The linebacker position is a position with plenty of talent in this year’s draft. Right now, the names near the top of most boards are Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds. Both players are going in the top 10 of most mock drafts right now. While he isn’t a forgotten man at the linebacker position, Rashaan Evans deserves plenty of hype heading into the draft.
What He Does Well
The first thing I noticed with Evans on tape is that he doesn’t just play in the middle of the defense. Alabama played him on the edge for a big chunk of snaps (mostly coming on third downs). That versatility is worth a look.
After that, you see a linebacker who checks off all of the boxes. Is he a sideline-to-sideline player? Check. Is he a powerful downhill backer? Check. Does he bring the tenacity as an aggressive finisher? Absolutely.
Let’s also not forget about seeing a linebacker (who is often the leader on your defense) never give up on a play and chase guys down to the best of his abilities. Evans does that too.
Something you definitely want to see from linebackers is their ability to shed blocks and make plays against the run. Evans is one of the best at this in the entire draft. Not only does Evans use his hands and his strength to get off bigger blockers, but he also has the smooth lateral quickness to make blockers miss entirely.
Another positive that Evans brings to the table is his ability to blitz. There is an art to blitzing from the linebacker spot, and Evans has it down. First, he has the football iQ to often time the snaps of his opponent (shows that he puts in the time in the film room). Second, he accelerates so well downhill that it’s often impossible to get the ball off clean before Evans has you wrapped up or hit hard.
Can He Play On The Edge?
Earlier, I brought up that Alabama used Evans on the edge on third downs. With that being the case, it’s natural to look at his snaps on the edge to see if he can be a guy to thrown in that spot.
Overall, he wasn’t that great on the edge. More often than not, Evans tried to use his hands and his strength to win one-on-one. Against bigger, stronger linemen, winning like that is hard to do. Evans did have some wins, but playing on the edge like that doesn’t often work.
I will say a couple reps flashed. He pulled off a wicked spin move against LSU, and he did get some bend on the arc a couple times. However, for the most part, his reps show that linebacker is his spot.
Where Can He Improve?
What separates good linebackers from great linebackers these days is the ability to play all three downs. On third down, of course, linebackers are expected to do enough in coverage to stay on the field. While Evans isn’t by any means slow, there are some tells that say he isn’t exactly the best in coverage. For starters, Alabama used him on the edge and sent him in to blitz. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his coverage skills. There are also times where Evans gets flat-footed covering running backs out of the backfield, but that is easily fixed. Overall, Evans is fine in coverage, but he won’t wow you.
One other area for Evans to improve is something that you see with many young linebackers entering the league. Sometimes, Evans will get a little too aggressive, which results in some overrun plays and some missed tackles. This isn’t putting Evans’ tackling ability into question, but it’s something he just needs to be cognizant of as a player.
Overall, I am a big fan of Rashaan Evans as a player. He brings so much to the table, and that will likely lead to his drafting on the first day. He will provide instant impact for a team that needs help on the second level of the defense. His ability to blitz effectively and get off blocks will draw teams to him.
His best fits would be with the Cowboys, Saints, Steelers, and Titans. All four teams are in dire need of stability at the linebacker position (yes, even Dallas. Sean Lee just doesn’t stay healthy enough), and they all would love his ability to come in and play from day one.