Greg Cosell's NFL draft preview: Davis Webb's upside, and concerns about Patrick Mahomes

Shutdown Corner

We’ve analyzed the three quarterbacks – Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer – who many feel will be the first three quarterback taken in April’s NFL draft. There’s a lot of time left before the draft, and it’s possible another quarterback will jump into that top three by then.

Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes or Cal’s Davis Webb, a couple of “Air Raid” quarterbacks, could be the QBs who get increasing buzz before the draft. I prefer Webb among those two in the next tier.

Webb fits the NFL game better, and he might be the best quarterback prospect in this year’s NFL draft, with a higher ceiling than Trubisky or Watson. A prospect like Kizer has excellent arm talent, but Webb has a more refined feel to his game. Mahomes, on the other hand, has an alarming lack of refinement.

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Here is what I think of Webb and Mahomes after studying each of them.

Cal’s Davis Webb had 4,295 yards and 37 touchdowns last season. (AP)
Cal’s Davis Webb had 4,295 yards and 37 touchdowns last season. (AP)

DAVIS WEBB’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

There are many things I like about Webb. He has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. He showed an awareness and understanding of progressions within his offense (which was the “Air Raid” offense at Cal). He looked natural throwing the ball with an easy delivery, a good touch thrower with a feel for pace and tempo, and showed functional mobility outside of the pocket.

Here’s a throw that caught my eye. He threw a 40-yard touchdown to Chad Hansen against press man coverage. The throw needed precise ball placement, and Webb laid it out with touch and accuracy.

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Here’s an excellent deep ball from Webb to Demetris Robertson for a 59-yard touchdown. The throw was from the far hash to the near sideline, so you can see he has the ability to throw it deep.

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When you compare Mahomes and Webb, the latter played with a far better understanding of the concepts of the offense. He played with a better sense of timing and rhythm.

There are things Webb will have to clean up. He’s very loose and undisciplined with his throwing mechanics. He did not always plant his back foot and transfer his weight when he delivered – a common issue for spread quarterbacks. There were too many throws without a firm lower body base and the necessary balance. He’ll need to be coached and retrained in the mechanics of playing quarterback, especially with footwork and balance, but his lower body can be harnessed with coaching.

Webb has a stronger arm than he showed on film because of the conceptual nature of the offense he played in – he was usually asked to make quick, one-read defined throws with limited progression reading.

I could see a team like the Arizona Cardinals or San Diego Chargers liking Webb as a developmental quarterback behind their veteran starters. He has the skills to be a quality NFL starter.

PATRICK MAHOMES’ STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Mahomes has a strong arm and he can snap it off with velocity. He is an easy thrower with a comfortable delivery, throwing at times with a clean compact delivery. He can make big-time throws at all levels of the defense, and made a lot of splash plays with excellent throws off movement (though, they were almost always improvisational). He can throw with velocity, and he can throw with touch and pace. He also has excellent mobility.

He showed his arm strength on this third-and-11 pass against Kansas State, snapping off a deep sideline pass to Devin Lauderdale with ease for a 41-yard gain.

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This play is representative of Mahomes’ game. This gained 26 yards on second-and-10. There’s no question it showed off his arm strength. But there’s almost no pocket structure to his overall game, and this showed it. He’s a little over-reactive in the pocket with a tendency to perceive pressure and break down too quickly

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Mahomes made a lot of late-in-the-down improvisational plays, and many of them were unnecessary. He would often be impatient in the pocket. It will be difficult to replicate those plays in the NFL. The foundation of playing quarterback in the NFL starts in the pocket, and Mahomes will initially struggle with the disciplines of playing under center. He’ll have to be coached hard if he is to become a quality NFL starter. But how difficult will it be to lose that freewheeling gunslinger mentality?

Mahomes has talent but not much consistency with fundamentals and execution; he’s like a Jay Cutler but far less disciplined. He left a lot of throws on the field by not progression reading and isolating the right throw within the timing of the route combination. Leaving throws on the field was a recurring theme in his game tape. Field vision could be an issue for him. As is playing with timing and rhythm.

There’s no question some NFL coaches will love his overall talent, but he will need to be re-trained in many ways. He has a wide range of outcomes based on so many variables – it’s hard to project a quarterback based on his ability to make plays outside of the structure of an offense. That’s too risky. But there is physical talent here, there’s no question about that.

More NFL draft breakdowns from Greg Cosell
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

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