Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and that’s what makes watching rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster finish tackles, break up passes, and force fumbles so rewarding, because the consensus opinion about the Broncos’ third-round draft pick from South Florida was so wrong.
Webster, who isn’t exactly torching the stat books yet with seven tackles, three pass deflections, and one forced fumble through five games, will be a Pro Bowl corner one day and, fortunately for the Broncos staff, scouts on 31 other teams missed his potential to be a star coming out of college.
“Kayvon Webster is technically a need pick at CB, but he was a big reach,” said draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. of Webster, who he ranked 34th of all cornerback prospects in his class and graded 6.0 out of 10.
Other media pundits and “draft experts” fell in line, forming more or less the same opinion about the speedy corner who ran a 4.34 in the 40-yard-dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but failed to record an interception in his senior season on a USF team that finished 3-9.
“Kayvon Webster is a fast, tough player, but he was a reach in the third round,” wrote the Denver Post.
Sports Illustrated asked, “What’s with that third-round pick of CB Kayvon Webster?” And USA Today and ProFootballTalk.com failed to even mention his name recapping the Broncos 2013 draft class.
Most shockingly, the post-Combine scouting reports labeled the 5-11′, 195-pound Webster, who finished with 82 tackles in 2012 at USF, as a raw player who wouldn’t make an impact until year two or three of his career, if he was able to even make a roster.
“Webster is raw and unlikely to be anything more than a fourth or fifth cornerback this year, but could have a more prominent role in 2014,” wrote the Sports Xchange back in April after the Broncos selected him 90th overall.
All Webster has gone on to do since is beat out veteran defensive back Quentin Jammer on the depth chart with his aggressive style of play at the line of scrimmage in the preseason. Since then, he’s taken advantage of injuries to All Pro corner Champ Bailey and No.3 corner Tony Carter and made the most of his opportunities on the field, breaking up a pair of passes against Oakland on Monday Night Football.
Most recently, as the team’s secondary fell apart against the Dallas Cowboys last weekend, Webster replaced Carter in the team’s nickel package to make his first career start and was the lone bright spot on what appeared to be the team’s worst unit — the Broncos rank dead last in pass defense allowing 347 yards a game.
Webster shined, stripping Pro-Bowler Dez Bryant and forcing a crucial turnover early in the game. He also recorded three tackles, played 49 snaps and shut down Bryant when he went one-on-one with him later in the game, when the task proved too hard for starting No. 1 corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The former high school linebacker is far from a finished product in the Denver secondary. However, he has progressed quicker than even some of his coaches expected and he continues to make a significant impact on a 5-0 team, something that every draft expert deemed unfathomable only sixth, short months ago.
“I like that when he goes in the game he doesn’t look like it’s too big for him,” said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. “He’s come in and just done his job. He’s a physical corner. He’s a bigger corner. I think he can really run. And the moment doesn’t appear too big for him, which is great because he’s going to find himself in a lot of these moments.”
NFLDraftScout.com projected Webster as a sixth round pick, ranking him 224th overall out of 2,341 draft prospects, but his play so far has scout’s re-evaluating why he wasn’t drafted earlier.
What Webster has proved early into his NFL career, as many others who’ve been labeled as a “raw” or “a reach” have proven, is that opinions are sometimes wrong.
That’s what happens when everyone is entitled to one.