Entering last week’s draft, the New England Patriots had two major positions of need: offensive tackle and linebacker. And while the former was addressed early on by the team selecting Isaiah Wynn 23rd overall, the latter did not see any rookie additions until the third day when Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam were drafted in rounds five and six, respectively.
One reason for that was the apparent drop-off in linebacker depth behind the first tier of prospects; one that included Alabama’s Rashaan Evans. Given his position, skill set, school and experience in a Patriots-esque defense, him joining New England was a popular pre-draft projection. However, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, it also was one that was never realistically in play:
Leading up to the draft, I wrote that Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans would be a good fit for the Patriots, but I’ve since learned that he wasn’t a serious consideration for them in the first round. Once Leighton Vander Esch was off the board in the first round (No. 19, Cowboys), the Patriots knew they weren’t going with a linebacker with their No. 23 pick.
Evans went off the board one spot before the Patriots were on the clock; the Tennessee Titans traded up to select the linebacker before New England even had a chance to draft him. The team subsequently went with the aforementioned Isaiah Wynn at 23 and opted not to go back to the linebacker well until day three.
At 6'2, 230 lbs, the Alabama linebacker is slightly undersized for what the Patriots are looking for at the position, which might explain why he never was “a serious consideration” in round one – despite being viewed as a tremendous potential addition to a linebacker corps that was inconsistent in 2017 but so far at that point had not seen any additions during the offseason.
New England, after Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch came off the board, opted to wait until day three to address the position: First, the team picked Purdue’s Ja’Whaun Bentley; a player whose strengths lie in downhill run defense. Then, coverage linebacker Christian Sam was selected one round later.