From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10-picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, I’ll be Ole Miss RB Zach Evans.
#6 Zach Evans, RB, Ole Miss (Junior) – 5110, 202lb
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Zach Evans||5’11”, 202lb||10 1/4||31 5/8||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
*Values from Pro Day
— Has good size and a rocked-up body with a chiseled frame
— Possesses the burst and acceleration to make plays from the backfield
— Has deceptive speed thanks to his stride length
— Can get the corner on tosses and sweeps to the outside
— Dangerous in the open field with the ball in his hands
— Does a good job bouncing runs to the sideline in attempts to get into space
— Impressive when finding the cut-back lane and being able to shift the field
— A natural slasher as a runner who attacks gaps with burst and power
— Runs behinds his pads and will aggressively take on contact
— Holds his own on inside runs and when needing to get short yardage
— Displays quality contact balance as a runner, staying upright on leg and arm tackles
— Looks to finish runs falling forward with contact
— Showed off upside as a pass catcher out of the backfield
— Lacks ideal lower body mass for the position
— Thin lower half and lack of weight can make him easy to take down
— Doesn’t have game-breaking speed
— Doesn’t read his blocks all that well and will try to improvise
— Lacks patience to wait and read his blocks on zone runs
— Isn’t overly shifty in the open field regarding his lateral movement
— Can put the ball on the ground if his isn’t careful
— Got beat out in his own backfield both at TCU and Ole Miss
— Junior Prospect from Houston, TX
— Born May 30, 2001 (age 22)
— Rated by ESPN as the nation’s No. 16 overall prospect (#2 RB) in his recruiting class
— Selected to the Under Armour All-America Game
— Closed his high school career with nearly 5,000 yards rushing and 76 TDs
— Committed to play for in-state TCU out of high school
— Played in nine games in 2020 and totaled 54 carries for 415 yards (7.7 YPC) and four TDs while adding eight receptions for 76 yards
— Saw action in six games in 2021 and carried the ball 92 times for 648 yards (7.0 YPC) and five TDs with another 10 receptions for 130 yards and a TD
— Missed part of the 2021 season due to a toe injury
— Transferred from TCU to Ole Miss for his junior season
— Played in 12 games with eight starts for the Rebels in 2022 and totaled 144 carries for 936 yards (6.5 YPC) and nine TDs along with 12 receptions for 119 yards and a score
— Sidelined with a hamstring injury during training that prevented him from testing at the Combine
— Multi-Disciplinary Studies major
— Second-team Academic All-Big 12 (2021), Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team (2021)
Zach Evans was the man in high school, getting named a five-star recruit and one of the top RBs in the nation. He starred in the football-rich state of Texas, rushing for over 5,000 yards and 76 TDs. He decided to stay in-state and go to Fort Worth to play for the Horned Frogs. He flashed as a playmaker but never really lived up to expectations. He transferred to Ole Miss in 2022 and ended up getting overshadowed by freshman first-team All-SEC RB Quinshon Judkins. Still, Evans and Judkins managed to form one of the most potent running tandems in college football. Eligible for the 2023 draft, Evans decided to declare.
Evans is an exciting runner to watch on tape. He has a slashing running style and aggressively attacks gaps with speed, burst, and power. He isn’t tentative as a runner and possesses that sense of urgency to hit the hole and hit it hard, putting pressure on the defense. Watch these clips of Evans knifing through the defense, bouncing it to the outside, and picking up chunk runs.
Evans plays with a good amount of contact balance as a runner. He is able to remain upright when the defense tries to bring him down by the legs or arm tackle him in the open field. Watch Evans break out of a couple of tackles on these two plays, working through tackle attempts as he attempts to pick up additional yardage.
While not having feature-back size, Evans has shown he is capable in short yardage and goal-line situations to get the job done. He churns his legs on contact and has plenty of lower body strength and power to pick up a couple yards after getting stood up. You can see that on these two plays where Evans picks up the first on a short-yardage situation in the first clip and hammers his way into the end zone in the second clip.
Evans’ running style makes him a problem for defenses when he is in the open field. He has deceptive speed and burst to get the corner as well as the physical demeanor to break tackles and stay upright to get extra yards after first contact. This run against Texas A&M perfectly encapsulates that. He gets to the corner and runs up the sideline, then busts through a few tackles on the boundary. Thinking that he stepped out of bounds, he proceeds to keep on running for more yards.
What really sticks to when watching Evans is his ability to cut back on a dime and shift the entire field. The defense can be flowing one way, but Evans will brake hard the other direction. We see that here against Georgia Tech, using his burst and acceleration in the open field to take it to the house for the score.
Evans only had 30 receptions in his college career, but he flashed his skill set as a receiver out of the backfield. He is a viable checkdown option in the flat as well as in the screen game. He can be dangerous on wheel routes up the seam, like you see on this play where the defense loses track of him as he gets open for the pitch-and-catch TD.
Evans does have his issues when it comes to projecting him as a feature back at the next level. He lacks that feature-back size you want in runners who carry the ball 20+ times a game. You see this when he is met with good form tackles that uproot him off the ground and into the turf — like on this hit against Auburn when Evans gets flattened on contact.
Evans also can have his tendencies to cut back, and bounce runs to the outside backfire as he will give up space to the defense that can trap him in the backfield for losses. Evans could run this RPO give up the middle for a gain of a couple yards. But he tries to bounce it outside, allowing the defense to rally to him and knock him down behind the LOS.
Zach Evans is an exciting runner who plays much bigger than his size and is scratching the surface as a receiver in the passing game. He has deceptive long speed, thanks to his strides, and can slash defenses with his burst and acceleration. He is great at cutting back into space and will put his head down to churn out the tough yardage. He needs to do a better job of reading his blocks and being more consistent with his eyes to maximize every run outside of leaning on his physical traits.
When watching Evans on tape, I saw eerie similarities to Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones who has a similar frame (5’9 1/2”, 208lb) and athletic testing (4.56 40, 10’7” broad, 37.5” vert) as the Ole Miss product. Jones is also an effective slashing RB at the NFL level who gashes defenses on the ground and plays much bigger than his size, like Evans. They both are lean but strong runners with contact balance and the pass-catching chops to play all three downs in today’s league, starting-caliber backs best deployed in a committee.
Evans has the traits to be an NFL starter but would do best to split the load with another runner to keep him fresh and healthy given his frame. The Steelers have an effective 1-2 punch with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Given their focus on improving the running game and the offensive line, perhaps they would consider drafting Evans, who averaged 6.9 YPC, to complement Harris’ bruising style with an explosive, slasher in the backfield.
Projection: Day Two/Early Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 8.2 – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: at Texas A&M (2022), vs Auburn (2022), vs Troy (2022), at Georgia Tech (2022)