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Draft Hunt: California LB Evan Weaver

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NCAA Football: Arizona State at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

With the season past the halfway point, we are highlighting some prospects the Raiders may consider in the upcoming draft. You can take a look at our report on South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw here, our breakdown of Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk here, and a look at Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen here. Who would you like to see highlighted next week?

Ask and you shall receive. As per the poll we posted on Tuesday, Raiders fans overwhelmingly believe that linebacker is the team’s biggest need. The biggest problem with that is the Raiders front office doesn’t seem to value off-ball linebackers as much as other positions, meaning the team is much more likely to draft one in the third round or later.

The Raiders are probably quite familiar with Cal product Evan Weaver, considering that he plays only a few miles away from the team headquarters in Alameda. If Paul Guenther is still employed by the silver and balck when the draft rolls around, Weaver could be an ideal fit as a thumping Mike in his 4-3 base defense.

The 6-foot-3, 235 pound Weaver initially came to Cal as a recruit to play defensive end, but he slid to inside linebacker after coaches realized his football instincts and and athleticism made him best suited for an off-ball role. Since then, Weaver has grown into the captain of one of the nation’s most underrated defenses and is a bonafide soul eater.

Simply put, Weaver is always around the ball. He’s had three games in 2019 with over 20 tackles and just one game with less than 10. He’s the exact rough and tumble gap clogger that the Raiders will be looking for if they move on from Vontaze Burfict in the middle.

As a run defender, Weaver is tenacious and always finding his way downhill toward ball carriers. He’s a natural block shedder who keeps his eyes fixed to a spot and navigates through trash with ease, rarely getting caught on a block in pursuit. He takes proper angles time and time again and is an ideal tackle-to-tackle player to man the middle in a 4-3 defense due to his great tackling radius and consistency wrapping up ball carriers.

Weaver craves contact with opposing runners and will eat their lunch if given the opportunity.

Weaver is committed to play in the Senior Bowl and is in consideration to be one of the top linebackers off the board in a weak overall class, but there’s a reason that he’s not considered a slam-dunk prospect.

That reason is his coverage chops, which is something Raider fans may cringe to hear with the struggles that Nicholas Morrow and Tahir Whitehead have had this year. He’s sufficient at route recognition and can dissect plays in front of him well, but he doesn’t have the acceleration to cover speedy tight ends or speedy slot receivers vertically.

His testing numbers at the combine will likely affect his draft stock tremendously. Weaver has slimmed down over the years and gotten faster, but he is most likely going to run in the high 4.7s and will be passed on by teams looking for elite speed at the position.

As a rookie, Weaver likely wouldn’t solve all of the Raiders linebacker problems, but he would provide solid depth and could even start in 4-3 situations when the Raiders take their Nickel CB off the field. Weaver is most suited for a two-down linebacker at the next level in a 3-4 ‘Buck’ linebacker role where his domain lies from strong C to weak A gap. He’s a high-floor, low-ceiling guy guy who could prove to be a great Day 3 value pick.

If he tears it up at the combine, he won’t make it past Day 2 considering the lack of linebacker talent in this class.

Draft Range: Mid-third to early-fifth round