Though free agency comes first, the NFL draft is always cause for great speculation. Though mock drafts are official for nothing, they provide a chance to learn about prospects coming out of college, if nothing else.
It’s been about a week since Charley Casserly released his first mock of the draft season for NFL.com, where he has the Los Angeles Angeles Chargers selecting Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans in the first round.
Casserly knows what it’s like to be the man in charge of making picks for a team as he was the general manager of both the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans for many years. He’s perhaps best remembered for having the guts to select defensive end Mario Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 ahead of the much more popular Reggie Bush.
Earlier, I took a look at Derwin James, the Florida State defensive back who ESPN’s Todd McShay gave the Chargers with the No. 17 overall pick.
We got to know James, now lets get to know Evans.
Hometown: Auburn, Alabama
Tackles for loss: 23.5
Pass deflections: 5
Forced fumbles: 2
Fumble recoveries: 2
Listed as an inside linebacker, Evans can do a little bit of everything. Coming from Alabama, he has played for a winning program that is just coming off a national championship.
On the field, he is a leader. He has great speed and brings plenty of physicality with each tackle he makes. He’s a sure tackler, but what will set him apart from just about every inside linebacker in this class is his ability to drop back into coverage. Though he didn’t have an interception in college, he showed he could hang as a coverage linebacker, making him a 3-down player.
His 15 sacks are evidence of being able to rush the passer. That number is all the more impressive considering he did that in the vaunted SEC conference. His tackles, tackles for loss and sacks increased in each year he was in school, showing great progression.
When I watched some tape of Evans, he could improve on getting off blocks quicker. Some analysts feel that he benefits from playing around a team full of pro prospects at Alabama, as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com notes here.
Watching a highlight clip is obviously much different than scouting game tape as you’re only going to see a player excelling. But Evans is clearly a special player.
Check out his closing speed on some of these plays and note that several solid plays are made against one of last season’s dynamic rookies, Deshaun Watson.
How does he fit in Los Angeles?
You probably need to ask yourself if he fits in Los Angeles. Truthfully, Evans fits better in a 3-4 defensive scheme than a 4-3, but the Chargers could definitely use some help at inside linebacker.
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Denzel Perryman has had durability issues, Korey Toomer is an unrestricted free agent and Jatavis Brown took a step back in his second year. The other inside linebackers on the roster? Hayes Pullard and Nick Dzubnar.
I can see why Casserly would make this pick for the Chargers. It fills an area of need, but not one that I feel is glaring.
Casserly has Vita Vea going at No. 13 to the Washington Redskins, but Da’Ron Payne, Taven Bryan and Maurice Hurst are all still on his board at No. 17. Though it would be hard to argue that any of those guys are better than Evans, they do fill a bigger hole, which is in the interior of the defensive line.
Evans would be a solid pick, but would he be the best pick if the draft fell this way?