There’s a theory going around among draft analysts that, absent medical checkups and one-on-one interviews, teams will value production over projection this year, especially among the Day 1 and Day 2 prospects.
If that’s true, then it should bode well for Boise State edge Curtis Weaver.
At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Weaver is seen as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, the same position he played at Boise State.
Weaver’s measurements are a 99 percent match (Mockdraftable) with former Alabama LB Don’t’a Hightower, a 2012 first-rounder and two-time Pro Bowler with New England. It should be noted that both players were dinged by analysts for their perceived lack of athleticism.
And the Combine results weren’t great for Weaver, although he tested well for his weight (99th percentile) and his hand size (10 inches, 75th).
Those numbers paint a picture of a player who wins more on instincts and technique than sheer athleticism or speed.
“Stand-up end whose production as a pass rusher must be balanced out by his below-average ability and athleticism in stopping the run. Weaver is a naturally instinctive counter-rusher who uses synchronized hands/feet to attack both inside and outside edges as a rusher, but his lack of explosiveness and athletic traits could dull his rush production against NFL offensive tackles. He plays with football intelligence, but his level of NFL success could be determined by whether his skill can overcome below-average explosiveness.”
All of that sounds like a Round 3 prospect or later.
However, Weaver has a significant check-mark that should work in his favor: This is seen as a poor year for pass rushers.
"When I get between the lines, there's a switch that flips."
Curtis Weaver on his on field demeanorpic.twitter.com/r1mkIqeLug
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 29, 2020
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is the clear-cut top pass rusher in this class, but outside of Chase, there’s no consensus second-best player at the position.
LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson is generally seen as the top pass-rushing outside linebacker, and Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa is considered the top-rated 5-tech. Both are considered potential first-rounders – and both come with a few “warts.”
For Chaisson, it’s his injury history combined with his production (He finished with 6.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore this year, while Weaver had a combined 7 sacks vs. Portland State and UNLV.) Epenesa, on the other hand, had better production than Chaisson but also had what analysts call a poor Combine performance which, combined with some of his speed limitations, might prompt a move to defensive tackle.
However, the two possess elite traits that boost their draft stock: athleticism for Chaisson and size for Epenesa.
Hence, the reason why most analysts rate those two over Weaver.
Weaver might have been a Round 3 or even Day 3 prospect in previous drafts.
But the severe lack of supply versus demand at a premium position this year likely makes Weaver a more coveted prospect.
Combine that with the unusual circumstances behind this year’s draft, and there’s a very good chance Weaver is drafted in the second round, potentially high in the round. Yes, he doesn’t have ideal physical traits, athleticism or speed. But you can’t ignore the production.
“Weaver is one of the players that PFF is higher on than most around the industry and that all comes down to his history of production. Weaver dominated in 2018 and 2019 off the edge for Boise State, earning pass-rushing grades of 92.8 and 92.3 in those campaigns. In 2018, his pass-rush win rate crossed over 30%, which is an absurd number for a player who rushed the passer on as many snaps as he did.
“The concern with Weaver is whether he has the athleticism to produce against NFL offensive linemen. His overall build and athleticism may leave you wanting more, but Weaver does have elite bend for the position, something he showcased in a 7.0-second three-cone at the combine.”
PFF rates Weaver as its No. 22 overall prospect and third-best edge defender, one spot behind Epenesa and two spots ahead of Chaisson.
So while the first round might be too high of a ranking for Weaver, there’s a good chance someone will take him in the second round.
Jake Rigdon (email@example.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.