The Tennessee Titans have made new head coach Mike Vrabel’s first draft pick an inside linebacker, selecting Alabama’s Rashaan Evans after trading up three spots with Baltimore to No. 22 overall.
Vrabel, a former linebacker himself who played 14 NFL seasons, has been spending plenty of time with the Titans’ linebackers already at a voluntary minicamp. Evans can replace Avery Williamson, who left in free agency for the New York Jets after starting 59 of 63 games with Tennessee.
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 in the linebacking corps.
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.
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.