The 2018 NFL Draft is only a little over a week away. These are exciting times, as the Falcons and the rest of the NFL conduct their final visits with the prospects that they’re most interested in. We’ve had news of several visits trickling in over the past few weeks, but one of the highest profile players we heard about was Alabama LB Rashaan Evans.
Evans is currently projected to go in the first round of the draft, and is widely considered one of the top LB prospects in this class. It’s possible the Falcons are just doing their due diligence on prospects that could be available at the 26th pick, but it’s also possible that the team has legitimate interest in Evans.
In either case, I thought it would be smart to take a closer look at Evans. To do this, I watched him against LSU, Clemson (Sugar Bowl), and Georgia (CFP Championship). You can find my complete thoughts on the physical LB below.
LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Evans’ physicality at the point of attack immediately stands out. He’s a punishing hitter who rarely misses tackles. Quick ability to read-and-react—diagnoses plays well and has good instincts for the position. Evans is disciplined in his run fits and appears to have a high football IQ. He understands his role in the defense and is rarely caught out of position by play-action or misdirection plays.
Offers some versatility to play on the inside or outside. Evans demonstrated some pass rush ability from the edge and is an effective blitzer. He’s skilled at navigating traffic to make the play and can avoid blockers in the open field with relative ease. Can drop into zone coverage and cover the flats and the short area of the field adequately. Fiery competitor with no shortage of toughness—played through a groin injury throughout the 2017 season.
Evans lacks “prototypical” size for the LB position at 6’2, 232, and may not be a fit for more “old school” defenses. He can struggle to disengage from blockers at times, particularly once they get their hands on him. Biggest concern is his overall athletic ability—he tested as an average to below-average LB in every measure but the 3-cone, and did not run the 40 at the Combine or his Pro Day. When looking at his size-adjusted numbers, they look even worse.
His long speed is a big question mark. Evans possesses enough change-of-direction ability to succeed as a quality box defender, but can he handle the more advanced coverage duties of an NFL MLB? Without the testing, it’s hard to say—but it’s something that concerns me. If not, his best fit may be as a 4-3 SAM or as a 3-4 ILB with limited coverage responsibilities—and those players rarely get drafted in the first round.
Evans is a very good LB prospect with some significant question marks. On the one hand, he looks like a Day 1 starter for a team that should be able to provide quality run-stuffing, some rotational pass rush, and serviceable short-area coverage. On the other hand, his athletic limitations were never really tested on a defense full of stars at Alabama—and a scheme that almost never asked him to cover anyone down the field. It’s unlikely that Evans will have that luxury in the NFL.
He’s a punishing hitter, which is perhaps even more impressive due to his relatively small size for a LB. I love his toughness and his competitive fire. Evans has the potential to be an elite run defender, and his instincts and football IQ could likely lead to early success. However, I don’t believe he meets the athletic thresholds that the Falcons look for in their LBs—and his possible coverage limitations give me pause.
In a scheme that can limit his responsibilities to the box, Evans has Pro Bowl potential as a rookie. I just fear that crafty NFL OC’s will try to exploit a MLB that can’t carry an athletic TE or RB down the field. Perhaps an equally crafty DC can find a role for him that masks those particular deficiencies and takes advantage of his physicality, fiery attitude, and versatile skillset as a plus run defender and pass rusher.
Grade: 2 (second round)
What do you think about Rashaan Evans’ fit with the Falcons? Are you concerned about his lackluster athletic testing, or do you think his physicality and instincts make up for any potential weakness in coverage? Where would you draft Evans if you were a GM?