Cal Football: Evan Weaver Must Prove Himself Once Again at the NFL Scouting Combine
Ashtyn Davis rates as one of the top safeties participating in the NFL Scouting Combine, which gets under way Thursday, but once again linebacker Evan Weaver will have to convince the doubters.
Those two along safety Jaylinn Hawkins will represent Cal at the four-day event at Indianapolis. Davis is considered the best of the Bears’ pro prospects, ranked No. 4 by NFL.com among safeties who are scheduled to be at the scouting combine.
But Weaver, a consensus All-American and the nation’s leading tackler last fall, is rated just the No. 21 linebacker prospect among 44 players at that position, according to analysis by NFL.com.
Weaver has spent much of his career facing skeptics, so he’s likely prepared to show NFL scouts what he can do at Lucas Oil Stadium.
He earned a score of 5.95 by NFL analyst Lance Zierlein, which the site says projects him an NFL backup or special teams player. The top linebacker prospect expected to compete at Indianapolis is Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who received a 7.08 score and the label of “Pro Bowl talent.”
Davis, a one-time football walk-on who came to Cal as a track and field hurdler, earned a score of 6.33, which NFL.com says translates to becoming a starter within two years.
The top safety prospect is Alabama’s Xavier McKinney at 6.70. Grant Delpit of LSU and Antoine Winfield of Minnesota check in at 6.37 and 6.36, respectively, just ahead of Davis.
More than 200 prospects will participate in the combine, with Weaver and the linebackers set to go Saturday and Davis, Hawkins and other defensive backs slotted to show their stuff on Sunday.
A year ago, Cal had no players at the combine.
The bench-press event will be held at the nearby Indiana Convention Center, running Wednesday through Saturday.
Here’s how NFL.com evaluated Cal’s three scouting combine participants:
Ashtyn Davis, Saf
Davis earned a scholarship in track at Cal and walked on to the football team. He has excelled in both sports. As a redshirt freshman in football, he was named the team's Most Valuable Special Teams Player and started the final three games at cornerback (25 tackles, three pass breakups). Davis was again the team's special teams MVP in 2017, co-leading the FBS with 39 kickoff returns and posting 826 yards on those returns (ranking ninth in the country). He also started six times at safety (33 tackles, one interception) that season, the position in which he would start all 13 games and gain honorable mention All-Pac 12 status as a junior (56 stops, 1.5 for loss, four interceptions with one pick-six, five pass breakups). Davis was a second-team all-conference pick as a senior (57 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles) in 12 games (11 starts). He missed the team's bowl game due to injury, however, and received a medical flag at the Senior Bowl. In track, Davis had many accomplishments, including winning the 2017 Pac-12 meet in the 110-meter hurdles and finishing third in the 2018 indoor nationals in the 60-meter hurdles.
By Lance Zierlein
Late-comer to the game who has rare physical gifts that can't be taught but can be capitalized on. His instincts are just average right now, but he appears to have decent recognition skills. He just needs to trust what he sees. Learning to play under control in coverage and as a tackler will be the difference between being considered a good football player instead of an explosive athlete. The elite traits should get him drafted inside the first two days, but there are some boom/bust elements to his game right now. He should become a future starter at safety, but his size, length and speed could create interest in him as a potential cornerback conversion.
• Monster athletic tester and scouts rave about A-plus character
• Has electric chase and recovery speed
• Experienced lining up in a variety of spots
• Smooth in his backpedal paired with exceptional closing burst
• Athletic gifts make up for slower eyes
• Range to play over the top from single-high
• Disruptive length at catch point
• Alert and energetic in zone coverage
• Possesses traits of a future ballhawk if recognition develops
• Does not lack toughness
• Trigger and demeanor to race into the alley in run support
• Can be reckless as downhill tackler
• Has issues coming to balance and getting controlled, wrap-up tackles
• Needs to shorten stride length in leveraged pursuit to prevent overflows
• Instincts inconsistent due to inexperience
• Has some hip tightness
• Leggy in short-area movement, limiting balance in space
• Room for tighter route squeeze to deter throws
• Peripheral route awareness can be spotty from deep zone
• Needs to play with better contain discipline against zone-read quarterbacks
Evan Weaver, LB
Weaver was state defensive player of the year in Washington as a senior at Spokane's Gonzaga Prep after posting 37 tackles for loss and 24 sacks. Cal played him at defensive end as a true freshman in 2016 (16 tackles, 1.5 sacks in 11 games) before moving him to linebacker for his sophomore campaign (55 tackles, two for loss, five starts in 12 games). Weaver took a big step forward as a junior, finishing second in the FBS with 159 total tackles and fourth in the country with 88 solo stops. Pac-12 coaches named him second-team all-conference for his excellent all-around season (9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, one returned for a score, and six pass breakups in 13 starts). Weaver starred as a senior, garnering first-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 notice after leading the country with 182 tackles in 13 starts (that includes a whopping 103 solo efforts -- 20 more than the second-place finisher in solo tackles, Colorado's Nate Landman). Ten of those tackles were for losses, including 2.5 sacks; Weaver also broke up three passes and forced three fumbles for the Golden Bears.
