49ers roster 2021: Ken Webster a sleeper to survive cuts

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ken Webster (35) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ken Webster (35) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

While Ken Webster isn’t a name overly familiar to 49ers fans, there’s an outside chance he carves out a niche role for himself in 2021.

The San Francisco 49ers should be concerned about their cornerback depth heading into 2021.

Yes, the starting trio of Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley seems just fine. But the first two carry some serious injury concerns, and Moseley might be one of those players merely on the fringes of being a full-time starter but never quite getting there.

Two rookies, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir, might not be prepared enough for significant roles, and journeyman cornerback Dontae Johnson is a reserve fill-in at best.

What does all this mean for third-year cornerback Ken Webster?

Well, he has a good outsider’s chance of making the 53-man roster this season.

Ken Webster Defense & Fumbles Table
1 yr1 yrMIA85010.0191720
1 yr1 yrSFO90110.06510

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/16/2021.

Webster, the 5-foot-11 and 202-pound defender who played his college ball at Ole Miss, joined the NFL as a seventh-round draft choice of the New England Patriots in 2019 but failed to make their roster, subsequently joining the Miami Dolphins and seeing modest action there his rookie season.

In 2020, the Niners plucked Webster off the Dolphins practice squad, and he’d go on to appear in nine games for San Francisco, primarily playing on special teams.

Given the lack of depth in the secondary, will Webster have a chance at hanging around again this season?

Why Ken Webster improves with 49ers in 2021

Webster flashed good speed during his 2019 NFL Scouting Combine workouts, clocking a 4.43 40-yard time, so that’s a solid mark in his favor.

His NFL.com scouting report from that year suggested he could be a quality run defender and potentially serve as a backup nickel, and that role is essentially up for grabs to help out if Williams winds up suffering an injury.

Plus, the ability to contribute on special teams should help boost Webster’s stock, too.

Why Ken Webster flames out with 49ers in 2021

There isn’t too much on Webster’s pro-level efforts on defense, although Pro Football Focus wasn’t too high on his 2019 campaign with Miami, giving him a lackluster 51.6 overall grade with a lowly 47.3 coverage mark.

In line with that scouting report, Webster seemed OK in run defense. But teams don’t prioritize run-defending nickel backs. They need to cover receivers, even if they’re solely limited on dime packages.

Webster might not have enough natural skills to overcome these deficiencies, and even having speed won’t matter much if he’s regularly out of position, which appears to have been the case late in his collegiate career and during his limited defensive time at the pro level.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

It’s important to note Webster is still young, just turning 25 years old, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first defensive back to struggle early in his career before hitting a nice stride.

On top of that, the 49ers do have an opportunity for him to make something of an impact during training camp.

Webster would likely line up as a nickel cornerback, perhaps reaching as high as the second-string unit during camp and potentially getting some nice reps during the preseason, too, in the Niners’ attempt to keep Williams rested and healthy.

San Francisco doesn’t owe him anything in guaranteed money, though, so it’s not a case where the team is financially committed to him.

If Webster wants to survive roster cuts, he’ll have to show out.

This would be significantly more difficult if the 49ers were already set with the bulk of their cornerback depth chart. But the back end is awfully fluid, so Webster certainly has a chance of hanging around.

Next. 49ers' 15 best free-agent acquisitions of all time. dark