Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
(percentile rank among all RBs at Combine since 1999, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.41 seconds (89th percentile)
Vertical: 37 inches (80th)
Broad: 125 inches (88th)
20-yard shuttle: n/a
Evans landed at Appalachian State as just a 2-star recruit out of Florida, choosing the school over offers from Air Force, Army, Ball State and Bowling Green.
As a freshman, Evans appeared in 12 games while ranking just 4th on the team in carries. That backfield was led by then-sophomore Jalin Moore, who has since landed with the Jets. Evans did take over kick returns, though, averaging 22.5 yards per try and scoring a TD.
Evans had to take a medical redshirt in 2017 for a right knee injury. He credited the time off, however, with allowing him to learn the “whole offensive playbook” and helping prepare him for the opportunity that arose in 2018.
Evans opened his redshirt sophomore season behind Moore, carrying just 19 times through 4 games. But Moore fractured and dislocated his left ankle in Game 5 and missed the rest of the season. Evans took over to average 117.8 rushing yards across the final 9 contests and earn 1st-team all-conference honors.
With Moore gone to the NFL in 2019, Evans opened atop the depth chart and finished as the Sun Belt Conference offensive player of the year. He also earned MVP honors for conference championship game -- where Evans scored the first 3 TDs (2 receiving, 1 rushing) -- and the New Orleans Bowl (19-157-1 rushing line). Evans ranked 9th in the nation in rushing yards (17th in yards per game) and 10th in rushing TDs.
He also continued to deliver as a return man, averaging 25.7 yards per kick return for his career and scoring a TD each season. (Evans never returned a single punt, though.)
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: Louisiana 2018, Georgia Southern 2018, Middle Tennessee State 2019, South Carolina 2019, Louisiana 2019, North Carolina 2019
It doesn’t take long to see what Evans does well. He’s a smallish back who does his best work in space. The speed shows up right away when he finds an opening.
Thus, the success on kick returns.
Evans presents nice vision to find cutback opportunities and doesn’t hesitate to attack the seam. He also sports some agility and slipperiness to sort through inside traffic.
But there’s absolutely no power to his running, and that will likely keep him from being an effective every-down back in the NFL.
Evans simply doesn't run through tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked just 65th in broken tackles per attempt among 149 qualifying RBs over the past 2 years.
Here, Evans goes down to a mere arm tackle by a defender whose momentum had been taking him in the opposite direction of the RB’s cutback.
Evans caught a solid 21 balls in 2019, his lone full season as App State’s lead back. But I saw barely any receiving reps in the 6 games I watched. The Mountaineers split him out as a receiver on plenty of occasions, but I only saw 1 target from such a spot (which fell incomplete). He ranked just 5th on the team in receptions for the season.
Evans is fast. Only Jonathan Taylor (4.39 seconds) ran a faster 40 among RBs at this year’s Scouting Combine. Even when we factor in his relatively diminutive size, Evans still ranks 4th in the class with an 86th-percentile speed score.
He looks well suited for a team that plans to use him on kick returns and get him out in space as a scatback type. But Evans doesn’t look like a special prospect in any particular facet. PFF rated him just 51st in 2-year rushing grade among 149 qualifying backs over the past 2 seasons. That’s above average level for the group -- but short of standout range.
Evans’ list of comparable players on Mockdraftable also feels like an NFL cautionary tale …
1. Kenny Irons: never made an NFL roster
2. Felix Jones: 1st-round pick who topped out at 185 carries
3. Bernard Scott: 6th-rounder with 259 career carries
4. Jordan Todman: undrafted free agent with 124 career carries
5. Justice Hill: too early to tell
6. Julius Jones: biggest success here by far; arrived in 2nd round and had nice 1st 4 years but didn’t get 2nd contract with Dallas; never hit 700 rushing yards in final 4 seasons
7. Ramonce Taylor: never made an NFL roster
8. Antonio Pittman: 4th-round pick who totaled 117 carries and 21 catches in 2 seasons
9. Marlon Barnes: undrafted free agent with 15 career carries and 3 targets
Pro Football Focus’ comp fits a similar profile. Aaron Green went undrafted in 2016 and has since appeared in just 2 NFL games with 0 touches.
To be fair: Player Profiler returns Darrell Henderson as Evans’ top comp. We don’t yet know what Henderson’s NFL career will look like, but he still looks like an exciting prospect with 2020 opportunity awaiting right now.
Of course, no comparison to any previous player will actually impact what Evans does in the pros. The point here, though, is that we’ve seen lots of similar prospects enter the league before -- without much success.
In the right spot, Evans could leverage his speed into some production. But he’s likely a Day 3 NFL Draft pick -- maybe even an undrafted free agent -- and doesn’t deserve special attention in your dynasty rookie drafts.