Evans took the path less traveled when he left Auburn for Tuscaloosa, and he wasted no time proving that his decision was the right one. As a freshman and a sophomore, his experience rushing from the edge earned some snaps in passing situations, on top of his contributions as a special teams and kick coverage ace.
By his junior year, Evans had moved inside, where he’d find success despite playing behind a bevy of future NFLers on the Alabama roster. After totaling 53 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and a recovery, the part-time starter was primed for a breakout senior season, and he didn’t disappoint.
In 2017, Evans embraced his newfound stardom, and was selected as one of the Tide’s permanent team captains. His 74 tackles, including 13 for a loss, were both team highs, despite missing two games with groin injury, and his accomplishments on and off the field helped him pick up AFCA First-Team All-America honors, AP All-SEC first-team honors, and second-team All-SEC honors as voted on by the league’s coaches. And while it may not have made headlines outside the state, the 2017 National Champion also picked up the Alabama Media Good Guy Award, annually given to the player who attends interviews on a regular basis, approaches them with a good attitude and provides thoughtful answers when in front of reporters or a camera.
Growing up in Auburn, Alabama doesn’t lead to a lot of Crimson Tide signees, especially when your father was Bo Jackson’s backup, but Evans forged his own path and eschewed his hometown Tigers in favor of playing for Nick Saban. Most of his high school career was spent with his hand in the dirt rushing the passer as an end, but the transition to standing and playing linebacker was a smooth one.
Played defensive end in high school and it shows. He can rush the passer from the inside, outside, or even from a three-point stance. Has unheard of violence when tackling. Explodes into ball-carriers and lays them out leaving no room for yards after contact. Wraps up well and has a genuine passion for inflicting pain. Very disciplined in his assignments against the run and scans the line and backfield well to find the ball-carrier. Can move very well sideline-to-sideline, and shows better range than his 40 time would suggest. Diagnoses quickly and accurately and wades through traffic to find and impact the ball without wasted movement or hesitation. Has quick, tight feet and does not overrun backs or passers. Can reach the flats to defend short passes and stretch runs. Ferociously takes on blockers, jars them initially, and sheds in time to make the play. Maintains excellent leverage when engaging, gets under the blocker, and knocks them off balance while keeping his feet moving so that he doesn’t sacrifice ability to get to the football. Was a leader on an Alabama defense that dominated at times during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Vocal, heady player with a football background in his family - dad was a running back at Auburn. Does a nice job staying agile and fleet-footed when asked to drop in coverage and can run with backs and tight ends. Gets his hands on route runners early to keep them from reaching the seam unencumbered. — Hunter Ansley 2/2/2018
Can get myopic and will miss his gap assignment due to aggressiveness. Can get lost in zone coverage if passer is given a clean pocket and has time. Will drift into no-man’s land at times and is clearly more comfortable playing downhill against the run. Does not open hips well to run with speedier backs and receivers and will allow separation if he can’t get his hands on them to redirect their routes early. Occasionally gets caught leaning back on heels and struggles to move laterally on late-developing plays. Has enough speed, but certainly not a track star and straight line speed isn’t going to threaten any sprinters. Doesn’t posess the agility to man the middle of a 4-3 on his own. — Hunter Ansley 2/2/2018
Compares to: Demario Davis, New York Jets — Davis wasn’t as highly thought of coming out due in part to his lower level of competition, but both players are fierce run defenders who level running backs with devastation and know how to use their strength and diagnostic skills to make plays consistently. Like Davis, Evans will likely find a happier home on the inside of a 3-4 defense, but his ceiling is higher and his time contributing as a leader in Nick Saban’s defense will accelerate his acclimation to the NFL.
In our view: Roquan Smith and Tremaine Evans have the kind of speed and movement skills at the linebacker position to hear their names called in the draft’s first 15 picks, but Evans isn’t as far off as some might think. He’s more football player than elite athlete, but he diagnoses well, is suffocating against the run, and tackles as well as any defender in this class. He’s not the fluid, do-it-all coverage guy that some of his classmates are, but he’ll likely hear his name called in Round 1 by a team looking for a thumper in the middle who can quickly disseminate information and operate as a front-seven’s quarterback.