The Michigan Wolverines are one of the most prestigious programs in college football history. Big Blue has a rich NFL Draft heritage which looks set to continue with a number of first-round prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite this success, Michigan has had just three running backs drafted to the NFL since the turn of the millennium. Could Chris Evans buck that trend and hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Chris Evans NFL Draft Profil
- Position: Running Back
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Senior (fifth year)
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 211 pounds
- Wingspan: 78″
- Arm: 31 1/2″
- Hand: 10″
Tony Pauline’s Chris Evans Scouting Report
Positives: Talented ball carrier who looked like a special prospect early at Michigan before his career was sidelined. Possesses excellent size, gets a lot of force going up the field, and dishes out punishment to defenders. Grinds it out on the inside, displays a burst through the hole, and keeps his feet moving.
Patiently waits for blocks to develop and finds the running lanes. Hits the hole with authority and gets a lot of momentum going up the field. Terrific receiver out of the backfield, adjusting to the errant throw, and snatching the ball away from his frame.
Negatives: More of a downhill ball carrier who lacks the corner speed or agility to get around the perimeter. Watched his production steadily fall off after a terrific sophomore campaign.
Analysis: Evans established himself as the top back early in his Michigan career before missing the 2019 season and seeing limited action last year. He’s not a sure thing based on recent play, but if a team gets Evans back to where he was in 2017 and 2018, they will have a late-round steal on their hands.
Chris Evans Player Profile
Despite a turbulent recent history at Michigan, Chris Evans started his path to the NFL Draft as a high school standout in Indianapolis. An incredible athlete, Evans reportedly ran a 10.9-second 100-meter sprint. He also ran an equally impressive 14.25-second 110-meter hurdle. Furthermore, he was an accomplished long jumper. Evans was a true multi-sport high school star.
It was on the Ben Davis High School football field where Evans would excel, however. Once again he proved a versatile athlete, lining up at running back, slot receiver, and cornerback. Evans garnered national attention during a junior season where he rushed for 1200 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Showcasing glimpses of a multi-faceted skill set that would add to his later stock, Evans also racked up 676 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
A lifelong Ohio State Buckeyes fan, Evans’ success would land him in enemy territory. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was impressed by the bespectacled kid from Indianapolis. Evans accepted an offer to join the Wolverines despite interest from a number of Big Ten programs. Even when his beloved Buckeyes came calling, Evans would not renege on his agreement.
He followed up his prolific junior campaign with an impressive senior season at Ben Davis. Rushing for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns, Evans left as a four-star recruit. He was the ninth-ranked all-purpose back in the 2016 class, and fourth-ranked player in the state.
Early success for Chris Evans at Michigan
With his glasses and high top haircut, Chris Evans stood out from the minute he set foot in Ann Arbor. Like his high school days, it was on the field where he truly stood out, however. In his college football debut, Evans rushed for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns at a remarkable 14 yards per carry. In doing so, he became only the third player in Wolverines history to break 100 rushing yards on their debut.
Not only did Evans make history, he provided a much-needed spark to the Michigan offense. Harbaugh described him as “special.” Meanwhile, Michigan running back coach Tyrone Wheatley likened his impact to that of basketball sensation Steph Curry.
The freshman phenom added another 100-yard rushing game against Rutgers on his way to a campaign of 614 rushing yards. His 7 yards per carry were good enough to rank fourth in the Big Ten conference.
A declining role and a disaster
Despite his early success, including a career-high 191 yards against Minnesota in 2017, Evans saw a reduced role behind fellow Michigan running back Karan Higdon. In 2018, he had a career-low total of 423 rushing yards on just 81 carries compared to 135 carries in his sophomore season.
With Karan Higdon declaring for the NFL Draft, 2019 was the year Chris Evans was expected to lead the Michigan backfield. Instead, he was suspended from the program. Although details remain hazy, Evans himself described the suspension as the result of “an academic mistake.” However, he was adamant that it was “not on my grades” and “I’m on pace to graduate,” as quoted in a March 2019 article in the Detroit News.
Evans worked three jobs and kept himself in shape with a trainer during his expulsion from Michigan, readying himself for a return. Although he was reinstated in 2020, he was eclipsed by Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet on the Michigan running back depth chart. As he prepared to enter the 2021 NFL Draft, Chris Evans saw just 16 carries for 73 yards and subsequently became more productive in the passing game for the Wolverines.
Analyzing Chris Evans’ NFL Draft profile
Chris Evans provides an interesting study as an NFL Draft prospect. At 5’11” and 211 pounds, he has the ideal build for a modern day running back. Additionally, he has the skill set to be a three-down back in the NFL. His history of playing cornerback and slot receiver shows in his catch ability. Furthermore, Michigan has used him in a variety of ways in the passing game whether flexed out to the slot/out wide or on designed running back passing routes.
Another feather in his running back cap is his ability, or willingness, in pass protection. One area that scouts look at when evaluating running back prospects is their proficiency in this area. Evans flashed some good examples on tape of his ability to pass protect, with multiple examples in the 2017 matchup against a ferocious Wisconsin pass rush.
Evans’ high school track excellence is also evident when studying his running back skill set. Although he has lost a little of that blazing 100-meter speed, he certainly has enough speed to make a difference. He ran a 4.52 with an excellent 40.5-inch vertical and a 1.51 10-yard split. His experience as a hurdler has also been put to good use as a running back, with a prime example of hurdling technique coming in the 2017 Maryland game.
Evans also displays excellent cutting ability on tape. He showcases examples of good contact balance. Both are critical factors in assessing running back talent.
What are the concerns surrounding Chris Evans?
The biggest concern for teams evaluating Chris Evans as an NFL Draft prospect will be his most recent performances. All of his best tape comes from over two years ago. NFL teams will be exceptionally wary of a player that appears to have already have played his best football. You also have to consider that Evans played second fiddle to Karan Higdon for two years. Higdon went undrafted and is currently out of the league.
There could potentially be concerns over his one-year suspension from Michigan. It should, however, be noted that a number of his teammates and people that have been around Evans during his suspension attest to his work ethic and character. Yet, it would be a surprise if there weren’t questions asked during the NFL Draft process.
On the field, Evans often relies on his physical ability rather than using his vision to look for better running lanes.
Chris Evans’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Chris Evans projects to be a late Day 3 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite this, there is some appealing upside to his game. A team may take a chance on his physical ability combined with his skill set to impact the game as a receiver out of the backfield.
Tony Pauline has the Michigan running back graded as a sixth-round prospect. Evans is the 265th-ranked prospect on his latest big board for Pro Football Network.
After a difficult two years, the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl gave Chris Evans the perfect landscape to improve his 2021 NFL Draft stock, but his pro day was more impactful in hyping up his potential. Now, all that’s left is to see where teams deem him worth selecting.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.