Does Joe Webb Have a Shot at Becoming a Legitimate NFL Wide Receiver?

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Does Joe Webb Have a Shot at Becoming a Legitimate NFL Wide Receiver?
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The Minnesota Vikings have their offense pretty much established heading into the 2013 season, even for backups. Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel are the quarterbacks, Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are the running backs and wide receiver is rather loaded on the depth chart with the acquisition of Greg Jennings in the offseason.

With the addition of Cassel as quarterback, that marked the end of Joe Webb at that spot. He saw virtually no playing time in 2012 except for the Green Bay playoff game, where he was just bad.

Instead of calling it a career or trying to hang on with another team, Webb is switching to the wide receiver position. He has the athleticism to do it, with both the speed and height, but can he fit on the depth chart?

Greg Jennings is the top receiver for the Vikings to replace Percy Harvin—that's without question. After that, both Jerome Simpson and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson will see playing time, with one of them getting that second job now that Michael Jenkins is gone as well.

With the first three spots taken, Webb will have to shine in that second group to remain with the team. The extra batch of players includes Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton and Greg Childs. Webb would likely beat the group below them who have yet to play a down with the Vikings.

The Vikings are not going to keep seven wideouts on the roster, so it is up to Webb to beat at least Childs and Burton if he wants to remain with the team. Wright will almost certainly make the team, so Webb is battling two others for one, maybe two spots if the Vikings deem it necessary.

Webb's biggest disadvantage is that he's already established, so if he fails, he would be cut outright. At least Burton or Childs could stay on the practice squad to hone their skills and join the team if an injury takes place.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Stephen Burton will likely be Webb's biggest obstacle to making an impact.

On the plus side, he is both bigger and faster than Childs and Burton. You can't teach speed, but you can't teach height either. Childs is close at 6'3", but he's more of a possession receiver, while Webb could likely stretch the field, at least somewhat.

He has the natural ability, but he has to make that translate on the field. The fact that the Vikings are still holding onto him also gives him the advantage to possibly get him on the 53-man roster for opening day.

Now, the question is whether or not he can do it, since he only has the summer to recreate himself. The biggest problem there is that he's not exactly a route-runner. He has not needed to run wide receiver routes, and that's a skill that requires a good deal of development.

He can do everything else, but if you can't run routes, then that limits any wide receiver's ceiling big time. We will not know if he can learn the playbook and fully make the transition until at least the preseason.

That being said, he does have the talent and the desire to do it. That counts for a lot in today's NFL. If you have both, a team can find a job for you, even if it's being an impact special teams player or a kick returner.

If he can catch the ball when Ponder throws it to him, then he should be okay. He's not going to be a sudden playmaker at a new position, but 10 passes over the course of the season for 150 yards? Why not?

It's not much, but he could be this year's Devin Aromashodu, someone who can make an impact in a couple of season games, even if he would not be a frequent target. That's something Webb would not have a problem doing.

So to answer the question in the title, he's not going to be someone who will evolve into a 16-game starter at wide receiver, but Webb could certainly be someone who fills in if needed. He could be a No. 3 or 4 wide receiver for a team next year.

One thing is certain moving into 2013. Webb's modification into a utility man on offense opens up the playbook for Minnesota big time, and if Leslie Frazier is as high on Webb as he seems to be, then they will find a way to use him. It will make the Vikings an exciting team to watch, as long as offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave utilizes him properly in the trenches.

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