NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft in the place they call “Jerry World” delivered with all the extravagance that one might expect but Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson would not be outdone by the ambiance at AT&T Stadium. With the 22nd pick, Tennessee opted for linebacker Rashaan Evans from the University of Alabama.
Originally, the Titans were slated to draft 25th in this year’s order. But after making a deal with the Baltimore Ravens, Robinson decided the cost of moving up three spots to snag Evans was worth the asking price. Tennessee sent picks Nos. 25 and 125 in exchange for Nos. 22 and 215 from Baltimore.
Evans becomes the latest in a long line of talented Crimson Tide inside linebackers to make it to the professional ranks.
“You could see his leadership in the room,” Robinson said of what it was like to spend time with Evans. “We had several of the Alabama guys in that room, and the command that he had in that room. He kind of had an old soul feel about him. A guy that really loves football, loves sitting there talking, watching the film and talking through the responsibilities he had, the front had, that the DBs had.”
Evans said that he “didn’t actually take a visit to” Tennessee’s facilities as one of the allotted 30 pre-draft visits each club is allowed.
Avery Williamson departed Nashville in favor of the New York Jets in free agency this offseason, leaving a need to fortify the Titans depth at the position. Tennessee returns starter Wesley Woodyard and nickel backer Jayon Brown, as well as Daren Bates and Nate Palmer. The team also added Will Compton in free agency.
“(The Titans) actually wanted me to play inside, be an inside backer,” Evans told local media on a conference call after being picked. “I feel really comfortable playing that position, being able to draw back in coverage and being able to play the run as well. When they came to me about it and we talked about it, when they came to me at pro day, all of our conversations were great about that.”
Evans possesses the speed to become elite at his position in a 3-4 defensive scheme with the potential to be an every-down player. According to Pro Football Focus, Evans was also highly effective getting to the quarterback. His 21.9% pass rush productivity was tops among linebackers according to PFF’s metrics.
In Evans, coach Mike Vrabel gets a player that fits his stated defensive mantra of “front multiplicity.”
“We’ll talk with (defensive coordinator) Dean (Pees) and we’ll figure out what’s best for the Titans, and what’s best for Rashaan (Evans), and then kind of go from there,” Vrabel responded when asked how they plan to deploy the young linebacker. “We’ll let him get in here, and we’ll meet tomorrow with Dean (Pees), and him, and Tyrone McKenzie, and kind of figure out what’s best for us and what’s best for him.”