The Las Vegas Raiders have two starting linebackers in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, but they need to add depth in later rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft, and California’s Evan Weaver might just be the player they should target.
Not all college prospects can go in the first round. Typically speaking, once the first 64 picks are made, it’s likely the talent level will drop off. However, gems can be found in rounds three though seven and sometimes even on the undrafted market. Raiders fans know this all too well.
Raiders Draft: Day 3 of the draft is key
Two of the top Raiders rookie performers last year came on day three of the draft. Maxx Crosby went in the fourth round (106th overall) and Hunter Renfrow went in the fifth round (149th overall). General manager Mike Mayock himself said if they do their jobs well, they’ll come out of the draft with three starters.
“Three [picks] in the third [round] is just like stealing…if we’re doing our job, that’s three more starters.” – #Raiders GM Mike Mayock
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) April 14, 2020
While starters can be found in the first three rounds, four through seven are where a team acquires depth. You don’t typically expect a fifth rounder to step in and start week one for your team, especially in critical positions. Mayock has acknowledged that in 2019, one of the weakest positions for the Raiders was that of linebacker. Injuries and other unfortunate circumstances definitely played a factor but depth was also a big problem for the Raiders. Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden did a good job this past free agency when they signed Nick Kwiatkowski and Corey Littleton to take over two starting spots, but what about that crucial depth?
One of the players in the draft that could help with that depth is Evan Weaver out of California.
Weaver put together a pretty stellar 2019 campaign which saw him getting AP All-American first-team and All-Pac 12 honors. He led the nation with 182 tackles in 13 starts and 103 of those were solo effort, which is absolutely remarkable. The numbers and his film showed his ability to track and bring down the ball-carrier. He does a good job to shed linemen who reach the second level and keep his eyes in the back field. Weaver is patient and doesn’t fall for misdirection often. He has elite level play diagnosis ability and a relentless motor even when contact is made. Also, he takes great routes often to beat potential backside blockers. Finally, he’s got the ability to hold his own and maintain his spatial awareness while in zone coverage.
While Weaver is a solid tackler, he doesn’t have the fleetest feet. He posted a pedestrian 4.76 forty-yard dash at the combine, which is middle of the pack. Also, he’s not the biggest guy on the field either at six-foot two and 237 pounds. He doesn’t necessarily stand out in a crowd and won’t win too many battles with pure strength or side-to-side quickness. If he’s slow in his diagnosis of the play, he doesn’t possess the speed to make up for it. He isn’t quick enough to be a blitzer at the NFL level. Once he’s stopped, he has a hard time restarting. He can’t shadow elite running backs or tight ends in man coverage and can get beat in open field against shifty more agile runners.
Weaver isn’t likely going to be a starter at the NFL level on day one or even year one, but his ability to shed blocks and bring down ball carriers make him a great special teams candidate or an extra body when you need to stack the box. If the Raiders were to snag him in the fourth or fifth round, look for him to be running down on kick-offs or run protection in goal-line and short yardage situations.
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