Tennessee Titans Draft Prospect Breakdown: Rashaan Evans

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 14: Rashaan Evans
TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 14: Rashaan Evans /

The Tennessee Titans don’t have many holes to fill when the 2018 NFL Draft roles around. With linebackers and edge defenders expected to be top targets, we’ll start to take a closer look at who could be available when the Titans are on the clock come April 26th. First up: Rashaan Evans.

GM Jon Robinson has done a solid job of rounding out the Tennessee Titans’ roster with ‘bargain-bin’ free agents this offseason. Veteran acquisitions such as Blaine Gabbert, Kevin Pamphile, Will Compton, and Bennie Logan fill holes that allow Robinson to have as much flexibility as possible when it comes to how he wants to approach the draft. But with that said, it would be shocking if the team doesn’t go with the best available front-seven player with their first round pick.

Linebacker Rashaan Evans possesses one of the highest ceilings in this draft class regardless of position. Through the offseason, Evans is somebody I’ve continuously mocked to the Titans because he brings playmaking potential that the Titans’ front-seven lacks. While the front-seven is no slouch by any means, they consist of more solid and steady veterans. Adding a young playmaker to this established group could easily elevate the play of the entire unit.

Aside from adding a new dynamic to the defense, the former First Team All-American also fits what the team needs perfectly in my opinion. The thing that makes Evans a very likely target for the Titans is his versatility. Evans is just as explosive on the edge as he is lining up off the ball. As HC Mike Vrabel said himself, if you can only do one thing, then he doesn’t want you on his team.

With Jayon Brown coming into his own last season, DC Dean Pees could elect to move Rashaan Evans to EDGE on third downs. This allows for Brown to be utilized primarily in coverage, which is what he was drafted to do. If you watch Evans on film, there’s little doubt he has the explosiveness to be a problem for opposing offenses. Here, he’s able to get to the quarterback before the offensive tackle even gets in his pass set.

Evans not only possesses the explosiveness to get after the passer, but has a bevy of pass rush moves to complement that athleticism. There aren’t a whole lot of 6’3″, 240lb defensive players in this draft class that can get away with spin moves like this. Keep in mind Rashaan Evans played through a quad injury in 2017.

What separates Evans from other linebackers to me is his usually solid technique and the ability to just rely on his instincts. Those are enhanced by his elite level of athleticism. With the Titans having an already stout unit at the forefront of the defense, this could put Evans in favorable situations to finish plays violently. In today’s NFL, having that feared hitter in the middle of the defense is undervalued, but it can do wonders in terms of energizing a defense, and even a stadium.

Again, if everybody is gap sound, it will allow Evans to do what he does best: make plays.

Those kinds of plays that entail pure athleticism or a free big hit on the ball-carrier are what fans will love to see. But there are a lot of other plays that may not get that same attention and are equally as impressive. Watching a linebacker come downhill, shed an offensive lineman, and violently meet the ball carrier at the line has become a lost art.

While the Titans’ front-seven is filled mostly with seasoned veterans, there’s no question they can make some plays in their own right. This savvy group of ‘underrated savages’ can benefit a lot from the addition of Evans. When lined up off the ball, Evans has a nose for keeping contain on the ball-carrier, which will usually allow other players to make the play.

This clip is attributed towards Evans’ film study and ability to be fundamentally sound. Evans sees Nick Chubb in the wildcat with a TE motioning outside the tackle. That puts him on the strong side, which also happens to be towards the open side of the field. While he got a little too far up the field for my liking (which we’ll get into), he was able to quickly diagnose the play and force Chubb to cut inside, where the rest of the Crimson Tide defense was their to clean up.

So far, the plays highlighted have displayed the physical and technical skill set of Evans. What Evans also shows on the field is a relentless mentality when it comes to getting after the quarterback. It doesn’t matter where the ball is on the field; you’re almost guaranteed to see #32 right by it.

Obviously, every prospect has their flaws and Rashaan Evans is no exception. The first thing people are quick to point to are his coverage skills. While Vrabel will be tasked with helping him polish his pass coverage technique, Evans definitely has what it takes to at least be serviceable in this aspect if he isn’t lined up at EDGE.

Continuing with what Evans will need to improve on at the next level, the coaching staff will have to work on Evans’ tendency to be slightly undisciplined when lining up at EDGE. Any player who possesses elite athleticism and knows it will tend to get trigger-happy. At times, Evans will get too far up the field when coming off the edge. That could open up a massive hole between the guard and tackle. Evans gets caught guessing sometimes, but this is an issue that shouldn’t be too difficult to resolve.

Another bad habit Evans has is standing up too high when he’s chasing down a ball-carrier. While he finds his way to the ball at 100 miles per hour, he occasionally fails to maintain his pad level. That slight detail can allow a running back to shed Evans and gain more yardage. While he shows great range on tape, these are the plays that will need to be limited at the next level.

Jon Robinson hired Vrabel to get the most out of all 53 players on the roster. Considering Vrabel was a linebacker back in his playing days, that makes a Vrabel/Evans pairing almost too sensible. While Rashaan Evans needs some refinement, just like any other prospect, I’m convinced he could likely be the missing piece in the Titans’ front-seven.