Titans trade up 3 spots for Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Linebacker Rashaan Evans couldn’t be happier after the Tennessee Titans drafted him with the No. 22 pick, a selection predicted by his friend Derrick Henry.
The former Alabama teammates had discussed how much they wanted to play together in the NFL. Henry, a Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama in 2015, called Evans once the pick was in.
“Everything worked out as we talked about,” Evans said.
New Titans head coach Mike Vrabel got an inside linebacker for his first draft selection, even trading up three spots with Baltimore to nab Evans.
Vrabel, a former linebacker himself who played 14 NFL seasons, has been spending plenty of time with the Titans’ linebackers already. Evans now is in position to replace Avery Williamson, who left in free agency for the New York Jets after starting 59 of 63 games with Tennessee.
The Titans see Evans giving them flexibility with his instincts, speed and power. Vrabel noted Evans started as a defensive end at Alabama before developing into an inside linebacker.
“You see a lot of those instincts in the run game and obviously ... the versatility to play at the line of scrimmage and do some things to allow us to be multiple,” Vrabel said.
The Titans went into the draft Thursday night slotted at No. 25, which would have been their latest first-round pick since 2009 when they selected wide receiver Kenny Britt at No. 30. They moved up even higher, swapping first-round slots with the Ravens along with their fourth-round pick at No. 125 for Baltimore’s selection at No. 215.
General manager Jon Robinson added linebacker Will Compton in free agency. But the Titans needed more help alongside veteran Wesley Woodyard. Robinson said they were impressed by Evans’ leadership and how other Alabama players reacted around the linebacker during a meeting after his pro day.
“He kind of had an old soul feel about him,” Robinson said. “A guy that really loves football loves sitting there watching the film and talking through the responsibilities that he had, the front had and that the DBs had.”
The 6-foot-3, 234-pound Evans was first-team All-Southeastern Conference as a senior, and he finished his career with 152 tackles and 15 sacks. But Evans did not run the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine or at Alabama’s pro day, listening to a doctor’s advice to protect himself from a nagging groin injury.
The linebacker says he’s completely healthy now. Evans, who grew up testing himself alongside his brother by racing horses on their family farm in Auburn, Alabama, insists he’s plenty fast.
“It’s funny that people question my speed,” Evans said on a conference call. “I’m like, if I can catch a horse, there’s no reason for you to question the speed.”
Evans joins a defense that ranked 25th against the pass last season giving up 239.3 yards per game and 17th giving up 22.3 points a game under coordinator Dick LeBeau. Vrabel brought in Dean Pees to run his defense as coordinator after the veteran coach had retired from the same position with Baltimore.
This is a rare first-round pick on defense for the Titans.
Robinson took cornerback Adoree Jackson at No. 18 overall last year after making wide receiver Corey Davis the team’s first pick at No. 5 overall. Evans is the first defensive player taken with Tennessee’s first overall pick since linebacker Derrick Morgan was selected at No. 16 in 2010 and the first inside linebacker since Keith Bulluck in 2000.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker