Rookie Spotlight: Zach Evans
By Cody Folden
Zach Evans is another polarizing prospect and if he was coming out 10 years ago he may have been a first or second-round pick. With a prototypical size for a running back of 5’11” and 202 lbs, he had the opportunity this year to showcase his skills with Ole Miss. With 144 carries, 936 yards, and 9 touchdowns he had a pretty productive season with Ole Miss while the team overall felt like a letdown for some. He showed some receiving ability with 12 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown this year. The biggest thing for Evans was he played the full season.
In 6 games in 2021 while at TCU he had a pretty decent as well with 92 carries, 648 yards, and 5 touchdowns, and 10 receptions for 130 yards for a touchdown. Being in a split backfield with Quinshon Judkins, usually not helping your case as a prospect, in this case, I think it did. The NFL now rarely has bell cow running backs anymore and this shows Evans can be in a committee and make the most of his opportunities.
When in the game he showed he is great with open field around him. Most of his receptions are wheel routes or post routes coming out of the backfield. The biggest difference between him and some of the others in this class is he is great at getting his head and hands around to be ready to catch the pass. These 2 things are obvious, but the fundamentals are just as important as creating more yards.
He shows a great burst of speed. Not necessarily with his first step or even a second step. He seems to run as hard as he can every play. He may not be able to pull away from everyone, but if there is an open hole you can guarantee he will be able to run through it. He has enough speed to make sure the sideline is his friend. He can beat people to the spot and this creates big play opportunities for him.
With his burst and prototypical size, comes powerful legs. He is really good at falling forward and definitely will run through wimpy arm tackles. He seeks out contact and makes defenders think the next time they have to hit him, which comes with advantages.
When the hole is obvious, Evans knows how to take advantage. He needs to work on his patience and learn how to improvise. Sometimes where the opening is, is not where the play was supposed to go. He has a hard time finding it when it's not the initial play call.
He had some fumbling issues throughout his career and sometimes it is because he knows how powerful he is. Sometimes when he goes for a stiff arm or seeks out more contact he forgets about the most important thing, the ball. He will have to work on this to be successful at the next level and if he is just going to be a committee back, you can not turn the ball over.
Some of the best things Evans has is why this is part of the “negatives” or something to work on. He’s powerful but likes to bounce it outside. He has good speed but doesn't have moves or a good plant foot to make defenders miss. If he works on his footwork and improves on these skills you’re going to get a quality backup running back.
Player Comparisons: Robert Smith
Just like how I started this spotlight. Zach Evans is a running back born for the 90s and 00s. Just like Robert Smith, I see Evans as having a career like Smith’s. Hopefully without injuries, as Smith did but nonetheless I see many comparisons. Smith had 2 Hall of Fame wide receivers with him during his stretch of 4 years where he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and sometimes you forget it, this isn’t a slight on Smith at all. Smith was exactly the kind of back that offense needed and if a team can utilize Evans in the same way, he could have a similar career.
My favorite game of Zach Evans is the 2022 Arkansas game. I bet a lot of people would also pick this as the best game Quinshon Judkins had as well because they both went over the 200-yard mark.
Zach Evans had 17 carries for 207 yards and 1 TD and Ole Miss never really was in this game. Their running attack was though. Many times throughout Evans’ highlights (See Below) you can see his speed and ability to run away from people, and how powerful he is. You also can see how the lack of moves he has and the openings he didn't see affected an even bigger game for him.
There is no doubt, this was a good game for Evans and should be part of the highlight reel. The hope is he is watching the tape and improving so we all can see him drafted.
There is no doubt Evans is all over the rankings. Even in the last few months, some people had him as high as their RB3 but we also have seen him around the RB10 of this class. I think Evans is going to go higher than people think in rookie drafts and the NFL draft because of his size, speed, and the potential that can bring. It all depends on how you view this style of running back.
You will see a lot of the same teams in these rookie spotlights. These are the teams I feel need to address this position the most, most likely are too, and are good fits.
Tennessee Titans: Like a lot of the other backs I have spotlighted they need a back behind Derrick Henry that has the ability to take the top off. Evans could work with the usual offense scheme the Titans run.
New Orleans Saints: After Alvin Kamara, there is no one that scares me. As stated above, they need a home run hitter out of the backfield. Rashid Shaheed does that for the wide receiver core along with Michael Thomas and Chris Olave. Juwan Johnson can be that guy for the Saints tight ends. They now need one in the backfield not named Kamara and Evans could get it done for them.
Los Angeles Rams: Based on the last few years, no one ever wants a rookie prospect that goes to the Rams. Whoever has had shares of Cam Akers, Darrel Henderson, and even more, knows exactly why. Although, I think if you limit your carries and divide them between Akers and Evans, you could have a more dynamic duo then Akers and Henderson ever were. If they can get the coaching staff to believe in both of them. It could work.
Arizona Cardinals: James Connor keeps dealing with injuries and every back they have had behind him hasn’t panned out. They just need more of a lot of things and with Kyler Murray out for probably half the year, if not more. They will rely heavily on the ground game. Connor, when healthy is the lead back, but how many games can we trust that at this point?
At the end of the day, if you like Zach Evans, draft him. We always seem to forget that fantasy football is supposed to be fun. Yes, we all have money leagues and want to beat the people in those leagues. Yet, we forget to enjoy the process and the people involved. Let's change that.
Cody Folden joined the Dynasty Pros team in 2023. He plays in many dynasty leagues but dabbles in other leagues like devy, contract, and scouting leagues. He loves to dive deep into learning about prospects coming up through college and seeing them thrive when they get to the league.