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‘Eye-popping’ athleticism helped bring Ken Webster to Patriots in NFL draft’s seventh round

Read more: 3 reasons why the Patriots drafted Mississippi CB Ken Webster

NCAA Football: Southern Illinois at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Webster sat three selections away from priority free agency.

The New England Patriots had different intentions, taking the Ole Miss cornerback at No. 252 overall in the closing minutes of the 2019 NFL draft.

Not unlike a corner New England chose in a similar range the previous April: Western Carolina’s Keion Crossen.

“I’d say similar to Crossen just from the standpoint of outstanding testing numbers,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said in his post-draft press conference on Saturday. “Really explosive in terms of his speed. His explosiveness – I mean, like, eye-popping numbers.”

The 5-foot-11, 203-pound Webster proved hard to overlook at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. It was there that the redshirt senior clocked the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, the three-cone drill in 6.85 seconds and the short shuttle in 4.14 seconds.

Those times ranked sixth, eighth and tied for ninth, respectively, among participating cornerback prospects.

But then there were the leaps and the jumps.

Webster posted a vertical of 43 inches and a broad of 133 inches while at Lucas Oil Stadium, which were good for second and a tie for fifth as far as both the corner and safety prospects were considered.

The 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench couldn’t have hurt, either, for Webster.

“There’s an element that has to translate over to the field,” added Caserio. “But from a physical, athletic traits standpoint, there’s a lot of good qualities – and he played against some pretty good people on a weekly basis.”

Webster appeared in 47 games during his tenure in the Ole Miss secondary, missing all but one game of the 2016 season following torn knee ligaments on the first defensive series of the opener. Webster then served a one-game suspension to begin the 2017 season, stemming from an arrest for shoplifting, and closed out his days in Oxford having tallied 23 starts, 125 tackles, 24 pass deflections and three interceptions.

“Really, really good player in [2015],” Caserio said of Webster, who notched a career-high 41 tackles, three tackles for loss and a dozen pass breakups as a sophomore in the SEC. “Had some injuries that he sustained, and then he kind of worked his way back.”

Webster now works his way onto a crowded Patriots cornerback depth chart. It includes first-team All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, the aforementioned Crossen, as well as fellow 2019 draft pick Joejuan Williams, a Vanderbilt product whom New England traded up to No. 45 overall for on Friday night.

Webster will do so as the last of 51 defensive backs taken over the course of three days and seven rounds.

Yet with some things that are far easier to measure than they are to teach.

Things New England wasn’t interested in competing for three slots later.