Now on to the “potential risers” or players that may not be big names, but have been getting more buzz as we get closer to the draft.
These players are considered potential second, third, or fourth-rounders at this point, but with bad combines can fall, and good ones can rise.
A senior at Cal, Evan Weaver is an instinctive true middle linebacker. At 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, Weaver has great size and while he is not the most athletic guy on the field, he is faster than he looks at that size.
Weaver’s read-and-react is solid, and he can diagnose the run with the best of them. Weaver is an aggressive tackler with solid form which allows him to capitalize on plays that he gets to the ball carrier.
His block shedding is decent, but often he will get eaten up in traffic when shooting gaps. He came to Cal as a defensive end and you can see that based on his ability to time the snap-on blitzes, which got him a decent amount of QB pressures.
Weaver has a relentless motor and usually takes the right pursuit angles.
While Weaver is quick enough to cover some ground in coverage — and actually looked decent in coverage at times — his footwork is sloppy which in turn contributes to his change of direction in zone coverage being rather poor.
Weaver did not play much man-on-man coverage, so he is not the guy that would solve the Raiders problems when it comes to covering tight ends.
Weaver is the type of linebacker that is better when things are in front of him. He is not the type of linebacker that is great at shooting gaps and blowing up plays behind the line but instead excels at staying back, diagnosing the play, and pursuing the ball carrier from there.
Weaver is surely not worth a first, maybe not even a second at this point, but if he lasts until the third or fourth, he could potentially be a great value as a guy who should be able to come in and contribute immediately.
I would personally look to other options, but it’s yet to be seen what type of linebacker Mayock covets.
Like Troy Dye and Kenneth Murray, Jacob Phillips is another backside run-and-chase linebacker, though he mostly played in the middle at LSU.
While athletic, he is not on the same level athletically as who he replaced this year, Devin White, or even an Isaiah Simmons, Devin Bush type. Still, he has the speed to go sideline-to-sideline and is an overall plus athlete.
I compared him to Troy Dye earlier in that both of them project best as backside linebackers. The thing that separates the two is instincts — specifically read-and-react ability.
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The complete opposite of Evan Weaver and to a lesser extent Troy Dye, Phillips lacks natural instincts which is why he does not project well as a middle linebacker at the next level.
Too often Phillips will hit the wrong gap, not be patient and let the play develop in front of him, or just take bad angles in pursuit of the running back. When the ball goes to the opposite side and Phillips can freely run and chase to make a play, he excels.
Basically Phillips is better playing east-to-west than he is north-to-south.
In coverage, Phillips has potential but is currently inconsistent. While he has the athletic ability to cover ground in zone, he looks mechanical in his backpedal and overall coverage movement.
He also tends to break on the ball a step too slow. His tackling is textbook, as he does not often whiff and consistently wraps up. Not only that, but you could argue Phillips is actually the best tackler in all of college football, missing only two tackles on the season out of 79 total attempts.
The problems Phillips has are all very coachable, so he is definitely a likely mid-rounder to keep an eye on.