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With the 2021 NFL draft officially over, everybody has turned their attention to how the top draft picks project in the NFL, but there are those overlooked players that wind up going in the fifth, sixth or seventh-round that turn out to be diamonds in the rough.
For the Chargers, this year’s haul brought a handful of promising players, but the one who has a chance to contribute in a big way, outplay his draft slot and be the notorious late-round gem is seventh-round pick Mark Webb.
Addressing the safety position was seen as a priority in the draft. Instead of handling it early on, Los Angeles held off until their last selection to add Webb to join Derwin James, Nasir Adderley and Alohi Gilman in a rather thin group.
A wide receiver convert, Webb was a key piece of the Bulldog’s defense. Over four seasons, he tallied up 74 tackles, eight pass deflections, a forced fumble and an interception.
The former Georgia product then proceeded to shine at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which is where he caught the attention of the Chargers’ scouts, looking sharp in the practices and finishing the game with five tackles.
That wasn’t the end of Webb’s pre-draft exposure.
At his pro day, Webb had an 11-foot-4 broad jump which was just two inches shy of the mark Jeremy Chinn set for defensive backs at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine, and his 36.5-inch vertical jump and 80-inch wingspan raised eyebrows.
“Of all the DBs, Mark Webb looked the most fluid,” said Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. “Mark really helped himself out.”
Where sound play in the secondary is necessary in head coach Brandon Staley’s defense, Webb has the skillset to be a guy that can be relied upon as early as his rookie season.
Versatility is a necessity and Webb possesses that, having experience at corner, safety, and nickel. Has was primarily at the Star position, a staple in Staley’s defense, which is an overhang player aligned on a slot receiver.
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Webb has outstanding length and size, which is used when attacking slot receivers and tight ends. When playing in off coverage, he is effective jamming slots on route breaks.
Webb shows solid mirror ability in man coverage by staying low and showing agility and footwork to stick. He has the eye discipline and instincts to focus on route concepts and cut off throwing lanes.
Webb has enough speed to carry vertical routes and the physicality to contest pass-catchers. He is physical in run support, stunning and separating from blocks, and he tackles well in space, breaking down and driving through tackles.
While he will need to work on the finer points at the next level, having only played the position since 2017, Webb will be playing under Staley, who has seen success with the players he’s developed, including Rams’ 2020 sixth-round pick, Jordan Fuller, who went on to be the team’s starting free safety.
Webb’s physical mentality and tackling ability make him a special teams ace from Day 1, but don’t be surprised to see him make an impact on defense early on in his career.
His versatility, athleticism and traits in coverage and against the run will serve him well on defense, whether that be in the deep parts of the fields, as a dimebacker or lined up in the slot.
“I’m going to be versatile,” Webb said, “and whatever you want me to play, I’ll play there.”