The Senior Bowl is a place for incoming draft prospects to chat with NFL scouts, showcase their skills against a high level of competition, and potentially bolster their draft stock.
California linebacker Evan Weaver has done just that, and he’s looked like the cream of the crop among linebackers in attendance down in Mobile, Alabama.
While many scouts have their eye on Weaver, he seems to have the Raiders circled as one of his preferred destinations.
“It’s definitely a place I’d love to play. They have a great coach and he’s going to be there for a while, and they have a good system,” he said. “Mike Mayock is a really smart GM. He knows what he’s doing, and it’d be an honor to play for them and an honor to put the silver and black on.”
Weaver has been fighting to trim his body into that of a modern NFL linebacker, and he wants to showcase that he can be an asset in coverage at the next level. To do so, he’s now dropped from 245 pounds down to a lean 234 since the 2019 season began.
That seems like a lot of weight to lose in a relatively short amount of time, but as Weaver told Silver & Black Pride after practice on Wednesday, it’s been an ongoing process.
“Shit, it’s been like a weight progression ever since I got to college,” he said. “Came in as a D-end. I was 267, and I’ve just been bringing my body down and trying to form myself into an NFL linebacker and what NFL rooms need now.
“They don’t need those big, 255 one down guys, you know? They need guys to play two, three downs and guys not to come off the field, and that’s something I’m trying to be.”
Most of what can be gleaned from Senior Bowl practices comes from one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen and the mano a mano battles between wide receivers and cornerbacks. So it can be tough for linebackers to stand out with players not allowed to fully tackle each other. But Weaver has already shown that he can be an interior thumper, and where he’s really impressed this week is in coverage.
Perhaps the biggest worry about Weaver’s NFL future heading into this scouting cycle was his speed. But as he’s shed weight, he’s unlocked an extra zippiness to his game that should help him in all phases, especially as a coverage guy.
He’s shown the ability to stick with running backs and tight ends in one-on-one drills quite well, and has noticeably been a vocal leader among a group of strangers gathered in southern Alabama.
Dropping 11 pounds in such a short amount of time can be unsustainable for some players, but Weaver said his diet mainly consists of “A lot of lean meats, a lot of whole wheat, and a lot of vegetables and fruits.”
The Raiders enter the 2020 offseason quite desperate for help at the linebacker spot. They fielded the least productive unit in the NFL across the 2019 season, and the entire linebacking corps seems to warrant an overhaul, which could result in the team using both financial capital and draft assets to fortify the position.
As the team puts their draft board together over the next few months, Weaver could be an ideal target for the Raiders to use a mid-round selection on considering that he brings a nasty, thumping presence to the interior and couples that with ever-improving coverage skill.
He’s clearly not lacking in confidence either.
“I mean, you just put me in the right system, you put me out there and I feel like I can be an X-factor for any team,” he said. “If you put me on the field, we’re going to be winning games. That’s all that matters.”