After former Bear Jared Goff was taken first overall in the 2016 NFL draft, Cal football’s representation at Thursday’s 2017 edition was bound to take a hit. That’s still the case, but the rising opinion of quarterback Davis Webb among NFL personnel is giving the Bears another shot at having a signal-caller taken early in the draft, and quite possibly in the first round once again.
Still, Webb certainly doesn’t fit the bill of most highly drafted quarterbacks. In his freshman year at Texas Tech, he was in a season-long battle with Baker Mayfield for the starter position. Mayfield got the call for the last few games of the regular season but transferred before their bowl game, giving the reins back to Webb. But in his sophomore year, he suffered an ankle injury that ended his season and gave Patrick Mahomes, one of Webb’s rivals in this year’s draft class, a shot at his job. The coaching staff decided to ride with Mahomes the next year, and after a season spent on the bench, Webb transfered to Cal, another program known for inflating quarterback’s statistics. And although he indeed put up eye-popping numbers, the Bears limped to a 5-7 record.
Losing your job twice does not usually make an NFL star. His accuracy is far from top-notch, and his decision-making has usually been poor; he has an unseemly penchant for not spotting open receivers down the field. But Webb has some undeniably attractive attributes: like Goff, when the ball comes out of his hand the talent is apparent. When he does identify his deep receivers, he’s as good at hitting them as anyone. He has NFL-quality arm strength, and his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame certainly has him looking the part of an eventual starter. And that’s before we touch on his personality.
Some may argue that he’s bordering on arrogance, but Webb’s true type-A personality and self-confidence is what every scout wants in a signal-caller. After a rainy Pro Day that saw Webb struggle to get on the same page as his receivers, he gave a press conference that would have you think he had just been named Super Bowl MVP. And teams are clearly paying attention — although writers in the media have given him fourth-round grades, talk has risen to a fever pitch that he’s now likely to be taken in the first round, and almost certainly in the second.
“You hear a lot of positive commentary coming from various people,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. “I didn’t see it. But he’s got the size. … He’s got a nice arm and he can make any throw. But his decision-making at times is questionable. Too many throws into coverage, too many throws downfield where he didn’t see the safety in close proximity or didn’t care about throwing it in there. Ball placement, accuracy wasn’t what you want it to be. Even in the Senior Bowl when he got the award for offensive player, he missed a wide open receiver. I gave him a fourth round grade, some think he can be a second round pick, we’ll see.”
Webb is the farthest thing from a sure bet as a prospect, but in a weak quarterback crop, teams seem to be warming up to the idea of betting high on his potential. Tonight we’ll see what team values that gamble the highest.