Friday, March 13, 2009

Solving Our Problems: Leonard Weaver

One of the issues that the Vikings had last year that isn't discussed all that often was their failure to sign a replacement for Tony Richardson at Fullback. It's not a glamorous position, or one that the fans really notice (me included). That being said, it was clear that Thomas Tapeh wasn't good enough (he was cut, if you recall) and Naufahu Tahi was pretty awful (as I said earlier, he's a horrible blocker who gained 37 receiving yards on 21 targets with a -77.4%DVOA and accumulated -77 DYAR).

And it looks like Vikings aren't going to settle on just bringing Tahi back (since he's, you know, bad) as they're interested in fullback Leonard Weaver of the Seahawks.

Weaver was an alternate for the Pro Bowl last year at 26, and he's a big dude, standing 6' tall and weighing 242lbs. In his four year career, he's rushed for 356 yards on 80 attempts, for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. 25 of those carries have gone for first downs, showing his ability to get the short yards (though he wasn't used much in the red zone, only scoring one touchdown in his career). According to Football Outsiders, he had -1 DYAR and a -9.0% DVOA on his 30 carries last year, and 40 DYAR and 16.0% DVOA on 33 carries the year before (not surprising to see fluctuations like that in such a small sample size).

He's a very good pass catcher as well, with 60 catches for 547 yards (9.7 YPC) and two touchdowns. Last year he finished with 45 DYAR and a 15.6% DVOA while catching 63% of the 32 passes thrown his way. The season before his 89 DYAR was 11th among running backs and his 17.3% DVOA was 14th. He also brought in 75% of the 52 passes thrown his way.

He has the statistics of a stud fullback, but in the Vikings offense, that's not enough. I asked the folks at Dave Krieg's Strike Beard for a scouting report and here's what they said:

"Leonard Weaver has been a fan favorite in Seattle since he arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2005 (at least among us football nerds). After
having injury problems in 2006 and nearly getting cut after a
disappointing 2007 preseason, 2008 was his breakout year (he was a Pro
Bowl Alternate). Here's the pros and cons on Weaver:

-Excellent receiver out of the backfield
-Exceptional pass blocker
-Effective rusher on the few carries he gets

CONS (from Seattle's perspective):
-Not an effective lead blocker in the running game
-The Seahawks drafted Owen Schmitt last year, who is more of a traditional
"bruiser" type of fullback
-Seattle has a new offensive coordinator in Greg Knapp, whose system
wouldn't seem to have a place for Weaver.

The vast majority of Seahawks fans want him to remain with the team, but
it's clear the front office only wants him back at a certain price and not
a nickel more.

My take? Leonard Weaver is a unique weapon in today's NFL, and would be a
great pick-up for the Vikings if they utilize him correctly; Just don't
expect him to be a battering ram for Purple Jesus. That just isn't his
skill set."

That assessment seems to match what the Vikings are looking for (though the fact he's not a great lead blocker isn't a good thing--but that's what Jim Kleinsasser is for). He's a solid pass blocker (so Childress will allow him to play in passing downs) that's also a pass catching threat out of the backfield (and we all know how much Childress likes the swing pass--might as well have them go to a player that can gain some yards instead of to Tahi) and who can convert short yardage situations. So he'd be a big upgrade from Tahi. And while that's not necessarily saying too much (though Weaver sounds like a solid player), it's important to try and upgrade your entire roster when you have the chance. Weaver's an upgrade, which means if he's at all reasonable contract wise, he'd be a good acquisition.

1 comment:

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