2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Iowa S Kaevon Merriweather

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will 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 Iowa S Kaevon Merriweather.

#26 Kaevon Merriweather, S, Iowa (R-Senior) – 6000, 205lb

Senior Bowl/Combine invite


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Kaevon Merriweather 6’0, 205lb 9 1/4 31 7/8 N/A
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.62 1.58 N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
9’10” 35.5

The Good

— Has good size for the position
— Shows good closing speed in pursuit of the football
— Has experience playing single-high, split zone, in the box, and occasionally in the slot
— Was coached up by DB guru Phil Parker and a sound Iowa defensive staff
— Recognizes and can execute various coverage concepts
— Seen as a high-character player both on and off the field
— Does a good job of working downhill in run support
— Will string plays out to the sideline on outside runs and screen passes
— Looks to tackle at the catch when he closes on the football
— Has good instincts when in zone coverage, being able to read the QB’s eyes and jump routes
— Has a knack for being in the right place at the right time around the football
— Will be able to run down kick and punts on special teams right away

The Bad

— Lacks the long speed and explosiveness you desire in a defensive back
— Doesn’t have great range to run sideline to sideline as a deep safety
— Can be tentative coming downhill, often stuttering his feet and popping up
— Angles to the football need to improve
— Will stop his feet and reach out to arm tackle ball carriers if out of position
— Struggles when matched up in man coverage having to anticipate and break on routes
— Not very fluid in his transitions with his hips and clicking and closing downhill
— Slow to process plays on the backend, making him late to reach the ball as a post safety
— Lacks strength and physicality to take on and shed blocks reliably
— Will get engulfed by size and strength against the run
— A lot of his big plays were “low quality” with him being in the right place at the right time


— Redshirt Senior prospect from Belleville, MI
— Born December 20, 1999 (age 23)
— Started two years in high school and was named team DPOY as a junior
— Also competed in basketball and track in high school
— Saw action in nine games, with no starts and recorded one solo tackle in 2018
— Redshirted in 2019 after seeing action in just two games and recorded five tackles and one PBU
— Saw action in all eight games in 2020 with five starts at strong safety and recorded 23 tackles, with 13 solo stops and with one PBU
— Started 13 games in 2021 and posted 42 total stops (30 solo), one INT, and four PBUs
— Started 12 games in 2022 and posted 47 total tackles (35 solo), two TFLs, three INTs, three PBUs, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery (returned for a TD)
— AP second-team All-American (2022), Permanent Team Captain (2022), AP second-team All-Big Ten (2022) Team Player Council Member (2021-22)
— Sport and recreation management major, earned Honor Roll recognition every semester for four years

Tape Breakdown

I had the opportunity to coach Iowa S Kaevon Merriweather during the spring of 2019 in the Iowa Football Strength and Conditioning Department. During my time working with Kaevon, I saw a young man who gave great effort in all weight room activity and football drills as well as in his interactions with fellow players, coaches, and support staff, having a high character as he was recognized for this past season by the Hawkeye media. Merriweather enjoyed a breakout season of sorts in 2022, starting 12 games en route to a second-team All-America nod while picking up three INTs, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery for a score. When watching Merriweather, you see a smart defender who is always around the football like in the clips below.

Merriweather does a good job using his eyes to follow where the QB where intends to go with the ball, getting to the right spot to break up the pass or jump the route. In this example against Purdue, Merriweather catches the overthrow by the QB, quickly reacting to the off-target pass to pick up the INT.

Merriweather not only does a good job when it comes to making plays on the football, but also breaking off his assignment to rally to the ball and tackle at the catch. Watch Merriweather break off his assignment on this rep against Michigan. Moving off the TE in the slot to the underneath pass, he tackles the shallow cross right as the ball arrives to prevent any YAC.

Merriweather also does a good job getting involved as a run defender, coming from top-down. On this rep against the Wolverines he makes the tackle near the LOS to keep the back to only a modest gain on the outside run.

When watching Merriweather, he does need to be more consistent with his pursuit angles to the football. He can overrun/underrun plays, causing him to get out of position and leave his feet and lunge out to arm tackle ball carriers. On this rep, he must quickly change direction to get the runner cutting outside. He makes the stop but could do a better job breaking down to be in better position.

You better see the issues regarding Merriweather’s pursuit angles on this play where he hesitates to come downhill, misjudging the runner as he underruns the football. He leaves his feet and reaches out with his arm but can’t get the ball carrier down.

Deconstructing blocks isn’t the most important trait for defensive backs but still should be considered, especially if playing as a strong/dime safety. Merriweather lacks that play strength to effectively get off blocks like on this rep here. The TE from Michigan overwhelms Merriweather from the snap, running him away from the play as the runner takes the carry off the blocker’s backside to the house.

While Merriweather does a good job playing in zone coverage, where he can use his instincts to take him to the ball, he struggles in man coverage due to poor athleticism and lack of fluidity in his transitions. He also isn’t great at route anticipation, as you can see from this rep from the Senior Bowl. Michigan State WR Jayden Reed puts him in a blender, leaving Merriweather in the dust for the easy catch-and-run TD.


Kaevon Merriweather has the size and background coming from an Iowa program that requires its DBs to be cerebral to make an NFL roster thanks to his instincts as well as his ability to contribute in run support. Still, his lack of top-end speed limits him as a post safety, making him more of a box safety/dime defender at the next level. He will need to develop better route recognition against man coverage as well as take better pursuit angles to get a helmet on Sundays and factor in on sub packages.

When studying Merriweather, Rudy Ford came to mind as a similar type as the player that got drafted out of Auburn in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Having a near-identical frame (5’11 1/8”, 205lb) with similar athleticism, Ford cut his teeth as a core special teamer to start his career. He has started 10 games over the last two seasons with the Jaguars and Packers, showcasing that same awareness in coverage and playmaking ability Merriweather has during his tenure with the Hawkeyes.

The Steelers signed Keanu Neal and brought back Damontae Kazee this offseason, likely minimizing the need to draft a safety high. Merriweather could be a logical player to target late on Day Three of the draft given his frame and background as a hearts and smarts guy. Having the Steelers brass at his Pro Day and getting coached by DB Coach Grady Brown at the Senior Bowl doesn’t hurt. He has things to work on but can become a capable backup who can play special teams right out the gate.

Projection: Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 6.2 – End of Roster/Practice Squad (7th Round)
Games Watched: vs Michigan (2022), at Rutgers (2022), at Purdue (2022), Senior Bowl (2022)

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