NFL Draft Profile: California ILB Evan Weaver

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The Los Angeles Rams are undergoing a defensive scheme and regime change. With that being said, former Pro Bowl starting inside linebacker Cory Littleton has departed via free agency. That leaves the Rams set to start Micah Kiser, a former fifth-round pick and one of their young crop of inexperienced talent. While the Rams have talent and potential at the position, one could make the argument that they will need to look in the NFL Draft early on for a replacement to Littleton.

That replacement could very well be California linebacker Evan Weaver.

College Bio

Evan Weaver was a three-star recruit coming out prep school. His freshman year he played 11 games as a backup defensive end. In his sophomore season, he was a part of every game and even started five games at linebacker. Things took off for Weaver in his junior season, starting all 13 games and earning All Pac-12 recognition. He was top ten in tackling for the entire country. His senior season he started to gain national spotlight and was named as a First-Team All-American which is the first time a California player has achieved that honor since Alex Mack back in 2008. He finished that season a finalist for the Dick Butkus award and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award winner.

Measurables

Height: 6’2
Weight: 237

Strengths

Weaver is a true leader in the middle of a defense. He has the adequate size you look for in a starting inside linebacker. He shows up on film being quick to diagnose not only post-snap but pre-snap as well. He makes sure everyone gets lined up properly. Weaver’s athletic ability is not top-notch but he makes up for it with his nonstop motor, sure tackling ability and his nose for the football. He’s always around the football, he takes great angles and is a true finisher. Weaver led the nation in tackles due to his technique. Weaver offers plenty in that department and has no problem shedding blocks and crashing the backfield. Weaver offers sufficient ability as blitzer and has become quite underrated as a coverage linebacker. He works on instinct and is a true football player. Experience as a team captain and overall instincts make him a future starting quality player. Offers ability one special teams.

Weaknesses

Weaver is an underrated athlete but he doesn’t produce the dynamic qualities you would like in today’s linebacker. He doesn’t have an explosive first step and runs on build-up speed. He’s a little stiff in the hips in coverage which ultimately limits his ability in that regard. A big problem versus other linebackers in this draft is that Weaver can’t make mistakes because he doesn’t have the recovery speed to bail himself out. Getting sideline-to-sideline and running vertically in the open field is going to be a struggle versus the kind of players that thrive in space, the NFL has to offer.

Three Plays on Tape

Development

Evan Weaver is a definite starting linebacker at the next level. He is limited by his lack of explosiveness but brings too much to the table to keep him down. Being a true leader for any defense and someone that is a reliable tackler in a world full of inconsistent tackling will surely keep him around for a long time. Weaver’s adept ability in special teams as evidenced not only on film but his time during the Senior Bowl game, will also be another avenue to playing time, should his starting bid fail. Weaver’s desire to at least try and do it all in addition to a motor that has no off-switch leaves me pretty comfortable saying he’s going to be starting for a defense in the NFL soon. How good can Weaver be? That’s dependent on how much he improves and hones his skills.

Draft Grade: 3rd round

Bottom Line

Evan Weaver is going to start in the NFL. He offers too much as a prospect to not go on day two and not start early on in his career. The concerns have been concerns for many talents before him, athleticism. He does his best with what he has and his best is good enough to carve out a significant role. In a class that lacks overall coverage skills at the linebacker position, Weaver at least offers something in that area in addition to his run defense which will only increase his value. The Rams will have to give the California guy a look to fill out their defense. Whether Weaver is the best option or not, it can’t hurt to have a guy like him on your football team. Weaver is a future starter and is going to outwork almost everyone on the field. He’s a true culture builder.

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