Chris Evans’ time with the Michigan Wolverines did not go as planned with an academic issue keeping him out for the 2019 season and being one of the lost names in the 2020 running back rotation. Despite all of this, he may be positioned yet as one of the 2021 NFL Draft’s biggest sleepers at the position.
Evans has been tabbed as a late-round pick despite a lack of production this past season because of the physical traits he brings to the table as well as his versatility. Given that he never truly was a workhorse back at Michigan, there is quite a bit of tread left on those tires, as well.
He participated in Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama in late January and was part of one of the tentpole events of the NFL Draft scouting cycle. He did not record a statistic in the actual game, but his work in the days leading up to it has raised some more eyebrows in scouting circles.
MnB caught up with Jim Nagy, who runs the Senior Bowl and is also an upcoming draft analyst for ESPN, to discuss where Evans might stand as a draft prospect.
“He is going to be a really good story coming out of (Senior Bowl) week,” Nagy said. “We invite players based on their talent, not their production. Always. All Michigan fans know Chris was in kind of a logjam there with Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins and didn’t get the run he would have wanted and then came down (to Mobile). He’s really good in the pass game and out of the backfield, detached routes, getting open, catching the ball naturally. He showcased all that stuff. So it’s going to be really cool come April that a guy that was was essentially the third-stringer at Michigan is going to get drafted at an NFL football field next fall, and contributing.”
Nagy did not just say that there is a chance he gets drafted. He believes that he will be and that peers of his in NFL front offices — a league he worked in for over two decades — are a little uneasy that the cat is out of the bag with Evans.
Few prospects needed this season more than @UMichFootball RB Chris Evans, who averaged 7.0 yards per carry as a true frosh in ‘16 but missed last year due to an academic issue. Evans is 216-lber with WR-like ball skills. Former teammates have told us he belongs in @seniorbowl. pic.twitter.com/QC9DzNbCev— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) August 17, 2020
“Yeah, I do think Chris is going to get drafted,” Nagy said. “I think he’s going to make a team. This was the first time I was ever really around Chris and got to see him physically. He’s way bigger than I thought he was. Chris (weighed in at) 219 pounds. He’s got ten-inch hands. So yeah it’s all about opportunity with Chris. And again you got on the field early at Michigan and it just never really materialized into much more. I’ll tell you this, when we posted something on Twitter about him last summer, I had four buddies from the NFL text me and they were not happy that I started to pump Chris Evans up because that was their guy. That was their sleeper guy.
“The league is more than aware of him. You don’t find 220 pound guys that can detach as route runners and get open and catch the ball down the field as naturally as he does. So he’s kind of that positionless player that the league wants to go to on both sides of the ball, like you can move the ball around. This happens every year when you’re in draft meetings and you inevitably have scouts describe guys as ‘this guy is going to be a better pro than he was a college player.’ And I think Chris Evans is going to be a great example of that.”
Evans, a four-star recruit in Michigan’s 2016 recruiting class, finished his Michigan career with 1,795 yards and 15 touchdowns in 320 carries. He was thought to be another versatile weapon in Josh Gattis’ offense, but was only given 16 carries throughout the 2020 campaign and finished with just 73 yards rushing on the season.
But he’s giving himself a chance.
For more of our conversation with Nagy, be sure to check out the full chat here with more excerpts coming to the site in the coming days and throughout the draft process.
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