After acquiring pick 118 in the NFL Draft via a trade with the Cleveland Browns, Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah selected Akayleb Evans, a cornerback from Missouri.
Who Is Akayleb Evans?
Evans spent the first four years of his college career at Tulsa before transferring to Missouri in 2021. However, even with his move from the AAC to the SEC, he showed zero drop-off in production, posting career highs in interceptions, passes defended, and forced fumbles.
In 2021, Evans played 11 games and logged 597 defensive snaps, 278 in coverage. In those nearly 300 coverage snaps, Evans allowed 25 receptions for 271 yards on 47 targets, according to PFF.
Evans’s strengths are certainly his height, length, and speed. He has all of the elite measurables that are required to be an outside corner in the NFL. These traits allow Evans to be a physical corner that can press a receiver at the line and then run stride for stride with them down the field.
However, he did fall deep into the draft for a reason. Evans had almost zero ball production in his college career, only logging one interception in his 31 career starts. He was also penalized ten times over the past two seasons. Those two factors, combined with his unrefined technique at the position, clearly raised some red flags for evaluators.
Dane Brugler, a writer for The Athletic, described Evans as a player who “doesn’t have the résumé or reaction quickness of a playmaking corner, but he has an enticing combination of size, length, and speed to hold up in man or zone coverage. He projects as a rotational corner in the NFL with starting upside.”
My Take On Evans
After watching nearly three hours of Akayleb Evans tape from the 2021 season and the “Reeses Senior Bowl,” it was clear to me what Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings coaching staff saw in him.
In the first coverage snap I watched, Evans was one-on-one on the outside covering Treylon Burks, the Tennessee Titans’ first-round pick this year. Evans played 9-yards off the line of scrimmage, and Arkansas tried to take advantage of that by throwing a quick screen to Burks. Evans reacted quickly and brought down the 6’2 225lbs WR after gaining just one yard. An excellent first impression.
During the one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl practices, I got a taste of his strengths and weaknesses. It was hard not to love his size and speed, and during these drills, he also showed some great footwork. However, there were also instances of him getting penalized and burnt on double moves. But these are fixable issues, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is clearly betting on the abilities of his coaching staff to get the most out of Evans’s unique physical capabilities.
*Here is a link to my tweet with his Senior Bowl film if you want to see it yourself.
What To Expect From Evans As A Rookie
I certainly would not expect much. The battle for the second starting corner position will likely be between Andrew Booth Jr. and Cameron Dantzler, which would make Evans a depth piece and a special teamer. However, this is not a bad thing because it would allow Evans the time to learn. Evans is a project, and the Vikings should handle him that way.
If you enjoyed this piece, check out my other article here!