Zach Evans draft profile

Ole Miss running back, Zach Evans, was once named the top overall recruit in the country by ESPN. Evans, not Bijan Robinson, was the top RB recruit in that year's class. While still in high school, Evans was being compared to Melvin Gordon, the Wisconsin RB who was the 15th overall pick in 2015. I think the Gordon comparison is a very good one, both in positive and negative ways.

Considering how hyped Evans was as a recruit, it shouldn't come as any surprise that his dynamic athleticism and explosive running style continues to entice NFL draft experts. Evans might be the RB in this year's draft most likely to become this draft's Aaron Jones. It would even be reasonable for people to argue that Evans should be the top RB selected this year. Evans has impressive fluidity and explosiveness in the open field. He simply looks like an NFL running back, the athletic talent is undeniable.

Did you sense a "but" coming? Of course there has to be a "but", because otherwise why hasn't Evans already vaulted all the way to the top of the RB rankings? If he was ranked ahead of Bijan Robinson as a HS recruit, why isn't Evans still ranked ahead of Robinson now that both RBs are draft prospects?

Zach Evans has considerable football character red flags, as well as some durability questions. Evans might have the biggest bust factor of any RB in the draft.

Before we talk more about Evans, let's summarize Melvin Gordon as a player, because I think it can guide us in how to evaluate Evans. Gordon was 6'1'' tall and 215 pounds, with 4.52 second speed in the 40. Experts said was a talented open field runner and long strider, but lacked instincts and feel to run between the tackles, bounced outside too much, had poor ball security and had gaping running lanes at Wisconsin (thank you, Rob Havenstein.)

As a rookie, Gordon had 6 fumbles, a very poor rate of one per every 36 touches (a RB who fumbled that frequently probably would be on his way to bouncing all the way out of the NFL.) Over his career, Gordon has battled a number of injuries. He had microfracture surgery in 2016. For his career, Gordon has fumbled once every 72 touches, better than his rookie year, but still a poor rate.

Gordon only had 3.5 yards per carry as a rookie. In 4 of his first 5 seasons, he averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry. Part of the reason for that is the Chargers didn't have good offensive lines. Gordon only has one 1,000 yard rushing season as a pro.

In retrospect, I'd argue that Gordon's teammate, Havenstein, was the more valuable prospect, even though Hav was only a late 2nd round pick at slot 57. Even more, both of the "center type" OL prospects taken in the 2nd round, Mitch Morse and Ali Marpet, became good players. So, hypothetically, if the Rams had an early 2nd round pick back in 2015 and Gordon, Hav, Morse and Marpet all were still on the board, I'd argue that the Rams would have been far better off going with OL and not RB with their pick.

In 2015, the Chargers had the 32nd ranked OL, per PFF. They were 31st in run blocking. In 2016, they were ranked 31st and were terrible in the run game at creating yards before contact. In 2017 they ranked 24th and were slightly below average in rushing yards before contact. Gordon had the highest rushing total of his career in 2017. The Chargers had the 30th ranked OL in 2018. The following year they were 29th. Gordon played for Denver in 2020. The Broncos has the 22nd ranked run block win rate that season. The following year, the Broncos were 15th in run block win rate. Not surprisingly, Gordon was a more efficient runner with Denver than he was when he played for the Chargers, even though the Broncos didn't have an elite run blocking OL.

If Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon had swapped teams in the 2015 draft, would it change how we viewed the careers of those 2 players? In 2017 and 2018, when the Rams had one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the NFL, the Chargers had poor offensive lines. How many yards would Gordon have had if he had played for the Rams during that era?


Name: Zach Evans. Early entrant, turns 22 years old in May.

School: Ole Miss, transferred from TCU. Majored in multi-disciplinary studies.

Size: Listed 6 foot tall, 215 pounds. NFLDB has him with a 4.42 sec (40 time), TDN says 4.45 sec (40 time), 5'11'' tall and 210 pounds.

5 star recruit, heavily recruited by all the college football powerhouse programs. Zach Evans had one of the strangest recruiting journeys you'll ever see and the impressing I get is it was caused almost entirely by his flaky attitude and lack of maturity.

