As we get nearer to next months NFL Draft, we start to hear more draft experts converge on consensus picks for each team. In the past two years, it became clear towards draft day that both Taylor Decker and Jarrad Davis were prime targets for the Detroit Lions in the first round.
While the Lions’ 2018 needs are quite as clear (yet), we are already starting to see experts converge on a handful of prospects, be it either Harold Landry or Derrius Guice or Will Hernandez.
However, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein released his Mock Draft 2.0 on Thursday, and he selected a player for the Lions that I haven’t heard much buzz around in Detroit: Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.
Before I get into Zierlein’s pick, it’s worth noting that the board fell in a much more favorable way than it did in Todd McShay’s draft from earlier in the week. Harold Landry, Will Hernandez, Maurice Hurst and every running back short of Saquon Barkley was still there at 20.
As for the pick of Evans, it’s an interesting one to consider. With Tahir Whitehead very possibly heading for free agency, there’s no doubt that the Lions need some help at linebacker—even after drafting Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin last year. The only other linebackers signed to the roster are special team players, and the free agency market is sure to be fairly bare.
Evans is a technically sound, high football IQ player with the strength to lay the wood on somebody. On tape, he’s an athletically gifted player, who can diagnose plays quickly and shoot the gaps to rack up the TFLs. His best attribute may be his blitzing abilities:
Rashaan Evans behind a Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and possibly Muhammad Wilkerson front with Clay Matthews moving around will be a problem for offenses. #Packers Mike Pettine could call this exact blitz from a Dime (3-3-5) pic.twitter.com/cd8v8YjuB4— Kornélios Taylor (@iKornelios) March 5, 2018
But Evans’ tape may be a little misleading. With an extremely talented cast of defenders playing beside and in front of him, it freed him up to be aggressive and rack up the stats when he finally became a full-time starter in his senior year. And while he looks athletic on tape, his measurements (or what’s available of them) tell a different story:
Rashaan Evans posted a below average #RAS at the #Combine largely due to a pretty poor vertical. He skipped the 40 and bench, though, so a strong pro day run for Alabama would do wonders for his score. pic.twitter.com/GH0aEQ4INB— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 5, 2018
(Note: He ended up skipping the Pro Day drills, too)
It’s hard to know what exactly Evans’ role would be without know exactly what Matt Patricia plans to do with the Lions’ defense, but in the future, he could certainly fill a Kyle Van Noy type of role: A situational pass rusher on obvious passing downs early in his career, with the chance of developing into a full-time player alongside Detroit’s other two dynamic young linebackers.
Where Evans needs to show more improvement, however, is in coverage. The Lions have struggled to find a linebacker who can keep pace with tight ends and running back. Given that’s a particular blind spot in Evans’ game, this may not ultimately be a good fit for the Crimson Tide prospect. But the Lions are lacking playmakers on defense and Evans certainly checks that box.
What grade do you give Lance Zierlein’s pick of Rashaad Evans at 20 overall?
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