Summary: Alabama has produced a steady stream of linebackers for the NFL in the Nick Saban era, including a string of early-round picks like Dont'a Hightower, C.J. Mosley, Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster. Evans will continue that tradition in the 2018 NFL Draft. Evans didn't have a 2017 season with as much production as some of those Crimson Tide greats, but Evans has a skill set that should translate well to the NFL.
Evans was a backup in 2014 and 2015 before rotating onto the field during the 2016 season. As a junior, he totaled 53 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. In his senior year, Evans totaled 66 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and three passes broken up.
Evans is a fast linebacker for pass coverage, covering a lot of ground. He has the athleticism to keep up with running backs and tight ends, plus even helped contribute some in coverage on slot receivers. Evans is reliable and comfortable in zone coverage, possessing the ability to quickly pick up targets running into his area. Evans is fast, athletic and versatile with how he can be used in coverage.
Perhaps the single part of the game that Evans does best is rush the passer. He is explosive off the edge and gives even good left tackles some problems. Evans closes on the quarterback in a blur, and he packs a serious punch when he gets there. Evans uses his speed and athleticism to dart by blockers or spin away from them. He also is smart about when he should fire off and chase down the quarterback. On many plays as an inside linebacker, Evans would read the coverage, and if he saw he was free, he would explode after the signal-caller. Evans will be a valuable linebacker to be a quarterback spy when going against a mobile dual-threat quarterback. As a pro, he could be a real weapon as a designated pass-rusher to use off the edge in obvious passing situations with his natural rush skills.
As a run defender, Evans is solid. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and is excellent in pursuit to chase down ball-carriers. Evans is a hard tackler and can take on power backs. One area of improvement for Evans is tackling lower on ball-carriers to prevent missed tackles. Evans does well taking on and getting off blocks from tight ends, but he can have issues getting off blocks from offensive linemen. Evans is willing to take on blockers and doesn't try to run around them, so that is a good start, and in time, he could improve his ability to shed blocks.
Team sources believe Evans is a potential late first-round or early second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Zach Brown. In conversations with team scouts, they have compared Evans to Zach Brown. They say that Evans is not as fast or rangy as Brown, but Evans is more physical. Brown had a slow start to his career with Tennessee, but that was the fault of the coaching staff as Brown quickly became a good linebacker for the Bills and Redskins. In the NFL, I could see Evans being similar to Brown.
NFL Matches: Dallas, Detroit, Buffalo, Tennessee, New Orleans, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New England, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, Miami and Green Bay
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Evans in the 2018 NFL Draft. On the first night of the draft, there are a few teams that could consider Evans in the back half of the first round. Dallas could use more linebacker talent, and Evans could give the Cowboys a long-term complement to go with Jaylon Smith. The Lions could target Evans as a linebacker to go with Jarrad Davis, but it seems unlikely Detroit would take a linebacker in the first round two years in a row.
Among the playoff teams, Evans has a number of potential fits. Buffalo lost Preston Brown in free agency, and if the Bills don't trade away their pick at No. 22, they could consider Evans. An inside linebacker is a need for the Titans and Evans would be a good fit for Mike Vrabel. Linebacker is one of the biggest needs for the Saints. Evans would be a great fit in the New Orleans defense as he could be a perfect Will - weakside - linebacker next to Alex Anzalone in the middle.
Minnesota could use a linebacker to go with Erik Kendricks and Anthony Barr. Pittsburgh has a big hole at inside linebacker in the wake of Ryan Shazier's injury. Even if Shazier comes back in 2019, the Steelers could use an upgrade next to him. The Patriots could stand to improve their linebacker talent next to Dont'a Hightower. Philadelphia also could look to improve its linebackers with Evans. Going back to college at Texas, Jordan Hicks has been a good player when healthy, but has dealt with a steady string of injuries.
Early in the second round, there are a lot of possible landing spots for Evans. Indianapolis badly needs to improve its linebacking corps, and Evans would give the Colts a long-term defensive building block.
The 49ers could consider taking Evans. Given all the problems that Reuben Foster has had off the field, along with dealing a lot of injuries, Evans could interest John Lynch as the long-term Mike - middle - linebacker to build the San Francisco defense around. Even if Foster returns to the field, Evans could be a tough middle linebacker with Foster serving as the Will.
The Raiders have to improve the middle of their defense and the front seven. Evans would be an upgrade to their rush defense and pass coverage. He would give them an upgrade at middle linebacker. The Dolphins released Lawrence Timmons and need to improve their linebackers. Green Bay also could consider a linebacker upgrade next to Blake Martinez.