With April draft visits underway, news is going to be churning about who the Falcons will bring in to Flowery Branch for an official chat (of which they’ll get 30 slots).
One reported visit is giving us a bit of an eyebrow raise.
AL.com’s Matt Zenitz reports that Alabama LB Rashaan Evans will be stopping by Falcons HQ for a visit at some point in the process.
Rashaan Evans has pre-draft visits lined up with the Jaguars, Dolphins, Colts, Falcons, Saints and Patriots, per source.— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) April 3, 2018
Has already visited the Eagles and Cowboys. https://t.co/i8YcEUdR8K
Well, that’s certainly something!
Ascending linebacker talent who has the speed to fly around from sideline to sideline and played with an improved feel for the position in 2017. Despite limited playing time over his first few seasons, Evans adapted a “work while you wait” mindset that prepared him to for impressive performances in three consecutive national championship games. Evans is an ideal inside linebacker fit for a blitz-happy 3-4 unit, but he could easily fit as a 4-3 WILL with rush potential on sub-packages. Evans is an early starter with high-end potential if he can stay healthy.
If drafted, Evans would push Duke Riley out of the WLB spot, and start next to Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell to give the team a formidable group of linebackers for the next two seasons (Jones’ and Campbell’s deals are up in 2020, the former an inevitable re-signing, the latter less sure). As Zierlein notes, his potential to line up at Will, with his speed, must make Dan Quinn and company a bit giddy to think about.
A visit is not a pick, and the Falcons are wise to do due diligence on all the impact players that could fall to their spot. But, the fact that they’re looking at Evans may indicate the team is indeed considering a move at the weak linebacker spot, and that they may have other plans for Riley than we expected. It’s not the first time that’s been rumored this season, as the Falcons were linked to Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks in a possible trade situation last month. Do note that Riley flashed some potential last season and dealt with a knee injury, so the book is far from written on what he can do for the defense.
So, chalk this up as another interesting wrinkle to Atlanta draft assumptions. This might be more of a photo finish than any of us were expecting.