The Tennessee Titans traded up three picks in the first round to select Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans with the pick at No 22 on Thursday night.
The Titans gave up their own pick at No. 25 and also their fourth-round pick at No. 125 for the right to move up three slots and select former Crimson Tide star, leaping the New England Patriots at No. 23 and the Carolina Panthers at No. 24.
Evans should immediately come in and compete to start at inside linebacker, where the Titans lost Avery Williamson in free agency. He also could play outside as he began his career at Alabama as an outside linebacker before moving inside full-time in 2017.
His primary competition inside will be free agent signee Will Compton to see who starts alongside veteran Wesley Woodyard.
“They actually wanted me to play inside and be an inside backer,” Evans said of his conversations with the Titans. “I feel really comfortable being able to play that position, and being able to drop back in coverage.”
Titans GM Jon Robinson said that while Evans was primarily an inside linebacker this past year for the Crimson Tide, he sometimes did work outside in nickel packages, which should help his value to the Titans.
“He’s played inside linebacker primarily, but when they went to some of their sub-packages, he rushed off the edge,” Robinson said.
Evans drew some raised eyebrows because he – like last year’s first Titans pick, Corey Davis – did not run a 40-yard dash leading up to the draft. Evans said it was because of a nagging groin injury sustained in the first game of the Tide’s 2017 season against Florida State. The decision not to run the 40 led to questions and might have hurt Evans’ draft stock in the eyes of some teams.
“I have no idea. I never even tried to run it. That was one of the main things teams teams were concerned about was could I run,” Evans said. “But the Titans took a chance regardless of whether I ran the 40 or not. And I think whether I ran the 40 or not, that doesn’t really matter.”
It apparently didn’t matter to the Titans.
“When Jon and I watched him, we watched a lot of tape, and when you turned on the tape, it looked like he was getting there and he was hitting hard,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Evans said his speed won’t be an issue for someone who trained in part by chasing horses.
“That actually came about with my brother. He brought it to me about chasing horses. We’re from the country. That was something we just tried out, and eventually we started doing it over and over again. It’s funny that people question my speed. If I can catch a horse, there’s no reason for you to question the speed,” Evans said.
Evans was ecstatic that the Titans traded up three spots to draft him, and that he will reunite with former Bama teammate Derrick Henry.
“We had gotten some info that there were some teams trying to get ahead of us that were behind us, and we tried to get ourselves in position and got ourselves in position for that not to happen,” Robinson said of trading up.
Reports are that the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to move up for Evans.
Robinson said that Henry approached him at practice Thursday, and said, “Rashaan, huh?” Henry then texted Robinson as soon as the pick was made, happy with the outcome.
Evans said he felt the Titans saw what they were looking for when they worked him out following his pro day.
“I feel like those guys really saw something that they were looking for. I wanted them to understand that I’m a guy they can count on, regardless of what everybody else says about me, what I lack or whatever. I let them know that whatever they needed me to do, I can do it at a high level,” he said.