New York Giants Draft: Why Davis Webb and Why Now?
Oct 1, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Davis Webb (7) warms up before the game against the Utah Utes at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants drafted Cal QB Davis Webb in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft on Friday night but don’t plan on him playing until at least 2019.

New York Giants QB Eli Manning is 36 years old and has three years left on the four year, $84 million extension he signed on 2015. The Giants are basically locked into Eli until the end of the 2018 season. 2019 would be the soonest they could release him without feeling the pinch of carrying a dead cap hit of $17 million. in 2019, the final year of that deal, the dead cap number falls to $6.2 million. 

Knowing that, Manning is the Giants’ starting quarterback until then. We had been getting the vibe that the Giants were going to start combing the countryside for his possible heir as early as this year, and they did just that on Friday night when Cal QB Davis Webb was available to them with the 87th pick.

Webb (6’5″, 232) had a banner season at Cal in 2016 after transferring from Texas Tech, throwing for 4,295 yards and 37 TD with a 61.6 completion percentage. His profile had been rising as the draft approached but many were unsure where he would be drafted. Four quarterbacks had already been taken in the first two rounds and Webb was the next one up on the board as the third round began. But he had no takers until the Giants were on the clock.

GM Jerry Reese told reporters Friday what to expect from what could be his latest folly at the NFL Draft table but first allayed the curiousness of the reporter pool by committing to Manning.

“We hope that Eli plays for a long time for us,” said Reese. “Eli is our quarterback and we still think that he can play at a high level, but we do know that he is not going to play forever, so we are trying to make the best decision as we move forward for the rest of Eli’s career.”

So, what is he planning for Webb?

“We would like for him (Webb) to have a couple years to be the caddie and learn the pro game and all the nuances of playing quarterback in these league, but he has all of the tools to play the quarterback, and we think that he has a high ceiling and hopefully he can sit on the sideline, hold a clipboard and learn the game.”

So, the plan with Webb is very similar to that of Ryan Nassib, who the Giants traded up to get in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He pretty much did for four seasons what Webb is going to do for the next two or three. Nassib is currently a free agent.

With the Giants in “win now” mode and the roster still short at offensive tackle and linebacker, Reese decided this was the time to begin planning on life without Eli. The Giants are unlikely to extend his current deal, meaning Webb may see some real opportunities but just not this year.

The Giants simply could not pass up Webb’s value, that was the standard answer given by the brass in the pressers after they made the pick. But Reese and his top talent evaluator, Marc Ross revealed why they felt the time was right to take a QB this high in the draft.

“First of all, he has a big arm,” said Reese. “He has one of those wintertime arms, he can throw it in the wind, so again, we thought that he had the best arm talent in the draft this year and this guy is football all the time. You have to be that kind of guy in this league. You can’t half do it up here and play at a high level in the National Football League. This guy is a son of a coach, football all of the time and he has the quarterback profile that we like.”

Ross explained that Webb transferred to Cal from Texas Tech where he was injured and lost his job to Patrick Mahomes II, who was taken 10th overall in this draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants kept tabs on Webb at Cal, where he replaced Jared Goff as the starting QB. The Giants’ scouting department has a long memory.

“We met with him in the fall, our area scout met with him,” Ross said. “Senior Bowl, we met with him. Combine, we met with him. We kind of kept an eye on him. I’m surprised he was still around at this point. I thought he would go higher.”

So did Webb and so did head coach Ben McAdoo, who met with Mahomes this spring but not with Webb.

“My evaluation was based on film study,” said McAdoo. “Pocket passer. Again, he’s a fluid mover back there. He can move in the pocket and extend plays. He can do some creating. Like I said, he’s not a statue back there.”

But he’ll be a statue for the short term. The Giants are hoping he shows more than Nassib, who did not establish himself in his four years here. McAdoo sees a different type of player. He sees a potential franchise QB.

“You can see he’s a persistent guy, he’s a hard worker, the game is important to him” he said. “Like I said off the bat, he’s a gym rat, he’s a coach’s son and grew up in the game and that helps. He’s going to have to have thick skin like they all do. Let’s get him here and let’s get him a playbook and a helmet.”

And a clipboard.

“The NFL Draft is a little weird,” Webb told reporters last night. “You really can’t predict it, so anything can happen, but I am just glad that I ended up at such a great organization and so many great players on the Giants team and obviously great coaches. I am just looking forward to being a great teammate and being a prepared quarterback.”

The Giants had not revealed their plan to him but he pretty much knows what he is in for.

“I don’t know what my role is on the team yet,” he said. “Obviously Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP, so he is one of the best and a Hall of Fame quarterback. So I am just excited to be in the same quarterback room as him and we will see what happens. I am just trying to be a great teammate first, be prepared from a week-to-week standpoint as a quarterback because I have a long way to go.”

Yes he does. But that road will be traveled with McAdoo, the man who cultivated another Cal product, Aaron Rodgers, and transformed Manning from turnover machine to efficient passer.

“I am excited to see what we can continue to develop and get better at,” said Webb. “Obviously I think that one thing I need to work on is being more efficient mechanically. Coming from a spread type system in college and going to the NFL, obviously every college quarterback needs to develop into an NFL type quarterback, so I am just looking forward to that development and working hard at it.”

So are the Giants and their fans.

John Fennelly has been covering the New York sports scene on the Internet since 1997. He has advised and been published on dozens of prominent websites and in major periodicals and can been heard on sports talk radio stations all over the dial. Before embarking on his career as an accredited journalist, John held several management positions in a successful 25-year career in the financial industry. He holds a degree in New Media/Journalism from Queens College.