(KPIX) — Former Cal linebacker Evan Weaver fed off naysayers for four seasons in Berkeley and then proceeded to set records in a Bears uniform. He’ll have to prove himself yet again in the professional ranks, and it all begins this weekend at the NFL draft.
League experts peg Weaver as a mid-round selection at best, but he smirks when he’s reminded of his average evaluation.
“I see myself as a future Pro Bowler,” he told KPIX sports director Dennis O’Donnell. “I’m a person that’s going to turn a team around or keep a team winning.”
That’s exactly what Weaver did at Cal. The Bears were one of the worst defensive teams in the nation when he arrived (averaging over 500 yards per game allowed in 2016), and with the help of head coach Justin Wilcox, Cal became one of the best (averaging just over 300 yards per game allowed in 2018).
Weaver’s senior campaign resume makes him one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the program: Consensus All-American, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, NCAA tackles leader, and Cal’s single-season tackles leader (182).
“Whoever drafts me is going to get the best linebacker in the draft,” he said.
But the knock on the Spokane, Washington native has always been about his speed. His numbers at the NFL combine didn’t jump off the page, but he’s confident his football acumen and intangibles will make the transition to the professional game easy.
There’s no doubt his pre-draft grades have been written onto one of the rocks he stores in his bedroom. The heavy stones have been marked up with all the negative things pundits have said about his game. It started when someone claimed he wouldn’t become a big-time college football player.
“People talk about the chip on their shoulder,” he said. “I have a rock on mine.”
The coronavirus pandemic has shutdown the NFL’s ability to conduct in-person interviews with various players. Weaver estimates he’s met with a quarter of the league’s general managers — most of them via FaceTime.
“Maybe it’s hurt me,” Weaver said of the virtual interviews. “But also it could help me because it’s put more emphasis on film.”
The Raiders are among the 8-10 teams he’s spoken too. General manager Mike Mayock has five picks in rounds 3-5.
Weaver is resigned to his place on everyone’s draft board, but he’s confident he’ll be a steal when it’s all over.
“Geez, Tom Brady was picked 199th,” he said. “People make mistakes.”