NFL Draft

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Northern Iowa WR Isaiah Weston

From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a big-play threat from Northern Iowa, Isaiah Weston. 

#80 Isaiah Weston, Wide Receiver, Northern Iowa (R-Sr.) — 6034, 214 lbs.

Combine Measurements

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Isaiah Weston 6034/214 9 1/2″ 32 1/2″ 78 3/4″
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.42 1.75 N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
11’3″ 40 20

The Good

— Prototypical body type – height / weight /speed receiver
— Could easily burst by FCS corners and stack vertically
— Has a nice catch radius, had to adjust to a lot of passes
— Showed some ability to go up and get contested catches, has great leaping ability
— Understands how to use leverage to manipulate defensive backs to give himself vertical lanes to run
— Could beat press with speed
— Averaged an insane 22.64 yards per catch over his entire college career
— Production was held back by poor quarterback play, was open down the field a lot 

The Bad

— Needs to play stronger, gets bullied by physical defensive backs
— Takes too many steps at the top of his routes, looks like he’s afraid to slip
— Effort away from the football is consistently lacking
— Deep ball tracking seems delayed at times causing incompletions on catchable balls
— No tempo shown in his intermediate route running
— Ran an extremely small route tree, likely will be pigeonholed to the Z

Bio

— Played in 41 games at Northern Iowa
— 109 catches, 2408 yards, 22.64 yards per catch, 21 touchdowns in his college career
— Invited to Hula Bowl and NFLPA Bowl
— 2019 AP All-American Second Team
— 2019 MVFC First Team All-Conference
— Fall 2021 MVFC All-Conference Second Team Offense
— 2017 Phil Steele All-Freshman Team
— In 2019, he tied the UNI record for consecutive games with a touchdown with seven
— One of 21 former FCS players invited to the 2022 NFL Combine
— Missed the entire 2018 season due to a torn ACL
— 2020 season was limited to just three games in the spring of 2021 due to the program’s COVID-shortened season
— Battled foot issues throughout his career
— Been in college since 2016 (redshirted)
— Majoring in psychology

Tape Breakdown

The one small school receiver everyone has gravitated to (including myself) has been North Dakota State’s, Christian Watson, a height/weight/speed receiver who tested out of this world at the combine. However, a mere 453 miles southwest of North Dakota State lay another height/weight/speed receiver that tested just as well. That is the University of Northern Iowa’s Isaiah Weston.

As you can see above, those are some elite numbers out of Weston. We know he looks good in shorts, now let’s answer how he looks with some pads on.

The trait that jumps off Weston’s tape as soon as it turns on is his speed. Watch at the top of screen, facing press coverage, Weston’s able to stem and explode inside effectively taking away the ability for the corner to get hands-on. Before the safety gets his eyes out of the backfield, Weston is already well past him. He’s then able to adjust to the underthrown football, make the catch, and get an extra 15-20 yards after the catch before being brought down.

 

Plays like these are the reason why Weston was able to average over 22.5 yards a catch in his college career. Northern Iowa loved letting him simply run by opposing defenders and launching it to him.

Let’s take a look at another example. This time Weston’s facing some off coverage. It looks that the cornerback is playing a catch man technique at about ten yards and Weston is simply too fast for that. Giving him this type of easy runway to build up to top speed, is the exact opposite of what to do against him. He’s able to eat up this ground. For some reason the quarterback tries to laser this one in, not giving Weston the ability to run under and it falls incomplete.

 

Weston also shows he understands how to manipulate the leverage of defensive backs to get open. Watch him, lined up at the top of the screen. He gets vertical, then presses at the cornerback’s outside shoulder, causing the corner to commit that way. As soon as the corner commits, Weston steps on his toes and explodes inside, leaving the defender in the dust. Unfortunately, the quarterback wasn’t looking his way or it would a have been an easy touchdown.

 

Weston does have the ability to go up and get the ball. With his combination of length and leaping ability, he’s proven he can real the ball in. One of my knocks about Weston that we’ll discuss in a few clips is his lack of physicality, but that is before the ball is in the air. I wouldn’t want to rely on Weston to have to do this a ton, as he’s more a finesse guy, but it’s encouraging to know that he’s continually improved in this part of his game over the course of his career.

 

To no real fault of his own Weston hasn’t had the opportunity to run an expansive route tree as it’s not what the Northern Iowa offense asked him to do. His experience combined with his athletic traits and stature has me seeing him as strictly a Z-receiver at the next level. While there’s not a ton there to pull from there were some examples of some nice routes that have me curious how he’d look running a wide route tree.

Below, he’s lined up at the by himself, at the bottom of the screen. His burst release wins the inside and then he’s able to press vertical before sticking and breaking hard inside. The Iowa State drops have him pretty well covered up, but just looking at the smoothness and fluidity of Weston’s route leaves me to believe there may be more meat on the bone to Weston’s route running than just go’s, posts, and comebacks.

 

We’ll start to look at some of the things Weston needs to improve on at the next level. The first is his shakiness with some of his deep ball tracking. At times he makes it seem like he’s not seeing the ball well in the air and reacts really late and it leads to some incompletions on catchable passes. Below, against Iowa State, Weston is able to show off his speed against a Power-5 school. He’s lined up in the slot and is going to run a fade. The defender they have on him has no shot as Weston runs right by him. The ball seems to be right there and Weston begins to track and then all of sudden it looks like he just gives up on the ball and doesn’t put his hands out. Don’t get me wrong, this is an incredibly tough catch following a ball over one shoulder and having to track all the way over the other shoulder, but it’s a catch a division-1 athlete is expected to make.

 

Weston’s intermediate route-running can be a bit rough and a lot stems from him needing to take a ton of steps at the top of the routes. The steps are needed because of how high Weston is playing. He needs to work on bringing his base down, lowering his center of gravity. This will help him explode out of the breaks and with fewer steps. This route would get eaten up by an NFL-level cornerback.

 

As I mentioned on a previous clip, the one thing Weston really needs to improve on his is physicality while running routes. He does a great job when he has a clear runway and can run whatever route he wants to run, but when cornerbacks start getting hands-on him it’s not pretty. This is where weight room strength and functional strength differ. Weston can put up 20 reps of 225, but he needs to not be afraid to use his hands along with his feet and speed to get open. If he can add that to his repertoire he’d be cooking, but as it stands right now he’s going to really struggle with physical cornerbacks in the NFL.

 

Conclusion

Isaiah Weston is certainly an intriguing player. He has some elite traits that if used appropriately, he may be able to stick around in the league. Right now, I see him as a guy that has the potential to be a “one-trick pony” for a team at the Z-position, using his speed to win down the field and score a few deep touchdowns. Averaging just under 24 yards a catch in 2021 is not easy to do regardless of what level you’re playing at. He’s just going to have a much tougher time trying to replicate that in the NFL. He’s too far off right now as a complete wide receiver. His traits though should do enough to earn him a practice squad spot assuming he doesn’t blow up in his preseason games. If I’m a team like the Steelers, that is in dire need of some speed on the outside, I’d be willing to take a late-round flier on.

Pauline: Steelers Showing Interest In Northern Iowa WR Isaiah Weston

Projection: Day 3

Depot Draft Grade: 6.3 – End of Roster/ Practice Squad (7th Round)

Games Watched:  @ North Dakota State (2021), @ Iowa State (2021), @ South Dakota State (2021), @ James Madison (2019), @ Iowa State (2019) 

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