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Meeting the Rams UDFAs: the offensive backfield

Quarterback Dresser Winn and running back Tiyon Evans

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 UT Martin at Tennessee
Undrafted rookie Dresser Winn has arm talent
Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When trying to project the Los Angeles Rams positional unit weaknesses, the offensive backfield positions appear to be stocked up and competent. Quarterback Matthew Stafford still stands tall, and L.A. not only signed Brett Rypien as his primary backup, but also used a Round 4 pick to draft and develop Stetson Bennett. At running back, Cam Akers starts the season as the unquestioned Number 1, Kyren Williams has potential to be a fine change-of-pace option, and rookie Zach Evans has innate plus traits.

That doesn’t mean injuries won’t dilute the product, nor does it mean a newcomer won't show out and challenge for a roster spot. It just means, from a distance, the quarterback and running back rooms seem well-balanced.

There is some room on the practice squad and the Rams have brought in 26 undrafted rookie free agents to compete for those roles. Two of those candidates work out of the backfield, quarterback Dresser Winn and running back Tiyon Evans. Let’s meet them.

Quarterback Dresser Winn, Tennessee-Martin - 6’ 2” / 215 lbs.

Spent six years at FCS University of Tennessee-Martin, will turn 25 in November. Bizarre play arc to his career, started the final five games of 2017, the first seven games of 2018, redshirted in 2019, did not earn a start, but was the team’s primary punter in 2020, started the last two games of 2021, and finally broke through as starter in 2022. Quite a roller coaster with three season-ending injuries, rehab, and roster battles.

Over his career, he completed 492 of 814 passes (60.44%) for 5800 yards and 37 touchdowns. He tossed 24 interceptions. Not much of a threat as a runner, Winn had 164 yards on 174 carries and nine touchdowns. As a punter, he averaged 40.2 yards on 26 punts and dropped eight inside the twenty.

Very good arm. Quick release from a nice over the top motion and has nice extension. Has stellar zip on his throws, including to the far boundary. His arm is flexible/talented enough to whip it side-arm and on the move. He appears less accurate when leading receivers. Not guy who throws it 75 yards, 55 or so is his maximum.

He’s a pocket passer and works exclusively out of the shotgun. Doesn’t look like he played in a complicated read offense, but decisively comes off his primary receiver to check down. He's not a statue, he can navigate around the pocket and throws well on the move.

Dresser Winn is likely a camp arm. If the Rams continue their recent form and keep three quarterbacks on the opening roster, Winn would be a candidate for the practice squad. While he appears to have good football IQ and patience, his moderate on-field production, injury-filled past, and up-and-down record of availability are of major concern. He does have some game, but will need work on full-field reads and reacting to the speed of NFL defenses.

Running back Tiyon Evans, Louisville- 5’ 10” / 225 lbs.

Spent two years at JC before joining Tennessee in 2021 and played one for the Vol’s, rambling for 525 yards at 6.5 yards per carry. In his lone Louisville season, he logged 525 yards at 6.3 clip. Not much production as a receiver, only 10 grabs in two years, but on the what little film there is of him catching the ball, he looks like has good hands and catches the ball away from his body.

Ankle injuries have plagued him at the D1 level, he was limited to seven games for the Vol’s and only played eight games for Louisville. That’s only 15 games of experience. Not sure what to make of that, NFL players don’t sit out unless an injury is completely debilitating. If he can stay healthy though, never having 90 carries in a season, he’ll have fresh legs and not a lot of wear and tear on his body.

Not elite athletically, he weighed in heavier at the NFL Combine than his listed playing weight. HIs forty time, 4.52, is good, as is the 1.61 10-yard split. In the power/explosion drills, his 30.5 vertical and 9’ 5” long jump are below norms. He did have a solid 20 reps on the bench.

Stocky, low to the ground build with big thighs. Not a bruising power runner, he breaks tackles by staying low into contact, has good balance to bounce off that contact, and falls forward. Looks faster on film than he tested, cannot remember him being caught from behind on breakaways. Plenty of zone experience, but is more of a one-cut-and-go downhill runner. Has good stop/start ability and while not a darter, makes deft cuts at speed. Ball security is an issue, had a fumble for every 30 carries in school.

Just not enough receiving snaps to make a case for having value there. Limited to screens and check downs. As blocker, he’s a mixed bag. Really gets after it on some reps and on others it doesn’t look like much of an effort. NFL backs have to consistently be willing blockers, particularly guys who are on the roster bubble.

Tiyon Evans is a strong between-the-tackles runner, well-suited for the Rams inside/mid zone scheme. His running skills are evident, but I don’t think he has reached his potential, just not enough experience and/or high-end reps. He’ll likely be in a battle for RB#4 and since he doesn’t have a history of special teams play, the keys to his making the opening roster are upgrading ball security, showing he can make plays as a receiver, and being a consistent blocker.

Opening roster possibilities?

Dresser Winn looks to have a backup ceiling, he has a pretty good arm, but doesn’t seem to have “it”. Transitioning from a mid-rung FCS team to the NFL is a big jump and spending his first year on the practice squad would be a worthy spot.

Tiyon Evans has some really good traits, but there’s some injury baggage and work to be done on consistency and ball security. Should the Rams decide to keep four running backs on the roster, a lane is there. I have no doubt that he can handle preseason work, but to get his shot competing against first string defenses, it would behoove Evans to show all-out on special teams. That would make for the Rams having a tough roster decision.

Hard to make a strong case for either prospect. But if pressed, I think Evans has an outside shot. He has SEC talent and physicality, I cannot dig deep enough to see if his injury problems are bad luck or a case of want to. Either way, drafted players may get a break on preseason injuries, but as a UDFA, it means be available, or be easily cast aside.