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Will Zach Evans take over for Cam Akers in his rookie season?

Could Zach Evans actually replace Cam Akers?

TaxAct Texas Bowl - Texas Tech v Ole Miss Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams made it a point to address the running back position this offseason and add some depth to the roster. While they released Darrell Henderson at the end of last season, they drafted Zach Evans in the sixth-round of the NFL Draft. They also brought back Sony Michel, a player who helped on the Super Bowl run in 2021.

Over the last few years, the Rams running game has struggled. Cam Akers has shown flashes, but been inconsistent. The offensive line can be blamed to a point, but at the end of the day, the Rams need players who can get the job done.

Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. So far, we’re through the first 25. The goal here has been to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.

Today, we’re looking at Zach Evans.

College Career

Evans was one of the top running backs in the nation coming out of high school and played his first two seasons at TCU before transferring to Ole Miss. With the rebels last season, Evans recorded 936 rushing yards on 144 carries which tied for 10th in the FBS with 6.5 yards per carry.

His transfer to Ole Miss didn’t go quite as expected as he has dealt with some nagging injuries over the last two years. Still, he managed to produce at a strong clip when he was on the field.

The Good/Best Case Scenario

This is a player that the Rams very clearly like. When it comes to the sixth and seventh-rounds of the draft, some teams tend to stay put. The picks in that range are all dart throws at that point with the value from one pick to the next not necessarily changing significantly. Still, the Rams traded up an entire round to make sure that they landed Evans.

Evans is a fantastic athlete and brings good size and explosiveness. After the nagging injuries over the last two years, the Rams will hope he hasn’t lost a step. Last season, he ranked 21st in the nation in yards after contact per attempt and his breakaway percentage of 47.8 percent ranked 14th. The best case scenario for Evans is that he is able to carve out a role in the running back room. It has become more crowded, but there is still some opportunity here.

The Bad/Worst Case Scenario

It seems as if every player that the Rams have had in the running back room since Todd Gurley has had some sort of injury issue. Evans is no different. He’s had nagging injuries over the last two years that has kept him off the field for a game here and a game there. Evans also need to improve when it comes to ball security and become more of a threat on passing downs if he wants to see the field consistently.

In a worst case scenario, Evans suffers an injury in training camp that causes him to lose some momentum in the onboarding process. This would cause him to fall on the depth chart and make him a non-factor as a rookie.

Biggest Question: Will Zach Evans take over for Cam Akers in his rookie season?

There has been some speculation that Evans would take over for Cam Akers as a rookie. Akers was sent to the doghouse by Sean McVay last season and placed on the trade block. It’s not uncommon for sixth-round running backs to find early success. Still, that seems unlikely here.

Even if Akers is ineffective, the Rams would likely go to more of a running back by committee. That might be the plan anyway. With the Michel signing, that also adds another body to the running back room. Evans could be a good complimentary player early in his career and be a short-yardage player. However, it may be too early to say that he will earn a featured role in the offense.

Roster Battle

Evans will have a spot on the final-53 man roster unless something drastic happens. His battle will come on the depth chart. Here, he’ll be competing with Kyren Williams and Sony Michel. As it stands, Williams provides more in the passing game while Michel showed that he was good in short-yardage back in 2021. Where will Evans’ role be as a rookie?

It will be crucial for Evans to improve on passing downs early in his career if he wants to see the field. This means becoming a receiving threat out of the backfield and being someone who can be relied on in pass protection. If he can do that, he’ll have a chance to steal touches from Williams and Michel.

2023 Outlook and What to Expect

The Evans pick feels more like a selection that was made for the future rather than right now. Akers is a restricted free agent next year and there’s no guarantee that he’s brought back. The Rams have needed some depth at the running back position over the last few years and Evans provides that with some upside.

Again, his expectations as a rookie shouldn’t be to take over for Akers and earn a starting role. We need to see Evans improve in the passing game as the year goes on. If he can do that, he should be able to carve out a role in the offense.

Chances of Making Final Roster

With how much the Rams invested in Evans in the draft, it’s unlikely that they would cut him during training camp.

Final Roster Confidence: 10/10