One of the most dominant Power-5 edge rushers in 2020, Rashad Weaver has the potential to become a Day 3 steal.
Widely projected to be a late-Day 3 selection in the 2021 NFL draft, Pittsburgh defensive end Rashad Weaver is a prospect that has received very little buzz within the draft community over the past three months. As a redshirt senior who will be 24 years old in November, was a three-star recruit (247Sports’ No. 1,536 recruit in the nation in 2016), and is less than two years removed from a season-ending ACL injury, it’s easy to understand why.
However, when you dig into Weaver’s production against ACC competition in 2020, it becomes difficult to fathom why he isn’t getting more hype. Weaver collected 48 pressures over nine games, giving him the sixth-most among FBS edge rushers. His average of 5.3 pressures per game ranked second-best behind UAB’s Jordan Smith (5.6) and first among Power-5 edge rushers.
Weaver didn’t just rack up production against weak opponents – he was up to the challenge of the toughest offensive lines he faced. He posted six pressures (above his season average) in each of his games against Notre Dame and Clemson, two of the nation’s top-10 most effective pass-blocking offensive lines, according to Pro Football Focus. Against North Carolina State, who ranked 24th out of 130 in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency, Weaver went bananas for 10 pressures.
Lining up as the outside defensive end on 94.2% of his defensive snaps in 2020 and standing at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, Weaver also projects to be a good scheme fit for Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defense.
Let’s dig into some of Weaver’s film to get a look at his underrated upside as a pass rusher.
There’s one thing I’m going to make clear from the jump – Weaver does not showcase much explosiveness or speed on tape, which might be a result of his ACL injury. A lot of the moves you will see below may seem like they’re happening in slow motion. His limitations in this area are a real issue regarding his NFL potential, and they certainly warrant his reputation as a Day 3 prospect.
With all of that being said, the power, fundamentals, and technique are there, and if he can maintain his proficiency in those areas, Weaver can still be effective in the NFL. That’s the key to evaluating prospects in this range of the draft – we have to acknowledge the issues that push them to the bottom of the draft board, but we can focus on the positives that give them the potential to make an impact even if they do not overcome their weaknesses.
Weaver is a strong run defender, earning run defense grades of 79.8 and 87.1 at Pro Football Focus over the past two seasons, respectively, but we’re going to be focusing on his abilities in the passing game here.
The ball is released too quickly for Weaver to get home on this play, but Weaver tosses the left tackle like a ragdoll. Weaver notices the LT immediately opening his hips to the sideline, so he fakes a chop with his outside arm to draw the LT’s punch, exposing his chest, Weaver gets his hands into the LT’s upper body and uses his momentum against him, tossing him upfield.
While Weaver is far from the quickest dude around the edge, he knows how to open up a window for himself to bend the corner. Weaver flashes his inside hand to draw the right tackle’s punch, gets skinny and dips his inside shoulder to avoid the contact, and rips with his inside arm to win around the edge, getting an angle directly to the quarterback.
Here’s another win around the corner for Weaver against the right tackle, showing his inside arm, dipping, and then ripping.
Playing up to the competition, Weaver picked up two sacks against Clemson right tackle Jordan McFadden, who ranked as the fifth-best tackle in the ACC at PFF in 2020.
As the 9-tech (over the tight end’s outside shoulder) on this play, Weaver shows nasty hands against McFadden. Weaver uses his outside arm to chop down McFadden’s outside arm, and in perfect sync, he swims his inside arm over McFadden’s inside arm. Weaver turns the corner and catches Trevor Lawrence in the middle of a pump fake, forcing a fumble that Pittsburgh recovers. Awesome stuff.