NFL Draft 2021 Scouting Report: RB Chris Evans, Michigan (By Ross Jacobs)
Chris Evans recently locked up the 3rd RB spot for the Bengals after being drafted in the 6th round and might even push Samaje Perine for the backup spot at some point. So who is Chris Evans, why was he only a 6th round pick, and should you care? Let's dive in.
Evans was a 4 star recruit for Michigan in 2016. He made an instant impact for the Wolverines in his true freshman year with 88 carries for 614 yards (7.0 ypc) and 4 TD's, good for second on the team. Things seemed to be looking up for the young RB.
But 2017 didn't go the way he planned and Evans found himself in a split with Karan Higdon. He took 135 carries for 685 yards (5.1 ypc) and 6 TD's. Not a bad year but not the jump you would hope to see.
2018 saw Evans continue to fall behind Higdon. He received only 81 carries for 423 yards (5.2 ypc) and 4 TD's while Higdon got over 200 carries.
In 2019 Higdon left for the NFL and it seemed like it might finally be Evans's time to take lead duties and show what he could do with a full workload. But unfortunately Evans was suspended from Michigan for what was deemed an “academic mistake.” What happened was never clarified but it wasn't an off-field issue nor did it have anything to do with football. Evans also insists it wasn't his grades because he was on pace to graduate at the time.
Regardless, Evans had to miss the entire 2019 season, and instead of heading home and quitting the team like his parents suggested, Evans stuck around working 3 jobs while he applied to reinstate for the 2020 year. He ultimately returned for his final year of football, but due to his year off he never got fully integrated into the offense and managed a paltry 16 carries for 73 yards and 1 TD.
At this point it would have been easy for Evans to get lost completely. He had very few stats to his name and no momentum having only played a few games over the past two seasons. But he was given an invite to the Senior Bowl and caught the attention of scouts there with his athleticism and work in the passing game.
I've included a couple of good articles for more background information on Evans. He's had a long and interesting road to the NFL. Of particular note is how he grew up an Ohio St fan but never wavered in his commitment to Michigan even after the Buckeyes tried recruiting him later in his high school career. Likewise, he never quit after his 2019 suspension because he wanted to see it through despite how easy it might have been to leave.
Pro day numbers: 5'11” 211 lbs, 4.52 40-time, 1.51 10-yard split, 6.85 3-cone, 40.5” vertical, 10' 7” broad jump, and 10” hands.
Those are really great numbers outside of the 40-time which is just ok at his size.
Does the tape match the pro day? Yes and no. Let me explain.
I watched some of his Michigan tape, and all I see is a smaller, ok back. He's pretty good all-around, has good balance and body control, decent hands, ok agility and speed. Not bad moving side to side but definitely better as a downhill runner. He's average, nothing stands out.
However, after watching his preseason work with the Bengals a couple of things become obvious.
1) He's bigger than he was in college, noticeably bigger. Kid looks like he's added 5+ lbs of muscle and looks lean and strong.
2) He looks a step faster and much quicker with his agility despite the weight gain. This pro version of Chris Evans looks like a legitimate NFL RB. He's still not amazing at any one thing, but he brings a very balanced skillset to the table. He even runs decent routes and has good enough (though not amazing) hands which you can see on his TD catch against Dolphins where he lined up in the slot and beat his man to the pylon.
If Joe Mixon were to go down tomorrow I'm certain that Perine and Evans would be in some type of split rotation. Evans is good enough that Perine isn't getting the job all to himself. He's probably not good enough to take the job completely, but stranger things have happened.
Evans is a solid player. He would do just fine if shoved all the carries. He's got enough size to him now that he could handle a decent workload in-between the tackles if called upon. Probably won't set the world on fire though, not behind an offensive line that's been holding Mixon back.
There's no reason to run out and stash Evans on your bench in redraft, but he might be worth holding in deep dynasty leagues. He's better than several other guys that are being used right now (coughMylesGaskincough). More than likely Evans never makes much of an NFL impact, but sometimes circumstances break just right, and this is a guy that has the talent to do something decent with it if given a chance.