The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts later this month, currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s 2019 draft selections.
Name: Ken Webster
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #61)
Opening day age: 23
Size: 5’11, 200 lbs.
2018 review: Ken Webster entered his fifth year at Ole Miss as one of the team’s most experienced defenders and a valuable piece in the secondary. While not a week-to-week starter, the senior cornerback still saw regular playing time on defense and in the kicking game and finished the 2018 season with ten in-game appearances — he missed two of his school’s September games due to a hamstring injury.
When on the field, Webster was a physical defender against the run and a technically sound tackler. However, he also displayed shortcomings when asked to react quickly to plays or perform on an island in man-to-man coverage. That being said, he still found success in the latter part of his role: on 163 coverage snaps, Webster was targeted 27 times and surrendered just 15 receptions; a team-high 6 of the incomplete passes were marked as pass breakups.
The Georgia native, who gave up a combined 183 passing yards and one touchdown during his ten games, also registered two interceptions on the season — another category in which he led the Rebels in 2018. All in all, his final collegiate season can be classified as a success even though it did not necessarily lift his pre-draft status beyond ‘likely day three draft selection/priority undrafted free agent.’
However, Webster did do enough to put himself on teams’ draft radars — and his performance during the scouting combine certainly helped: he led all cornerbacks in the vertical jump (43”), ranked third in the broad jump (133”) and was above the average in the other on-field testing categories as well. While the combine was only one piece of the puzzle, it certainly was an impressive display of Webster’s athletic upside.
2019 preview: Only three selections were left in the seventh and final round of the draft when Webster heard his name called to become the 252nd overall pick. His status on the team therefore seems to be clear: the rookie is a developmental option with upside as a defender and special teams contributor — in large parts due to an athletic skillset that allows him to mask some of his deficiencies in play recognition and decision making.
All in all, Webster therefore appears to be on the roster bubble and in a direct competition with another former seventh-round selection for the final roster spot on a deep cornerback group: Keion Crossen. What should help Webster in his battle against the incumbent is his ability to contribute on special teams right away due to very good straight-line speed, adequate short-area quickness and terrific tackling skills.
As a result, the 23-year-old should be able to carve out a role on the Patriots’ coverage units quickly during training camp and the preseason. If he can perform well in this role, he might just be able to push Crossen off the roster. But even if not, Webster still should find a spot on New England’s pay roll via the club’s practice squad. Either way, the rookie is projected to spend his first NFL season with the Patriots in some capacity.