Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio shares his pre-draft NFL scouting report of Patriots running back Ralph Webb.
24. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt (5-10, 202)
Depth of Talent Score: 73.7 = Reserve: Contributor with limitations in scope and execution.
Webb does a lot of things well but nothing about his game stands out among the crowd. It either makes him a tremendously underrated running back or the epitome of average.
With this not being the average class, I think Webb is an underrated player and I expect him to have a career in the NFL. However, I’m not convinced he’s the next surprise starter to emerge from the depths of a draft class.
Vanderbilt used Webb as a runner from shotgun and I-formation. Much of his work was behind gap blocking. Webb is a patient gap runner who finishes plays with low pads, high knees, and a willingness to attack the secondary. He understands how to press the back shoulder of the pulling blocker to set up bounces to the outside.
He has enough acceleration to work around penetration at the line of scrimmage. He also runs with a strong wiggle, selectively using head fakes and shakes to set up moves behind the line and in the open field. His spin move is particularly tricky and helps him break a lot of tackles.
Webb understands how to vary his stride length to force defenders into declaring their angles of attack early and then step around or over them. He’s a quick-footed back with enough precision in his steps that you can see the influences of the ladder drills that running backs use to work on lateral and downhill movement in tight spaces. He executes smooth dips away from backfield penetration and gets back on his downhill track immediately.
Webb has enough flexibility to drop his weight into lateral cuts. And he’s explosive enough to leap over the pile in short-yardage situations with suddenness. Webb will also adjust his stride pace to set up double teams at the line of scrimmage. He’s capable of effective press-and-cuts running behind a zone scheme. When openings don’t occur, he’ll find the soft spot of the line and push his teammate forward to earn what he can.
When hit head-on by defenders the size of outside linebackers or smaller, Webb keeps his pads low and pushes a defender backward. If bodies are on the ground in the crease, he can hop over and maintain his balance to work through the rest of the opening. Webb’s burst is good enough to reach the third level of a defense. When he gets a clean crease he can hit it fast enough to accelerate past the angle of a safety up the middle and bounce to the sideline for a gain of 30-40 yards.
He ’ll earn the corner on SEC cornerbacks and extend these perimeter plays another 10-15 yards up the boundary. He often earns bigger gains because of a strong combo of a head fake, spin move, and a stiff-arm. He’ll use these in succession or various combinations to send pursuit to the ground.
A competent receiver, Webb sets up screens to the flats, runs routes split wide from the formation, and works outside from the backfield. He catches targets at knee height with his hands in the proper position.
What will keep Webb competitive in training camp is his blocking. As a downfield blocker, he squares patiently and finishes with a quick punch to maintain position and follow up with another as necessary. He spots interior penetration and will work across the body of a defender when he cut blocks.
When assigned to chip a defender, Webb displays the intelligence to lurk a step away from the defender. This baits the defender into thinking he has a one-on-one with the existing block. When he earns leverage to Webb’s side, Webb meets the defender with a hard punch that knocks the defender backward. The defender is usually surprised because he didn’t see Webb waiting there.
Webb is particularly good at using his punch to redirect the opponent into the path of his teammate. He’s used this technique effectively against defensive tackles. Webb’s stand-up game is good. He’ll attack linebackers working through the interior gaps with a square position and an uppercut punch, rolling through his hips to generate power. Due to his size, he doesn’t earn a significant push but he slows the rush and often forces the opponent to disengage and try another path.
An effective cut blocker, Webb delivers with height and shoots through the defender, working across the body. He struggles as a cut blocker when he dives too soon and either winds up at the feet of the opponent or the opponent finds Webb’s approach predictable and hurdles him.
Webb’s carriage of the ball is high and under the correct arm. However, his elbow is often loose. A tough player, Webb has shown the ability to sprain an ankle in the first half of one game and return in the second half to outgain his first-half production. I’ve seen him get a stinger and return to the huddle, working it out without leaving the field. This is not exactly encouraged behavior for dealing with a stinger, but it is a testament to his competitive drive.
Webb fits the profiles of a lot of players who’ve earned 2-3 contracts in the NFL: Refined decision-makers with good quickness, receiving ability, competent pass protection, and a tough, lunch-pail work ethic—Javorius Allen, Terron Ward, Fozzy Whittaker, and Brandon Bolden come to mind.
If I’ve underestimated Webb, it will be in the areas of agility and acceleration. And if that’s the case, bump him to Tier IV because he’ll have contributor upside.
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