In all of the discussions covering the NFL draft, linebacker hasn’t really been discussed as much of a need, and for good reason. The Nerve. Who knew a nerve could get so much play in the media? With the optimism that Jaylon Smith is set to make his NFL debut in 2017, the linebacker position hasn’t been talked about much this offseason.
The Cowboys actually have a pretty good group there:
- Sean Lee
- Anthony Hitchens
- Damien Wilson
- Jaylon Smith
- Kyle Wilber
That’s a versatile, solid group. Not great, but solid, and it provides a lot of special teams snaps between Hitchens, Wilson, and Wilber. So, not surprisingly, linebacker isn’t a priority for this team, and I don’t think it should be.
That being said, there is a linebacker that will likely be available in the sixth round that could provide more depth and a knack for making plays on the football.
University of Oklahoma Linebacker, Jordan Evans.
He’s been sort of the forgotten man coming into the draft out of OU with players like Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook, and Samaje Perine stealing the headlines (for a variety of reasons), but Jordan Evans could be an instant playmaker who could fit in a variety of situations for the Dallas Cowboys.
A few statistical notes on Evans:
- Started 36 of 37 games his final three seasons at OU.
- During his senior season he racked up 98 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, four interceptions (which he returned for 145 yards – 36.25 yards per return), 3.5 sacks, and eight pass breakups.
- His four interceptions tied him for 26th in the NCAA.
- He was tied with potential first round defensive backs Cordrea Tankersley, Gareon Conley, Teez Tabor, and Marshon Lattimore.
- Those four interceptions led the Sooners in 2016.
- Of his four interceptions, he returned two for touchdowns, including one for 80 yards.
- First team All-Big 12 in 2016.
- Second Team All-Big 12 in 2015.
- Academic All-Big 12 honors in 2014.
As someone who watched a lot of OU football over the last several years, I noticed something that is probably the strength of Jordan Evans. He shows an innate ability to be around the football in the passing game. He shows good awareness in his zone drops and is able to match up with tight ends.
But, there are reasons that a lot of analysts have him available after the fifth round.
I believe that his tape is hurt by several factors that also contributed to Charles Tapper being a fourth round pick; scheme and the offensive nature of the big 12.
He is a versatile linebacker who would be an excellent addition for the Cowboys nickel scheme.
He played light at 233 in a pass-heavy Big 12 Conference, but could add some weight to his 6’2″ frame to play the strong side for the Cowboys. His ability to play coverage could open up opportunities for Jaylon Smith to line up on the EDGE and rush or send Orlando Scandrick from the slot on the blitz more often.
The Dallas Cowboys have shown a penchant for drafting linebackers.
In Jason Garrett’s six drafts since taking over as head coach in 2011, the Cowboys have selected nine linebackers. At least one in every draft. Those selections have been made throughout the draft (aside from the first round).
If they continue to follow that trend of drafting a linebacker, Evans could be a steal in the sixth round.