The Los Angeles Rams entered the 2023 NFL Draft without a single starter on special teams. LA lost last year’s starters in free agency: K Matt Gay (Colts), P Riley Dixon (Broncos), and LS Matt Orzech (Packers).
Los Angeles hopes they secured their future punter after drafting Wingate’s Ethan Evans in the seventh round. They also signed long snapper Alex Ward from UCF and two kickers, Christopher Dunn and Tanner Brown, as part of the undrafted free agency process. Dunn appears to be the favorite to earn the starting job at kicker heading into training camp, but LA could also add a veteran late in the process.
Listed at 6-3, 235 lbs., Evans is bigger than most of the Rams’ draft class—save for the handful of offensive and defensive linemen selected. You’d expect Evans’ frame at off-ball linebacker more than punter, and that’s part of the reason why LA was willing to spend a late round pick to acquire him. By all accounts the prospect is a physical specimen capable of deadlifting 770 pounds.
The challenge at the NFL level will be converting potential into production. At the end of the day, your punter is unlikely to determine whether you win or lose games—so why not take on a developmental project like Evans in hopes of reaching special outcomes.
Evans holds the Wingate school record for average yards per punt at 45.7, and he was the first NCAA division II player taken in last month’s draft. He seems to pride himself on hang time and is capable of suspending the ball for more than 5-6 seconds mid-air. Most kickers tend to handle kickoffs at the NFL level, but Evans is capable of handling these duties with his big-time leg. This is seemingly a weakness for Dunn, so perhaps there will be some synergy between the two over time.
He is one of the biggest legs in a class historically know for having the biggest legs. Oh I watched him hit a 92 yard kick off as well— IsaacPunts (@IsaacPunts) April 21, 2023
Sources Tell me #Bengals could be interested in Drafting Division 2 P/K Ethan Evans... Went to Kick with him today and I can see why, this is a ~70 yard (past the line of scrimmage) 5.46 and he's complaining it's not high enough. Bengals May have the Steal of the Draft pic.twitter.com/adYXwf4YXS— IsaacPunts (@IsaacPunts) April 21, 2023
But having a strong, power leg can also be a detriment in the punting game. Out kicking coverages can result in long returns for the opposition, and that could quickly reverse any advantages in field position that you were expecting with a long punt. It’s an aspect of Evans’ game that he will have to fine-tune over time, though it’s reasonable to expect some struggles early in his career.
Ethan Evans is my P6. The ball booms off his leg. Outkicks his coverage often leading to returns. Flashes NFL upside. Big, can tackle too. #Rams #HallamAnalysis— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) April 29, 2023
Can Ethan Evans bring stability to the punter position for the Rams? LA needs a reliable presence there after losing Johnny Hekker and Riley Dixon in back to back seasons.