The 2018 NFL Draft is somewhat unique from previous drafts in that one of its strongest positions is the linebackers. Thanks the the proliferation of spread-option offenses in college, the linebacker position is undergoing a change and blurring the lines with defensive end on one extreme, and safeties at the other extreme. As a result, fewer and fewer “prototypical” linebackers are entering the league.
This year is different, and talented linebackers to fit every need are in the draft.
That’s good news for the New York Giants, who desperately need help at the second level. The Giants have gotten two of their best players from the Alabama defense, and could go back to that well again. Rashaan Evans has been an ascending player since the end of the 2017 season and presents an intriguing solution to some of the Giants’ problems.
- Athletic, rangy linebacker. Capable of making plays sideline-to-sideline.
- Versatile. Played outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and edge rusher for Alabama
- Takes accurate first steps, generally doesn’t start moving away from the play.
- Shows some patience to let the offense commit, but processes information quickly.
- Explosive closing burst as a tackler or pass rusher.
- Good timing and vision as a blitzer.
- Looks comfortable dropping in space.
- Doesn’t take on blocks well, and struggles shedding them.
- Isn’t always a reliable tackler. Sometimes opts to go for the big shoulder hit and not wrap up.
- Occasionally gets over-aggressive and over-runs a play.
- Missed time at the beginning of the year with a groin injury.
What They’re Saying
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.
Rashaan Evans is third on most inside linebacker rankings, but that is more a mark of this class’ talent than his own ability as a player.
Evans has played plenty of football and was well coached at a high level, with a good blend of size and athleticism for a modern off-ball linebacker in the NFL. He has shown some nice growth from last year to this one, adding an element of patience and forethought to his game, when he tended a bit toward recklessness in 2016.
His versatility to play as an off-ball, run and chase weakside or inside linebacker, as well as rush the passer will appeal to a lot of teams. Having a smart, athletic player who can drop in coverage or rush into the backfield on any given play is a tremendous advantage for a defensive coordinator, and a coveted commodity in the NFL.
He will have to continue to hone his craft as a “thinking” linebacker, as well as improve as a tackler at the next level, but his upside is tremendous.
As Zierlein says, Evans’ talents would fit well in a blitz-happy 3-4 front, which, coincidentally, is what the Giants should be running in 2018. However, his work in the second half of the season after returning from injury and at the 2018 NFL Combine might have pushed him out of reach of the Giants’ second round pick.