The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Senior | 6’3″ and 234 Pounds | Projection: Rounds 1-2
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench reps: DNP | 3-cone: 6.95 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.36 sec | vertical: 30 in | broad: 116 in
The Crimson Tide have had nine players from their front seven drafted in the first 100 picks since Evans arrived at Tuscaloosa in 2014. The consensus five-star recruit registered only 14 career starts thanks to Alabama’s typically stacked roster, but he more than made his reps count. Like Crimson Tide alumnus Dont’a Hightower, Evans — a first-team All-SEC selection — doubled as a third-down terror off the edge. Evans routinely made his presence felt as one of the nation’s hardest hitters all over the field during his four collegiate seasons thanks to his scary combination of size and speed.
Evans mostly contributed on special teams and as a situational pass rusher during his first two seasons, but he showed an early penchant for rising to the occasion with two sacks in the 2015 National Championship. He was moved inside from outside linebacker as a junior, and he routinely balled out in the biggest of moments over the ensuing two seasons.
- vs. Washington, 2016: 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack
- vs. Clemson, 2016: 11 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sack, 1 pass deflection
- vs. LSU, 2017: 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack
- vs. Mississippi, 2017: 9 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack
- vs. Auburn, 2017: 9 tackles, 1 TFL
- vs. Clemson, 2017: 9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection
- vs. Georgia, 2017: 8 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Evans demonstrated his upside as an off-ball linebacker with a team-high 74 tackles and 13 tackles for loss as a senior. He was also a lethal edge rusher, racking up the second-most quarterback hurries and sacks on the team. As Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 pass-rushing linebacker, he proved capable of playing all across the front seven, and his ability to get after the quarterback should help him play all three downs despite his limitations in coverage.
Even without a career interception, Evans proved plenty capable of diagnosing screens, covering tight ends, and effectively working as a zone defender. His mere presence in the middle of the field is a deterrent to incoming receivers thanks to some of the hellacious hits he’s capable of dishing out. Evans’ physicality comes in handy in the trenches and against opposing run games, but it’s his work as a pass rusher that could really entice a team to take him with an early pick. He’s already capable of dusting tackles with a high-level spin move.
That Rashaan Evans spin move 👀 pic.twitter.com/AJFNWm8IFH
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 21, 2018
Overall, Evans pressured the quarterback on 67 of his 284 career rushes. The question with his game involves his work as an off-ball linebacker, where he at times appeared hesitant in getting over blocks and diagnosing the play. Evans excels when he’s able to fire his hips quickly and take on his assignment, something he’ll assuredly get better at as he gains more experience at inside linebacker. Still, his adjustment to the speed of the NFL won’t be helped by the reality of not playing behind arguably the country’s best defensive line on a snap-by-snap basis.
Versatility has been a premium in recent years for defenses that attempt to eliminate matchup problems all over the field. While secondary prospects such as Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick are usually the most-lauded players for their dueling talents, the ability both to stand tall against the run and get after the passer should be valued as well. Evans isn’t a typical off-ball linebacker, as he’s capable of providing immediate snaps on special teams and as a pass rusher. Teams haven’t let high-level versatility like his fall much further the early second round in recent years, although it could be a bit longer before fantasy owners are fearing Evans on a weekly basis.
In our most recent mock draft, we have Evans going to the Cowboys at No. 19.
Photo credit: Jason Getz – USA TODAY Sports