There’s a very good chance that the Pittsburgh Panthers could have three defensive linemen drafted within the first four rounds in 2021. Patrick Jones II and Jaylen Twyman get the most publicity. However, Pittsburgh EDGE Rashad Weaver might be just as talented as an NFL Draft prospect. What does Weaver bring to the table, and what is his upside?
Rashad Weaver NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Edge Rusher
- School: Pittsburgh
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’4 3/8″
- Weight: 265 pounds
- Wingspan: 82 7/8″
- Arm: 33 1/4″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
The Pittsburgh Panthers have long been an under-the-radar hotbed for NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball. Former and current stars like Aaron Donald, Darrelle Revis, Jordan Whitehead, Avonte Maddox, and Jabaal Sheard first started at Pittsburgh. This year, Rashad Weaver joins Jones, Twyman, Paris Ford, and Damar Hamlin in a crowded Panthers’ class, hoping to make his mark.
There was a time when Weaver wasn’t a surefire NFL prospect. He came out of high school as a three-star prospect, with offers from Penn State, Michigan, Syracuse, and Illinois. Teams sought to mold Weaver’s 6-foot-5, 241-pound frame. However, the Cooper City, Florida product was drawn to Pitt and defensive head coach Pat Narduzzi. He chose to enroll there, in hopes of claiming an early contributing role.
Rashad Weaver’s career as a Pittsburgh edge rusher
The opportunities didn’t come right away for Weaver. He redshirted his first season, failing to see playing time. In 2017, he saw improvement after taking a year off, logging 28 total tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and three pass deflections in 12 games and five starts.
In 2018, Weaver was elevated to a full-time starting role, and the move paid off. He started all 14 games for the Panthers, amassing 47 total tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, four pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He led the Panthers in sacks and tackles for loss, and showed off impressive tenacity and drive with his production. Hopes were high for Weaver heading into 2019, but an obstacle would soon redirect his course.
Weaver’s ACL injury, and his triumphant return
Weaver trained through the entire 2019 offseason. He had aspirations to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft after hitting his maximum in 2019. But in August, less than a month before the season, Weaver tore his ACL.
Losing a season is one thing, but losing a season after preparing for over six months, is something entirely different. The injury might have undone other players. But Weaver maintained a steely resolve through his rehabilitation. Keeping his eyes on his goal — to be a first-round pick — Weaver worked tirelessly. When he returned, he planned to return stronger than he’d left. And in 2020, he did.
Rashad Weaver’s career-best senior season
By the start of the 2020 season, Weaver was back in the starting lineup, and alongside Patrick Jones II, he wreaked havoc. In nine games, Weaver accumulated 34 total tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a pass deflection. In five less games than his 2018 season, he produced more total plays in the backfield. For his relentless efficiency, Weaver was given first-team All-ACC recognition and All-American honors, along with Jones.
Finally fulfilling his desire, the aspiring first-round pick declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, and accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. There, he’ll aim to keep his journey going.
Analyzing Rashad Weaver’s NFL Draft profile
At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, Weaver’s size automatically stands out. He’s a dense defensive end with overwhelming length, and his length gives him a great deal of natural leverage, both in pass and run defense. Weaver also knows how to use his length to win, a quality that separates him from a lot of other defensive ends.
Weaver has one of the best detailed pass-rush arsenals in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he combines it with his stellar length. The Pittsburgh EDGE brings fast, heavy hands on every snap. Whether it’s a swipe or a club or a punch, he has the amped-up style and violent rushing attitude to utilize his moves effectively. Weaver also brings a ton of juice on his first step, and he does well to convert whatever speed he generates into power.
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As you might expect, Weaver’s urgency off the line translates to a constantly-running motor elsewhere. He’s a high-energy player who always seeks to break into the pocket as a pass rusher. And as a run defender, the Pittsburgh EDGE does well to establish an anchor with his length, and he also has the strength to disengage and wrap up runners within his reach.
What are the issues with Weaver?
While Weaver has a lot of very good traits, he is a bit limited as an athlete. He has decent bend and ankle flexion, and his initial explosiveness is solid. But Weaver doesn’t often carry that throughout the rep. His speed trickles off rather quickly, and after that burst, he has to count on winning his hand battles.
Weaver is a tenacious, technical player, so that’s not always a problem. But he’s not the type of rusher who’s going to get consistent pressure within two or three seconds.
Extending off of Weaver’s athletic limitations, he also doesn’t have good pursuit speed. He has hustle, no doubt. But chasing down players in pursuit isn’t a part of his game as an edge rusher. He’s a bigger, technical rusher who’s more often going to win with his length and his hands. He is serviceable of various traits, like burst and ankle flexion. But overall, his athletic profile is somewhat incomplete.
Additionally, there are some supplementary factors that further impact Weaver’s draft stock. He’ll turn 24 years old in November of his rookie season, and his ACL injury does loom. He had his best collegiate season after the injury, so there’s reason to believe that it won’t impact him moving forward. Nevertheless, the Pittsburgh EDGE defender will still have to earn scouts’ trust long-term.
Rashad Weaver’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Weaver is in a similar mold to fellow 2021 NFL Draft prospect Carlos Basham. Both are larger edge defenders who lack elite athletic traits, but thrive with their hands. Having said that, I think Weaver is more athletic, and farther along with his hand usage. There is a cap on his potential as a pass rusher, particularly in speed rushing situations, and he’s still not as consistent as a run defender.
Nevertheless, Weaver is an exceptional prospect with a relatively high floor. He has enough athleticism to supplement his length and power, and he also insulates that physical talent with a relentless motor. Furthermore, Weaver can also shift inside situationally with his size. He has enough power to hold his own there, and his length serves him well when rushing vertically. He could be a versatile 4-3 end, or a 3-4 end with EDGE capability, were he to add ten pounds to his frame.
Which teams might mesh with Weaver in the NFL Draft?
Weaver has an exciting NFL Draft profile. Given that I had Basham as a mid-round pick, I see Weaver as a solid Day 2 pick. Round 3 may be more likely due to his athletic ceiling and his age, but if he reaches Day 3, he shouldn’t fall far. For teams like the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, and Cincinnati Bengals, he’s an excellent fit, both schematically and culturally.
Weaver may not reach Round 1 like he intended, but being a Day 2 pick is hardly something to complain about. Nevertheless, for Weaver, it’ll present another challenge — to prove wrong those that chose to pass him over. Weaver’s never one to shy away from a challenge. After all, he’s still here.