Missouri cornerback Akayleb Evans was one of the most high-profile 2022 NFL Draft prospects in the transfer portal this summer. The former Tulsa talent was also one of the first players announced to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. While he may not be one of the first cornerbacks selected next spring, Evans’ scouting report showcases the talent to ensure he hears his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Akayleb Evans NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Missouri
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’1 7/8″
- Weight: 201
- Wingspan: 74 5/8″
- Arm: 32 3/8″
- Hand: 8 3/4″
Akayleb Evans Scouting Report
Cornerback is one of the most in-demand positions when it comes to the NFL Draft. Since 2000, only a small handful of classes have seen fewer than 50 players at the defensive back position arriving in the NFL via the league’s annual selection event.
While demand is high, luckily for the NFL, supply is also high in this 2022 NFL Draft class. Names like Andrew Booth Jr., Derek Stingley Jr., and Ahmad Gardner have dominated early headlines. Yet, there is a deep well of talent. That is where Evans fits in.
All three members of Pro Football Network’s Draft Team have a draftable grade on the Missouri cornerback. Tony Pauline has a Day 2 grade on Evans. However, I think an early Day 3 selection is the more probable destination unless he provides an excellent showing at the Senior Bowl.
So, what is it about Evans’ scouting report that suggests this level of talent? Well, it starts with his size. Listed by Missouri at 6’2″ and 198 pounds, Evans has good size for the cornerback position at the next level. More importantly, the Missouri cornerback has good length. He’s listed as having 32.5-inch arms, which is apparent on tape.
Physicality, eye discipline, athletic ability
The first thing that you notice on tape is Evans’ physicality. His long arms and combative style allow him to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. He continues this physicality during the route and at the catch point. Furthermore, Evans carries this physicality into run support. He’s willing and able in this regard, showing the ability to deliver a heavy hit while seeking out the action in the run game.
Evans is a physical press-man cornerback who also offers versatility. He’s aligned both as a boundary and field outside corner. Additionally, he’s seen action in the slot. His only career interception against Central Michigan saw Evans align in the slot, mirror the receiver, and break on the route to snag the ball out of the air before the catch point.
That play showcased one of his most impressive attributes. Evans possesses excellent eye discipline and routinely puts that to good use. Not only can he read and react to the play, Evans routinely keeps his eyes focused on his opponent’s feet, so he isn’t easily tricked by route fakes.
Evans possesses a solid athletic profile at the cornerback position. In high school, he recorded a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, and that is apparent on tape. While Evans isn’t the fastest cornerback, he isn’t blown away by receivers. He can backpedal well, enabling him to drop while keeping his eyes on the quarterback.
Areas for improvement
Overall, Evans is a solid NFL Draft cornerback prospect with some attractive traits and attributes. As mentioned earlier, an impressive performance during the Senior Bowl could skyrocket him up draft boards. Still, there are some areas for improvement and some concerns on his scouting report.
While Evans possesses a decent athletic profile, he isn’t an elite athlete. He could struggle against speedier wide receivers at the next level. Although he has showcased some change-of-direction ability in man coverage, Evans isn’t routinely twitchy in his movements.
Evans’ measurements are some I’m intrigued to see at the Senior Bowl. Coming out of McKinney, he weighed 175 pounds, and Tulsa listed him at 188. Missouri lists him at 198 pounds, and while that may be possible, he does have a slender build. Despite his being physical, he can be bullied by bigger tight ends and receivers.
Finally, Evans’ injury history will be an area of concern for NFL teams. He missed three games with injury in 2018 and another one this season. After missing most of 2019 with a shoulder injury, he’s missed time in all but two seasons of his five-season career.
Akayleb Evans Player Profile
Hailing from McKinney, Texas, Evans began playing football at the age of nine. He first rose to prominence as a junior for McKinney High School after logging 80 tackles in his first season as a starter. Evans was a two-star prospect, named the 223rd cornerback in the 2017 recruiting class per 247 Sports.
Despite being a late bloomer, he held offers from Kansas, Iowa State, and Tulsa before his senior season. Following an early flirtation with the Jayhawks, Evans committed to Tulsa in July 2016, which he never wavered from.
Having established himself as a willing-and-able tackler as a junior, Evans showcased his ball skills as a senior. During the 2016 season, he tallied 5 pass breakups in eight games while adding another 48 tackles to his high school résumé. As a result of his performances, Evans earned second-team All-District 10-6A recognition.
While the young cornerback was successful on the field, he also strove to ensure success off it. While still at McKinney, he set up the “Akayleb Evans Foundation,” designed to give back to the local community. Later in his college career, Evans described the foundation as “one of my proudest accomplishments.”
Evans’ college football career
Evans arrived in Tulsa in 2017 and almost made an immediate impact on the Golden Hurricanes. He made his starting debut in the fourth game against New Mexico and started six games. Continuing his reputation as a physical tackler, he logged 7 tackles in his first start. The true freshman added his first pass breakup against Tulane.
After registering 26 tackles and 2 pass breakups in his debut season, expectations heightened for his sophomore year. Evans delivered, with 6 tackles and 1 pass breakup against Memphis. Furthermore, he flashed a penchant for the big game with 2 pass breakups against Texas.
However, he missed three games with injury in 2018, following up with a season-ending shoulder injury in 2019. As a result, he went an entire year between making a pass breakup against Oklahoma State in 2019 and lining up to face the Cowboys again in the opening game of his redshirt-junior season in 2020.
Despite the injury setback, Evans reinforced his reputation as Tulsa emerged as the surprise story of the 2020 season. He registered a career-high 9 tackles abasing Cincinnati, a forced fumble against South Florida, and recorded his first career sack against Mississippi State.
Evans transfers to Missouri for his redshirt-senior season
Having proven himself against SEC opposition, Evans opted to enter the transfer portal rather than declare for the NFL Draft or return to Tulsa. Unlike his high school recruiting journey, he was awash with offers. Although he announced a short list of five schools (Jackson State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Texas, and Texas Tech), one destination held a distinct advantage.
Evans’ defensive backs coach at Tulsa, Aaron Fletcher, had switched to Missouri for the 2021 college football season. The familiarity with Fletcher proved a significant factor in the decision for both Evans and teammate Allie Green IV.
“It was a really tough decision when it came down to it, but I was familiar with him,” Evans told STLHomelife. “I’ve known him since I was a junior in high school, so you can’t beat that. And, he was upfront about what’s going on here, and how things ran, and the way I could be utilized and help the team.”
Evans helped the team (and his NFL Draft stock) in the season opener against Central Michigan. One of the knocks against the Missouri cornerback during his Tulsa career was a lack of production. However, he opened his Tigers tenure with 2 pass breakups and a crucial interception in a close game.
During his first season in SEC competition, he also impressed with 2 pass breakups against Vanderbilt, 8 tackles against Boston College, and 2 forced fumbles against North Texas. Evans ended the campaign with 28 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 interception. His performances earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl and an opportunity to increase his NFL Draft stock in front of NFL scouts in Mobile.