Early in 2019, ESPN ranked Evans as the number one overall recruit in the country. Evans was primarily interested in the big name SEC powerhouses, schools like Alabama and Georgia.

Evans was suspended for 2 games early in his high school season for undisclosed reasons. In December, he signed a letter of intent to play for Georgia, but didn't announce the decision. Evans was suspended for his team's state championship game, reportedly for refusing the coach's request to stop using a cell phone during a team meeting. Just think about that for a second. Something caused the coach to suspend one of the best players in the country on the eve of a state championship game. Have you ever seen that documentary where Jimmy Johnson talks about cutting a backup player for sleeping during a meeting and someone asked him what he would have done if it had been Troy Aikman sleeping?

In January of 2020, Georgia released Evans from his LOI. In a stunning move, Evans enrolled at TCU in May of 2020, even though TCU had never been one of his top choices during the recruitment process and no one knew that TCU was even in the picture.

Evans was in a 3 RB timeshare for TCU in 2020. One of the other RBs was Kendre Miller, another RB prospect in this year's draft. The team's leading rusher was Darwin Barlow, who transferred to USC in the summer of 2021.

In the 1st 2021 game, Evans was disciplined for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He missed a large chunk of the later part of the year due to a turf toe injury. He and Miller ended up having about the same amount of rushing yardage in both 2020 and 2021.

In June of 2022, Evans transferred to Ole Miss. He thew some shade at TCU when he transferred, saying that the reason he left was he thought he was being underutilized by the coaches and also implied that TCU wasn't a strong football program.

2020: 54-415-4 rushing, 8-76 receiving, one fumble

2021: 92-648-5 rush (7.0 average), 10-130-1 receiving, one fumble

2022: 144-936-9 (6.5 ave), 12-119-1 receiving, 3 fumbles

5 career fumbles, one for every 64 touches, which is a poor rate.

Reportedly had a good GPA at TCU.

Had a number of injuries in 2022. Hip pointer, reportedly had a knee injury early in the season, concussion against Alabama, missed a game due to knee, reportedly banged up later in the season. If you look at his game log, after the first game of the year he only had at least 20 carries in one game the rest of the year. Prior to the season, he was asked how many carries he needed and I believe he said something like 25 carries per game, I'd have to go back and watch the interview again to see his exact wording. He averaged 12 carries per game, so he didn't even hit half that mark.

Part of the reason Evans saw his playing time reduced might have been his injuries, but another factor was the team had another RB named Quinshon Judkins, a freshman. Judkins had 274 carries for 1,567 yards and 16 TDs. If you watch their games, the 2 RBs are fairly close in overall effectiveness, but IMO I'd give a slight edge to the younger kid, Judkins. No, that's not because I think Judkins is anything special or spectacular. That's just how I'd evaluate them. This influenced my evaluation, because now Evans is jumping to an NFL team, where he'll be competing against NFL vets and he's coming off a season where he arguably wasn't better than a freshman RB who was a 3 star recruit. Right off the bat, that concerns me.

In interviews, has a competitive and aggressive mindset. Wants to be the star and the focal point of the team's offense.

ESPN 13th RB, 190th overall (6th round)

CBSSports 7th RB, 106th (Early 4th)

PFF not ranked top 100

NFLDB 3rd RB, 61st overall (late 2nd to 3rd rd)

Sports Illustrated 7th RB, 3rd round

PFN 9th RB, 85th (3rd rd)

Drafttek 9th RB, 104th (early 4th rd)

Shane Hallam 56th (late 2nd rd)

Brian Bosarge 91st (3rd rd)

NFLDB: Straight line speed to outrun angles, can turn corner on perimeter and stay near fop speed. Tracks ball over his shoulder. Strong interior runner. Classic north/south runner. Excellent initial burst. Consistently falls forward. Creative runner. Exceptional balance, lateral agility and body control. Doesn't create separation as receiver. Sometimes upright and doesn't run behind his pads.

TDN: Well rounded, patient behind LOS. Explosive linear runner, lowers his pads to finish runs. Minimal receiving production. Linear north/south runner, lacking lateral moves to make defenders miss. A zone scheme RB. 3rd round grade.

