Projected 40 time: 4.4-4.45
Strength: Lane Gasher
Weakness: Lack of pass-game production
That sums up the Zach Evans experience from us the viewers and the man himself. Starting off the 2022 season as the starter, it quickly becomes a committee when Quinshon Judkins bursts onto the scene and DEMANDS touches. Evans lost his starting job and his carries went along with it. After having at least double-digit carries in six of the first seven games of 2022, he saw more than eight carries once in the final five games.
Why has he never been The Guy?
Without knowing the full scope of his off-field mentality, it's a question we'll ponder during the draft process, but it's NOT for a lack of talent. He only accumulated 290 carries in his three-year college career as well, so there's still tread on those tires which will be appealing for NFL teams. Evans is at his best in an outside zone scheme offense with some gap/power mixed in. His blend of burst and top-end speed makes open lanes and space his playground. He possesses good tackle-breaking chops with the way he attacks angles and can reduce good tackling advantages to arm tackles, as well.
He looks so comfortable in space and creates a bigger gain on this run with manipulation. Pressing a gap and drawing a defender in is one of the most effective tactics for a running back. The goal of outside zone is to either get to the edge or find a cutback lane. The Backside 'A' gap is open by design here. Evans is a smart runner and he takes his run path close to the hip of the center to lure the linebacker close to the offensive line to get picked off. That's exactly what happens. Evans re-directs to the outside for a big gain.
Intention is powerful. Running routes and selling run paths with intention are essential to success in the NFL. The speed around the edge is the icing on the cake. Evans' initial burst is legit and can re-accelerate well into more space. He's not the quickest lateral mover behind the line of scrimmage, but he's got moves in space.
Finish the play.
Ole Miss did a great job getting open space for Evans running opposite of the pulling offensive lineman. Countering off the flow of the defense allows Evans to build a head of steam to the sideline (where I think he steps out) and then lowers the shoulder and runs through a few defenders. Evans showed this a good amount on his tape, lowering his shoulder and finishing. He falls forward well. The jump cut in the following sequence was smooth and got him a few extra yards of space. He doesn't always string moves together, but he can which is always nice to see.
Third and short. Evans fights for the first down.
But...this is where his vision inside can be a little hit or miss. On the end zone angle, we can see his initial rush path gave him an easier path to the first down. The defensive tackle in his path flashes to his left at the same time he decides to go that way. Little details like this can make a big difference in the NFL. Love to see the effort to get the first though, showing the ability to fall forward for a few more yards as well.