The Tennessee Titans made moves this offseason to keep the core of its offense together in the hopes of making another Super Bowl push in 2020. Tennessee reached a four-year, $118 million contract extension with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a four-year, $50 million contract extension with the former Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. Lost in the shuffle of all these moves is the selection of rookie RB Darrynton Evans who could provide the lightning to Henry’s thunderous game.
Evans’ college and NFL Draft journey
Evans played three seasons of college football for the Appalachian State Mountaineers. During his freshman season in 2016, he ran just 48 times for 217 yards as he was fourth on the depth chart. After redshirting in 2017 due to injury, Evans returned in 2018 with a vengeance, rushing 179 times for 1187 yards and seven touchdowns.
Evans took his performance one step further during the 2019 season, earning 1480 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 255 carries. He also displayed some versatility in the passing game hauling in 21 receptions for 198 yards are five touchdowns. This impressive season was part of the Mountaineers’ dominance of the Sun Belt Conference throughout 2019.
Is Evans’ size an advantage?
Evans declared for the 2020 NFL Draft after his junior season and tested well at the Combine in speed and explosion. Participating in everything but the agility drills, he earned an overall Relative Athletic Score of 9.12 out of 10. A smaller and leaner back, Evans measured out at five feet and ten inches and weighed out at 203 pounds.
Based on his weight, Evans had a projected 40-yard dash time of 4.56 seconds. This projection was found by taking.00554 and multiplying it by his weight, then adding 3.433. When it came time for his attempts at the Combine, Evans recorded a 40-yard dash of 4.41 seconds, .15 seconds faster than his projected time. His official time and negative time differential equate to a RAS score of 9.59 out of 10, an elite grade for speed.
His 40-yard dash did the heavy lifting in regards to his great composite speed grade as his 20 and 10-yard splits were not quite as impressive. However, Evans paired his speed grade with a great composite explosion grade. At the Combine, he broad jumped ten feet and five inches and put up a 37-inch vertical jump. For RAS, this is equal to scores of 9.18 and 8.59, respectively.
How the pieces should fit together in Tennessee
The Titans selected Evans in the third round with the 93rd pick, making him the ninth RB selected in the draft. Between the franchise’s dedication to Henry as the bell cow and starting running back and the release of Dion Lewis, Evans is in the perfect situation to take over the backup duties for the Titans, and his skillset makes the fit even better.
Henry will receive the lion’s share of touches. Still, in between the downhill onslaught, the Titans can use Evans as a change of pace, catching screens from Tannehill, misdirections, and cutbacks to catch the defense off guard with the rookie’s speed and explosiveness.
Evans demonstrated excellent field vision and short-area quickness during his time with the Mountaineers. While he never really thrived between the tackles and fighting through defenders, if Evans can find a clean hole, he is gone.
The offensive line at Appalachian St. offered Evans some robust protection and some clean holes, so that is one obstacle that could affect his gameplay at the next level. However, the Titans have some reliable protection as well. Evans is lightning in a bottle; his talent is on full display with every touch he gets until he’s touched. With the Titans having Henry do the heavy lifting, Evans can be used as the space guy, which on this offense could be the most dangerous kind of weapon.
On the surface, drafting Evans in the third round should go under the radar. Yet, when the extension and new contracts are factored in, players are released, and the player is the perfect complement to the Titans’ current All-Pro rusher, it makes that draft selection quite a bit more noteworthy. With Tennessee’s offense taking shape, a return to the AFC Championship in the 2020 season is undoubtedly within reach.