The last from that group was Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Jordan Evans, someone the Bengals had an eye on throughout the draft process. The Bengals attended his Pro Day and then held a pre-draft visit with the former Oklahoma star before ultimately selecting him in Round 6 with the 193rd overall selection in the draft.
Evans was a full-time starter for the last three seasons, though his college career was highlighted by a senior season in which he recorded 98 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, eight pass deflections and one forced fumble in 13 games. He was regarded as one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft, something the Bengals needed to upgrade since Vontaze Burfict is the only consistent linebacker in that regard.
In terms of draft value, some experts thought Evans was a more than worthy of his selection, while others thought he should go undrafted.
- ESPN’s Todd McShay did not have Evans among his top 300 prospects coming into the draft
- Mel Kiper also did not have Evans among his top 300 players.
- The final Pro Football Focus draft board had Evans ranked 138th.
- CBS Sports had him ranked 183rd.
- The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, had Evans ranked as the 264th-best prospect in this draft.
It’s pretty clear there were a wide range of opinions on Evans, and this write-up from PFF probably sums up why that’s the case:
Evans is a frustrating player to watch on film because he is an excellent athlete but doesn’t finish nearly enough plays because he lacks physicality. He is frequently in position to make plays because he uses leverage well to defeat blockers and can win with speed, but he missed 12 tackles last season and finished just 108th in tackling efficiency at the position. His athleticism serves him well in coverage, which will likely be his primary responsibility at the next level.
Evans’ athleticism and coverage ability are that of a Day 2 prospect, but his tackling ability and lack of physicality had some experts thinking he wasn’t even worth drafting.
And while linebacker wasn’t viewed as a major need coming into the NFL Draft, the Bengals were wise to take Evans. In 2018, we’ll see Marquis Flowers, Vontaze Burfict and Kevin Minter hit free agency. That’s why it was important the Bengals came out of this draft with at least one true linebacker, and they did so with Evans. The team also spent a fourth-round pick on Carl Lawson, but he’s more of a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker in this defense.
However, Evans won’t be assured of a roster spot this year as a Day 3 pick at a position that will be crowded in 2017. He’ll have to challenge Marquis Flowers, P.J. Dawson and Bryson Albright for a roster spot this season, assuming Burfict, Minter, Nick Vigil and Vinny Rey have their spots locked in.
I do think Evans ultimately makes the final roster. He’s too good of a coverage linebacker to pass up on, especially considering this is a Bengals team that needs more of what he has to offer.