PFN (Ian Cummings): Natural and smooth runner, NFL frame, elite long track explosiveness, can destroy pursuit angles. Good contact balance. Fluidity is his best trait. Sustains acceleration through cuts, successive moves. Corners like a motorcycle hugging a tight curve. Twitch and loose hips. Good spatial awareness. Serviceable floor for vision and creativity. Needs to diagnose running lanes earlier. Gets tunnel vision, runs into congestion. Can be more patient and misses cutback opportunities. Straight line style lacking creativity. Lacks elite mass and momentum. Ball security an issue when he's forced to create. Not an elite creator in tight spaces. A zone heavy RB. Day 2 grade.


Plenty of horsepower under the hood. Has juice. A drag racing car that pulls away from defenders in the open field. Explosive big play ability.

Loose hips, can hurdle over defenders and hop away from diving attempts to grab his ankles or trip him up. Able to turn the corner at high speed. Good change of direction ability. Enough suddenness in his feet to stop and start, whether to dodge tackles or run in a different direction. Flashes good contact balance on some plays, able to stay up after hits and keep running.

Runs with good pad level. Will take on defenders and ram into them with his shoulder. Physical mindset, aggressive decisions, doesn't shy away from hits or contact. Has an effective stiff arm, times it and can extend after contact to shove the defender away.

Gets low and can dive forward to pick up a couple extra yards after contact.

Shows some ability to switch the ball to the proper hand. Carries out play action fakes.

Fumble stats slightly misleading, because one of the fumbles he suffered a helmet to helmet hit that might have knocked him out and another one the 2nd defender hit the ball from behind just before Evans got violently swung and bent around. He might not have great ball security, but it also maybe not be as awful as the stats look.

Normal age for a draft prospect.

Only had 290 career rushing attempts in college, approximately one season's worth in the NFL. Melvin Gordon had 631 career rushing attempts at Wisconsin prior to entering the NFL. Evans took less punishment than a normal RB prospect, could have additional tread on tires.

Clearly hobbled later in the season, not able to run as fast, but still competed and played through whatever injuries he had accumulated.

Confident in himself, doesn't seem like one to back down from physical challenges. Has the type of toughness in his personality that is desired in an NFL RB and all the punishment that is entailed with playing the position. Ready to go to battle.


Average bulk and size, not able to add yards after contact, break through tackles or drag defenders forward for extra yards. Lacks thickness in build, doesn't have lower body power and leg drive.

Alarming lack of instincts and vision when running between the tackles. Lacks creativity on inside runs, a straight line mover at the LOS. His center is climbing to the 2nd level to block the LB. The RB should press the hole prior to making his cut, because this would help the center eliminate the LB. Instead, the RB immediately angles to the outside and this results in the LB running right by the C, pursuing towards the ball. Should cut to the left of his guard, but instead just plows forward to the right of the guard. Has a good cutback available, but tries to bounce outside on the frontside, even though it is clearly closed, ends up being a 3 yard TFL. On zone run, should cut behind his LG and attack the CB, but instead he ducks his head and plows forward into the DT being blocked by the LG. On a 3rd down play, there's a gigantic lane to the left of his LG, but the RB runs directly into a DT who counters to the other side of the center and since the RB is running too fast, the RB can't adjust and try to jumpcut away from the DT. Ran directly into an unblocked linebacker at LOS instead of cutting into open space to the left. Instead of hugging tight to hip of pulling blocker, then running off of the block, he cuts inside of the block too early, which allows the LB to get by the block and tackle him at the LOS. Had a great chance to bust a big one if he cuts to the left of his pulling blocker, a nice lane was about to open up for him up the middle, but just puts his head down and plows to the right of the block and gets stuffed at the LOS for no gain. Zone run, the proper read is very obviously to cut behind the center, the RB should press the hole to manipulate the MLB, then cutback, but he just zooms outside of the OT for a TFL.

Grip on the ball doesn't seem to be tight. Ball came out when he hit the ground. Ruled down on a play where the ball comes out after a weak hit by the defender, an odd near fumble. Ball seems to be looser when it is in his left hand, not tucked as tight and as high. Had an enormous amount of time to switch the ball to his left hand in the open field, but failed to do so until right before the defender got to him and even then the ball was exposed as the defender tried to grab at it.

