By Greg Arias
Rashaan Evans becomes the first linebacker taken in the first round by the Tennessee Titans since Keith Bulluck in 2000, and he fills an immediate need in more than one way.
There were options on the board like edge rusher Harold Landry, but Evans is a guy who can rush the passer from inside or outside. Some people might not remember that Evans started his career at Alabama as an outside linebacker and could well see time there with the Titans, who have some flexibility with Jayon Brown also on the roster. Evans is also a three down linebacker who should fit nicely beside Wesley Woodyard for the coming season.
There were rumors that Evans struggled in tests in Indianapolis, but sources close to the Alabama program say he is a smart, instinctive, aggressive, hard working player and that any such rumors seem false. Those same sources say that Evans views himself as an outside linebacker and begrudgingly made the move inside for Nick Saban.
Like most players at Alabama, Evans had to earn his way onto the field as a special teams player as a freshman, playing only on special teams and collecting 15 tackles in 13 games for the Tide. His sophomore season was also spent on special teams where he notched only 10 tackles but flashed what was to come in the National Championship game win over Clemson. Evans collected the Tides only two sacks of the game against DeShaun Watson in that win.
It was not until 2016 that Evans found his way into a starting role in Tuscaloosa. He totaled 53 tackles, four sacks and forced fumble and a recovery during the season. He also took over as the leader and play caller following the season-ending injury to teammate Shaun Dion-Hamilton. His best game was in the National Championship loss to Clemson where he set a career high mark with 11 tackles, six solo, five assisted and a sack.
In his final season in Tuscaloosa, Evans displayed his versatility and athletic ability and earned the honor of being selected an all-time team captain for the national champions. On the way to winning the title, Evans tied for team high honors in tackles with 74, 13 for loss along with seven quarterback hurries and six sacks while missing two games with a groin injury suffered in the season opener versus Florida State.
While there is some questions about his speed considering he did not run the 40 at either the combine or his pro-day per doctors orders, sources close to the Alabama team tell me he has timed at 4.6. However, his 10 yard split times are perhaps more impressive, though he did not run those at either time during the pre-draft process.
He is a quick twitch player with great get off on the snap and is a true pass rusher, though perhaps not as good in pass coverage as for Tide and current Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley. Still though he is more than adequate in coverage and should be an upgrade for the Titans this season.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Evans is a football player who loves the game and is dedicated and passionate about it. He is a tireless worker who should bring a physicality and winning attitude to the Titans. His speed is not a question at 4.6, and his ability to play both inside and outside and put his hand on the ground as a edge rusher if called upon to do so. We hear often about versatility, and Evans will bring that to a Titans defense, that along with the additions of Malcolm Butler should see immediate improvement this season.