Sean Payton made it clear with offseason additions of Mike McGlinchey, Samaje Perine, Ben Powers, and Michael Burton that his intent is to make running the football and running the football efficiently a priority.
Those names above will be instrumental in creating room for said running game, but they are but the front line. The individuals currently assigned to carry the ball are going to have to finish and take what is given to them, and as things currently look, the group is anything but a sure thing.
Third-year back Javonte Williams is recovering from a catastrophic knee injury that required extensive surgery while Perine is more valuable as a blocker and secondary running in specific situations. If the team does intend to execute the run game as effectively as Payton’s New Orleans Saints teams did, they’ll need more, and it should be expected that the team will look to draft one with one of its third round picks.
The Denver Broncos already had a top-30 visit with Auburn running back Tank Bigsby, but a fellow SEC back may also make the team pay attention.
Evans, a former five-star prospect out of high school, played two seasons at TCU and one final one at Ole Miss, where he would put up just shy of 2,000 yards rushing (like, LITERALLY just shy at 1,999) and averaged seven yards per carry. He possesses the talent to be a lead back in the NFL, but his shaky injury history as well as slippery hands when it comes to ball protection could see him fall into later rounds,.
Zach Evans — Running back — Ole Miss
Height: 5’11” | Weight: 202 lbs.
Bench Press: N/A | Arm Length: 31 5/8” | Hands: 10 1/4”
40 Yard Dash: 4.51 seconds (Pro Day) | 3-Cone Drill: 7.08 seconds (Pro Day)
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.26 seconds (Pro Day)
Evans was a star high school athlete in Texas, earning a five-star prospect rating and the number one back in his state. He would end up his first two seasons at TCU, where his explosive burst, speed, and ability to play through contact had him becoming a focal point of opposing defenses’ scouting reports.
He would then to decide to test his abilities against the elite defenses of the SEC and answered the bell, racking up 936 yards rushing in 12 games, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He proved to be a dangerous home run threat in both the Big 12 and the SEC with perhaps his biggest red flag being nagging injuries,
He never played a full season, being hindered by concussion, hip, and toe injuries, and these nagging injuries also held him out of competing in the NFL combine drills.
He has the talent to be a lead back but does not come without legitimate question marks.
Film Room and Highlights
Positives: Evans is the definition of a home run threat. He has an immediate burst upon touching the football and possesses the speed and bounce to get to the outside and beat the corner. He has a powerful lower body that is resistant to dive tackles and finishes through contact. He will consistently gain yards after contact due to this power and is going to be someone who will move the chains for whoever drafts him. The most valuable asset he possesses, though, again is his top-end speed, for once he sees the open field, good luck to anyone hoping to catch him.
Negatives: While he possesses said home run ability mentioned above, his career 7 yards a carry can be a bit misleading, as while he does have the tendency to blow away opposing defenses, he also can tend to disappear in games. His final five-game stretch saw him rushing for 75, 12, 207, 0, and 37 yards. So he’ll need to show teams that when he’s challenged, he’ll answer the call. He struggles particularly against zone reads, many times having trouble finding the right path. The fact that he never played a full season due to nagging injuries is also going to have teams question his durability. His ability as a receiving threat is also incomplete, as the systems he played in did not rely on his skills in that area. Can he do it at the next level?
Outlook: There are better backs ahead of Evans who the Broncos could target if available, but Evans does possess the potential to be a lead back if he finds the right fit and right coaching staff. NFL defenses are far more complex than what he played against in college, so he is going to have to really up his ability to read zone situations and other schemes that could give him fits, but his speed and big play ability will likely put him in a round 3-4 window.
Williams’ fit with the Broncos
Again, Evans isn’t a guy who the Broncos should zero in on if other names like Tank Bigsby are still on the board, but for a team in need of help at the running back position, they could do a lot worse than the former Ole Miss star. He would certainly capitalize on the newly revamped offensive line, and Sean Payton is someone who has always put running backs in a position for success, but it’s likely Evans will have to be brought about slowly. If the Broncos are looking for someone who checks all the boxes immediately, they will likely have players graded higher on their board, but if the names start to drop off, and the team is still in need of backfield help, Evans is someone they should consider.