In the fourth round of the draft this year, the Vikings elected to draft 6’2, 197 pound cornerback out of Missouri, Akayleb Evans. Many looked at Evans as a developmental prospect with some upside. Yet, using a fourth round pick people were also questioning whether the value was there for that pick. Now, with training camp underway and Evans playing well he has surprisingly been rolling out with the second team. It’s time to take a deep dive into where he came from and what type of player he is.
Coming out of high-school as a two-star recruit, Akayleb committed to Tulsa University in 2016. As a Golden Hurricane he played four seasons and he had a total of 59 tackles with zero interceptions in 27 games played. He redshirted his junior year only playing three games after suffering a season ending shoulder injury. Having eligibility left, he decided to transfer to Missouri due to the open spot at the cornerback position there according to rockmnnation.com. In his final season at Mizzou he had totals of 28 total tackles and 1 interception making it his best season of his college career and boosting his draft stock tremendously with his solid play and good intangibles.
I took a deep dive into Evans film from college and found that Akayleb Evans is your prototypical cornerback with strength and size that’s perfect for the position. That said, he does seem to have a handful of aggressive and undisciplined tendencies which create sticky situations. With the raw talent that he has he is looked at as more of a project player.
Evans has great on-ball skills. With the ability to jam players off the line and disrupt initial moves he creates chaos on man coverage. When he fails to do that he has the speed and recognition to fight back into the receivers routes and recover nicely. WIth Missouri’s scheme Evans played a ton of cover 3, with his ability to cover a third of the field nicely and adjust to outbreaking route trees. Throughout his career he has struggled with ball-tracking and ball-awareness.
Evans has a solid ability to transition out of coverage into different or multiple assignments in the flats and curls when given time and recognition. Admittedly, however, transitions are a tough ability to gauge with different sorts of scenarios happening at all times.
When Evans has been able to read the play and strike down on it he has created havoc with the ball carrier delivering nice tackles as well as hard hits. However, he is inconsistent when he is approaching the carrier and taking poor angles to the ball.
Football IQ, or the ability to read and react instinctually, is a hard skill to really process and see. But Evans has some work to do here with a tendency to overcommit and try to make a game changing play. He had trouble in college with anticipating coverages and he needs to be able to see and go get the ball which isn’t something he did very well.
Finally, his ability in the run game is very intriguing. He gave us good film of him collapsing and filling some holes nicely. While being able to wrap up and stop the run when needed. His tackling is very good and showed potential to be a well versed player in that regard.
My Overall Grade of Evans:
I think Evans has built and developed into a somewhat talented player with developmental potential. He has really good on-ball coverage skills but he needs work in other areas. The value of a cornerback in the fourth round is always good. Taking a flyer with lots of potential never hurts.
Performance so far at Camp:
Evans has played very solid throughout the first week of camp. He has found himself mixing into reps with the 2s. In 1v1s he has had nice footwork and hip mobility while breaking towards the ball. Some of his best work was on comeback routes where he read the QB nicely and shifted towards the ball. Having solids pass breakups as well as disruptions. He has shown nice ball skills so far and made great plays. Look to see him get more reps with the second team.
Evans has seemed to have grown a liking for the Vikings with him constantly posting about how much he loves Minnesota and how he cannot wait to continue to work. If Evans can continue to improve he will fit in nicely for depth this upcoming season and will continue to fight for more playing time. He seems to be turning heads and he will continue to do that.