By Lance Zierlein
Rambunctious tackle sponge and perennial grudge holder who lives to prove people wrong. Weaver certainly doesn't look the part of All-American inside 'backer in the uniform, but he lives for football and plays every snap with urgency. He can be patient but has the instincts and play-recognition skills to beat blockers to the spot. He is slow-twitch, and there is no question that his athletic limitations will be harder to disguise against NFL competition. A lack of traits could limit his upside, but he has the intangibles and toughness to compete as a backup box banger in a 3-4 alignment.
• Outlandish production dating all the way back early high school
• Great teammate and elite competitor
• Instinctive with elite recognition of blocking schemes
• Has the patience to not get trapped or goaded by misdirection
• Hustles to stay ahead of backside cut-off blocks
• Feels blocks and alters flow angles when necessary
• Finds and fills his run fits on a consistent basis
• Has aggressive, heavy hands waiting for climbing linebackers
• Punches and plays off blocks with consistency
• Eyes play past blockers and locks in on where the ball is
• Motor and pursuit seem unfazed by contact
• Makes plays on the football in passing game
• Aware of incoming traffic from short zone and squeezes the route
• Won't be a head-turner at the beach
• Built like an undersized center with stubby arms and fleshy midsection
• Lack of speed offers little margin for error in diagnosing the play
• Lower body tightness creates movement limitations
• Can't stop-start with any twitch
• Lacks the agility to circumvent traffic quickly when scraping
• Needs to step further downhill to blow up pulling guards and collapse the crease
• Plays upright, leading to occasional inconsistencies as open-field tackler
• Not sudden enough to be an NFL blitzer
Jaylinn Hawkins, Saf
Jaylinn Hawkins was a teammate of his younger uncle at Cal. Jaylinn's father is the much older brother of Jeremiah Hawkins, a receiver at Cal. Scouts, of course, are far more interested in Jaylinn's play than his family tree, as he tied for third in the FBS with six interceptions in 2018. He picked off three passes in the Cheez-It Bowl that year, earning Defensive MVP honors to cap off an excellent season (32 tackles, 3.5 for loss, three pass breakups, 12 starts in 13 games). Hawkins was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick in 2019 after again leading Cal with three interceptions. He also compiled 56 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 13 starts. Hawkins started 11 games in 2017, recording 41 stops, 1.5 for loss, and an interception. He started three of 12 games played as a redshirt freshman (29 tackles), one year after suffering a shoulder injury in the 2015 opener that ended his season.
By Lance Zierlein
Physical safety whose lack of speed and cover talent could pigeonhole him as a box safety at the next level. His eyes and instincts are good enough in space, but Hawkins just doesn't have the twitch to make enough plays on the football. He's a striker, but not reliable as a "get him down" tackler in the open field and that will work against him. He will need to shine as a special-teams contributor to make a roster.
• Good size with frame for NFL contact
• Core special teams potential
• Can go up and adjust to throws in mid-air
• Comes downhill with bad intentions, looking to swap paint
• Adequate hip flip changing direction in zone coverage
• Decent instant response time to what his eyes tell him
• Experienced in a multitude of alignments
• Speed deficient with a lack of ball production
• Clunky back-pedal and missing burst to challenges throws
• Below-average short-area quickness
• Loses the pursuit angles too frequently
• Looks to punish rather than wrap and run as tackler
• Too much lunging drops success rate as tackler
• Inconsistent with hands in getting rid of blocks
• Has history of targeting penalties