Played in a zone read system at Ole Miss. The scheme opened up huge downhill running lanes for him. Double team blocks from his OL and even solo blocks by OL and TE moved the DL, opening up big gaps for him. Able to rip off chunk plays without having to create on his own at the LOS.

Suited for gap scheme runs and wide toss runs designed to go outside the OTs. Not as good on runs that go inside, between the tackles.

Lacks patience as a runner, goes too fast when he gets the handoff. On zone run, a cutback lane is available, but he's running so fast he has no ability to cut in that direction. Average spin move.

While blocking on a run play, way on the opposite side of the field from the point of attack, he is unnecessarily holding the defender, really silly, because his block has no impact on the play. Doesn't give full effort blocking.

Rudimentary pass blocking awareness and skills. Twist up front, the RB is late to recognize it and misses the linebacker, resulting in a QB pressure that should have led to an INT, but the DB drops the ball. On 3rd down, the RB should chip block the DT prior to releasing to the flat, but the RB just runs by him and the DT pressures the QB.

Virtually zero receiving production in college. No demonstrated ability to be a plus factor as a receiver. Dropped screen pass right in his hand as if his hands were made out of stone.

Not able to stay healthy either of the last 2 seasons in college. Has never had at least 150 rushing attempts in any season in college. Injuries to different parts of his body, including his head and legs.

Has never truly been the true full time starter on his team for any season of his college career. For a variety of reasons, always split carries and playing time with other RBs.

To my knowledge, he has no experience on any special team unit, whether as a returner, blocker or on coverage teams. This is factor if Evans fails to win the starting RB job on a roster. Roschon Johnson of Texas, for example, is a very good special teams player. So, even though RoJo might not have as high a ceiling as Evans, if all a team wants is to add a player who can be a solid backup, Johnson would be a safer pick than Evans, with a higher floor.

His past actions and his attitude makes him come across as a selfish diva. Not a team oriented player, a "me first" type of player. Could have maturity issues. Poor body language on the field after a pass sailed over his hands, he looks back towards the QB as if the QB messed up where if you watch the play the RB could have done a better job running the route, making me wonder if he's the type of player where if there's a problem it is always "someone else's fault" and he doesn't hold himself accountable.

Draft Grade and Pro Comp

4th round grade. Laurence Maroney (21st overall pick 2006, New England Patriots, Minnesota)

Zach Evans is a boom or bust prospect. He's fast, athletic with good size, the raw ingredients are there for him to be an elite NFL RB someday. If you remember my profile about guys like Eric Gray and Travis Dye, those are "greater than the sum of the parts" type players, because initially when you look at them, you wouldn't think that they'd be any good, but because of their football IQ and attention to detail, they perform better on the field even though they aren't blessed with the greatest athletic tools. Evans is the exact opposite. He should be a great RB, but the more you study his tape, he's really just an okay player. Something is off, he doesn't play up to his full potential.

Some NFL stars looked like marginal draft prospects. Aaron Jones only ran 4.56 seconds in the 40 at the combine and was even slower at his pro day. He's a small RB who doesn't have prototypical size. He was arrested for DUI in 2016. Experts said he had durability issues, lacked speed and patience and was a late round prospect. Matt Miller gave him a 7th round grade. PFF ranked the top 20 RBs in that draft and Jones wasn't deemed good enough to even crack their list. In the actual draft, Jones in the compensatory portion of the 5th round, he was one of the very last picks in the 5th round. He was the 19th RB selected. Jones was cited for driving under the influence (marijuana) in 2017, leading to a 2 game suspension by the NFL. The Packers took Jamaal Williams in the 4th round of the same draft, so when they drafted Jones, they probably were only planning on him being the backup RB.

Maroney and Marion Barber were a great RB duo at Minnesota. Maroney was about 6 feet tall, 217 pounds and ran 4.48 seconds in the 40. He flashed some potential early in his career, but is considered to be a 1st round bust for the Pats. The rumor is that Maroney wasn't a mature player and didn't always prepare like a pro. Maurice Jones-Drew, supposedly too small to be a good NFL player at only 5'7'' tall, was the best RB from that draft. Maroney was the 2nd RB selected, behind only Reggie Bush.

Zach Evans is an intriguing prospect due to his high potential, but he also carries baggage that could scare off NFL teams.