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2018 NFL Draft Top 10 Fits #3: Alabama LB Rashaan Evans

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Patriots could be adding another SEC LB high in the draft this year.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in at #3 on my Top 10 Draft list is Rashaan Evans, the 2nd linebacker on this Top 10 list. Evans played for one of Bill Belichick’s former defensive coordinators at Alabama and was voted as one of four team captains for the 2017 season. Evans is excellent at playing the run and blitzing the QB, with 13 TFL and 6 sacks in 2017 from an inside linebacker spot.

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Concerns

The two biggest concerns for me are size and health. Evans is listed at 6’3” 232, which isn’t small for linebackers these days, although given the Patriots draft history they have not picked up a linebacker under 237 lbs (Jerod Mayo) in the first or second round under Bill Belichick. Evans is a smart and instinctive player with the speed and athleticism to make plays, but the Patriots defensive front is going to have to keep blockers off of him. Evans has a solid list of injuries, including a groin injury that hampered him the last two seasons. e last two seasons.

Rookie Year Projection

Evans would compete for the 3rd linebacker role and be a key contributor on Special Teams as a rookie. Evans’ ability to blitz makes him an interesting fit in nickel and dime defenses as potentially an extra edge rusher, in blitz packages similar to the one Dont’a Hightower was in for his strip sack of Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LI. Evans has the speed to be an asset on the coverage units for the Patriots. By the end of his rookie year, I expect him to work his way into a rotation at the linebacker position while being poised to take on a larger role in 2019.

Long Term Fit

Evans would pair up with another Alabama product in Dont’a Hightower in the middle of the defense. His ability to play the run and blitz the QB would allow for the Patriots to utilize A-Gap pressures as well as disguise their pressures from the 5-1 or 5-2 “Bear” Fronts against opponents. Against teams with poor IOL, Evans can also play as a potential Mug 3-Technique (stand up rusher) where his speed and quickness is a mismatch against guards and centers. He’s adequate enough in coverage to play all 3 downs.

Grade: 5/5 Starter

Player Comp: Lawrence Timmons

Like Evans, Timmons is an undersized linebacker who plays fast and is a great blitzer. Timmons had a solid career in Pittsburgh as one of their inside linebackers for the better part of 10 seasons.

Draft Projection 23 or 31

Evans would be a sure-fire first rounder if not for the groin injury that’s nagged him for the last two seasons at Alabama. While Evans isn’t an ideal fit in terms of size for the Patriots, the only realistic shots they have at him is with their two first round picks. As a captain his senior year for a National Championship team and multi-down fit, I could see the Patriots bucking historical trends to pick up Evans.