to push by oncoming defenders. Willing to lower his shoulder and pound defenders on his way out of bounds.
Blocking: Has prototypical body, hands and upper-body strength to be effective downfield, but is very inexperienced here. Must prove he can be explosive and his effort can be consistent in training camp to see time on the field.
Intangibles: Intelligent, competitive field general. Coaches considered him the leader of the team. Carried the workload for a struggling team with few weapons around him. No character issues. Graduated with criminal justice degree in December, and served internship with Jefferson County Sheriff's Office in the summer of 2009.
-Knows his future is at wide receiver and not quarterback. Worked as a wideout at both the Senior Bowl and Pro Day
-Good combination of size and speed (6'3 226 with 4.45 speed)
-Played some wide receiver early in his UAB career
-High upside - has the potential to follow in Antwan Randle El and Josh Cribb's footsteps.
-Very raw as a wide receiver. Look fluid but showed poor concentration and hands during the Senior Bowl practices
-Intriguing athlete but he is purely a projection as a wide receiver.
-Does not have the skillset to play QB in the NFL
Webb's ability to run, pass and catch the ball is enticing, but where he exactly fits into the NFL is an issue. He does have the size to play quarterback, but he could also play some wide receiver and carry the ball in 'wildcat' formations. Unless a team has a plan for him, Webb might have to wait a while before he hears his name being called on draft day.
So, if I’m reading his scouting reports correctly, his strengths as a WR are essentially the same strengths he has a QB: elite athleticism, size, speed, etc. His weaknesses include: run-blocking, inexperience as a route-runner and poor concentration and hands. Oh, and NFL teams may struggle to find an appropriate position for him. Gee, you don't say?
Check out this old UAB Preview video highlighting their wide receivers. Joe Webb is #5
2007 UAB Football Preview - Wide Receivers (via UABathletics)
I found this video to be interesting on multiple levels. There are only a couple snippets of Webb as a WR in college here, but it shows two of his three TD receptions where he is leaping over defenders, and a couple of his open field runs after the catch. Both look exactly like the Joe Webb we all know and have seen on the field for the Vikings (especially his open field runs). But he looks a little like a "body catcher" to me, and that isn't a good thing. One of the scouting reports mentioned Joe Webb's hands as being a weakness, and if that's the case, he may struggle to find success in the NFL.
At the end of the day Joe Webb has one year of college experience as a WR back in 2007, and was 2nd on the team as a receiver that year. And he also has very limited experience as a WR for the Vikings, being targeted only 5 times in actual NFL games with 1 reception for 9 yards, back in 2011. He likely understands his shot at making the team is no longer at QB, so perhaps dedicating himself 100% to the wide receiver position this off-season would be his best shot to make the team. That said, if his scouting reports are accurate, I don’t think we should expect much from Joe Webb at wide-out either. When his weaknesses include: route-running, hands and run-blocking, what else is there to do at the position? I remain a skeptic that Webb can be an effective and productive member of the Vikings at either QB or WR. And it’s a shame that all that athleticism may go to waste.