The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with an undrafted rookie.
Name: Ralph Webb
Position: Running back
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #68)
Opening day age: 23
Size: 5’10, 200 lbs.
2017 review: Coming off a career year in 2016, Ralph Webb entered his senior season at Vanderbilt as the team’s undisputed number one offensive weapon. However, he failed to build on a 1,449 yard-campaign that saw him score 13 touchdowns, and took a slight step back in 2017: While Webb put up respectable numbers and led the Commodores with 1,019 yards from scrimmage, it was his worst statistical outing since his freshman year.
No longer being the focal point in his team’s offensive attack, the workhorse back finished the season with a career-low 205 touches: He registered 192 carries for 831 yards and 10 touchdowns, while also catching 13 passes for 188 yards and another score. Opposing run defenses – especially the nation’s top ones like Alabama’s or Georgia’s – were also able to slow him down more than had been the case in the past.
That being said, Webb still regularly displayed his positive traits during his senior campaign. Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher ran with his usual blend of vision, patience, and toughness and again proved himself a durable bell-cow running back that does not slow down under a heavy workload. However, Webb’s lack of athleticism and inconsistent technique were also on show again which ultimately – combined with his dip in production – led to him going undrafted.
2018 preview: After not being selected during the draft, Webb signed a three-year free agency contract with the Patriots that gives him a chance to prove his 2017 campaign was just a statistical fluke and that he indeed belongs on an NFL roster. However, it will certainly not be easy in New England as the reigning AFC champions have one of the deepest and most versatile running back groups in the entire league under contract.
For the rookie to carve out a role behind roster locks James White, Rex Burkhead, and Sony Michel, he will need to be productive on both offense and special teams over the next two months and make the most out of every single practice and preseason snap. And while veterans Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, and Brandon Bolden are still favored to earn the final roster spot(s?), a good training camp could convince the game to move forward with the cheap youngster.
Ultimately, though, it would be a surprise if Webb managed to beat out his competition to earn a spot on the team. A more realistic scenario is him getting released by the time roster cuts come around and later being signed to the team’s practice squad as an emergency option that can work on improving his running technique behind the scenes and potentially take over when Gillislee, Hill, and Bolden enter free agency next year.