Rashaan Evans, like most Alabama linebackers, had to wait his turn in order to get onto the field. He came in for parts of his first two seasons and began to see the field as a junior, but he was not a full-time starter in the defense until his senior season. Still, Evans blew up and proved that he will likely fall in line with the rest of the talented linebackers to come from Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. If he can fall into the late first round, would be a fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Rashaan Evans brings a great blend of speed, strength, and discipline. He has gap discipline and is almost never caught out of position. Screens, reverses, and misdirection will be snuffed out by Rahsaan Evans. Watch the play below. Evans does not fall for the misdirection, he stays in his lane and squares up the tight end to lay a finishing blow and end the play at the line of scrimmage.
The ability to stay in his lane and maintain his gap along with his strength and power allow him to be a stud run defender. He is able to beat lineman trying to get into the second level and lay the finishing blow at the line of scrimmage on third and one.
And has the technique to use his hands to push and disengage from blocks, allowing him to get free in the backfield and blow up run plays with punishing hits.
Evans also has the speed to roam sideline to sideline when defending the run. He has the great closing speed to finish plays behind the line of scrimmage. Notice how Evans is angled to take away the sideline for the running back. He does not make the finishing tackle, but he forces the runner back inside, and he backtracks to lose more yards.
Evans is also a blitzing nightmare. This could be his best NFL trait due to his speed an ability to do it from the middle linebacker spot, but also off of the edges. Evans features pure burst, but also has a spin move and decent hand technique to shake free of blockers when attacking the quarterback.
Evans also some experience playing off of the ball in coverage. For his size, he is a great idea against tight ends. While he does not have a lot of experience in that area, he does have the speed and fluidity to move in coverage. In the play below, he is able to recover in coverage, change speeds at the top of the route, and break up a curl route to help force a punt.
There are times where Evans will choose his gap over freelancing to make the play and it has cost him. He is not as instinctive or a game breaker as much as he is a well-disciplined player. There are times where he will have to diagnose quickly in coverage and he ends up a step behind. He also can pick the wrong hole when it comes to defending the run, showing a few tackling whiffs on tape, like the play below.
The biggest question to his game will come in coverage, though. There are flashes in zone and man, but his limited time on the field, combined with a majority of playing time against the run has him limited in his coverage attempts. He can be a step behind or a beat off in moving in zone, and as shown in the play below, quicker wide receivers are going to be able to get separation underneath.
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It also has to be noted that Evans was able to stay clean on the second level due to his defensive lines help more than some others in this class. It made it easier for Evans to roam free and find tackles.
Pro Comparison: Lawrence Timmons Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans is a disciplined leader of a defense. He sets the tone with gap discipline and big hits behind the line of scrimmage. Evans is proficient and blitzing both from the middle and off of the edge with great bursts of speed. If a Steelers fan is reading this, they know that they are reading the scouting report on their former first-round pick Lawrence Timmons.
Timmons may be a little bigger, and Evans is likely a little better in moving sideline to sideline, but the idea behind what both players bring in as their strength to the defense remains the same.
A fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
So, does the Alabama linebacker who is comparable to a Steelers inside linebacker fit on the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that just lost their inside linebacker Ryan Shazier for the foreseeable future? The answer is obviously yes.
However, there are questions about the fit being a perfect marriage. Evans is best blitzing and fighting near the line of scrimmage. So is Vince Williams. Williams stepped in for Timmons as a perfect compliment to Ryan Shazier, a linebacker who is proficient in coverage. Shazier led the team in interceptions and Williams in sacks at the time of Shazier’s season-ending injury. Evans would be good as a Timmons replacement, but if that is what Williams is, will the two fit well with each other?
Evans is likely fast and fluid enough to manage to play in space and in coverage more in the NFL. It is just something that did not happen enough with Alabama. This also will give the Steelers chances to mix up their blitz packages, as Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt can play off of the ball, and Evans and Williams can each blitz. It may not be a perfect marriage, but it is a strong fit worth building on. If Evans does fall to the 28th pick. It would be very hard for the team to pass that idea up.