The Cal Golden Bears enjoy a rich history of talent in the NFL Draft, especially in the 2000s. Players like Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Marshawn Lynch, and Alex Mack have all been drafted in the first round, while players like Mitchell Schwartz, DeSean Jackson, and Marvin Jones have been drafted later, but have had success in the NFL. The last time a Cal defensive player was drafted in the first round was all the way back in the 2011 NFL Draft when DE Cameron Jordan was picked 24th overall. Now, nine years later, that trend can be broken by the Golden Bears Golden Duo of Evan Weaver and Ashtyn Davis.

Cal has surprised virtually everyone this season. They are 4-0 and are the only Pac-12 team undefeated, with wins against Washington and Ole Miss on their résumé so far. This success has been largely buoyed by their defense, which ranks 27th in scoring defense and 17th in passing efficiency defense. 

Their defense is led by the aforementioned duo of Weaver and Davis. Weaver currently ranks first in total tackles with 63 (which is 16 more than the players behind him tied at second) and is ranked first in solo tackles, 13 more than the player at 2 (Utah State’s David Woodward). Weaver’s 2019 season has gotten off to a hot start with an 18-tackle game against Washington and a 22(!!)-tackle game against Ole Miss. Weaver has had 11 straight games with double-digit tackles. 

Weaver’s played himself onto NFL radars with his tenacity and physical style of play, but I love the way he plays mentally as well. Weaver has to be smart to amass the number of tackles he does, and he does an excellent job of reading and reacting to plays. When you aren’t a stellar athlete at linebacker, you have to make up for it with mental acuity. 

On the play below, Weaver stays with his eyes in the backfield while patiently reading through the keys. Once he recognizes the play, he fights off the upfield blocker and knifes through for the tackle. 

Weaver has this play diagnosed the whole way and almost ends up overrunning the play and whiffing on the tackle, but the hustle to finish is ingrained in Weaver’s DNA. He wasn’t letting this sub-200 running back get away from him. 

Weaver does this a lot on his tape. His physical style of play is a tone-setter for the Cal defense. No matter what, if the offense puts a player in his range, Weaver will bring him down. 

Weaver made the “heads up play of the season” against Ole Miss on the game-winner. He stuffs the QB sneak at the end to win the game for Cal. 

Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline has similar thoughts to Evan Weaver: “He’s a nasty, forceful and instinctive defender who makes plays up the field and in pursuit. I like Weaver’s intensity, football smarts and approach…Too many people pigeonhole Weaver as a two-down linebacker, but I think he’ll be a terrific addition in the middle of a 4-3 or on the inside of a 3-4.”

This NFL Draft class has lost players like Dylan Moses and Markus Bailey to injury at the linebacker spot, but Evan Weaver shines through. I’ve heard some scouts and analysts say his NFL Draft stock could be as high as mid-Day 2 in the draft. I think that is his sweet spot unless he dominates the Combine.  

Weaver’s teammate Ashtyn Davis has been thrown about as a name in draft circles for some time now too, and it’s easy to see why. A former track star, Davis has effortless range from sideline to sideline and has a nose for the football. His tape is littered with plays where he lines up out of the frame and then he comes flying in to make the play.

Like so: 

While Davis has terrific athletic gifts on the field, it’s what is in his head that adds to his value. He’s a film junkie, and it shows on his tape. Play recognition is an A+ trait of his and helped him pull in 4 interceptions and 5 pass breakups last year.

Here, he reads the quarterback the whole way and makes a play on the ball for an easy pick-six. Montez doesn’t try to look him off and Davis makes him pay. 

On this play, Davis lines up on the near hash of the play and he plays the ball perfectly. Davis recognizes the concept and runs over to help but then reacts to the overthrow to break on it and pick off Montez for the second time this game.

These plays look identical to these previous two as well.

You get it, Davis is a playmaker. High levels of football IQ, range, and ball skills are all on display in his film, and it makes for exciting tape. You never know when he is going to make a play, but you can’t go a game without at least one. 

Defensive backs who aren’t afraid to run up and make a play at or near the line of scrimmage in run support are valuable, and Davis relishes it. In fact, you could make the case Davis enjoys the physicality too much for his frame, but Davis doesn’t really care. He loves the game of football and fought tooth and nail to get to where he is now. 

I’ve been a huge fan of Davis as a player, listing him as my 3rd-highest safety in this draft class. I’ve already remarked in the PFN live CFB blog that I’ve viewed him as a top-50 player in this draft class. He reminds me of former Utah player and now New Orleans Saints star Marcus Williams. Both are on the lighter side at 6’1 and roughly 200 pounds, but both have great instincts, range, and ballhawk ability while also being reliable in run support. Marcus Williams went 42nd overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and I think that is a similar range for Ashtyn Davis to go in this upcoming NFL Draft.