Recent NFL draft history has proven teams can find productive running backs in the later rounds, getting great value at a key position that can keep their offensive attack balanced.
Former Michigan RB Chris Evans has every chance to be that player.
Evans, a versatile weapon that can also catch passes coming out of the backfield, spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his time at Michigan, why his versatile skill-set makes him an asset, and why an NFL team should take a chance on him in this year’s draft.
JM: Michigan didn’t play a full season in 2020, but I imagine you were thrilled to be back on the field. How big was it for you to come back this past year and put some good things on tape after not playing in 2019?
CE: It was huge. Being out for a year, not being in the mix, and not being around my teammates, that was tough for me. It was important for me to come back in 2020 and show some flashes of what I’m capable of. Unfortunately, our 2020 season was a short one as you said. COVID-19 had its impact on our season. It cut our season in half. We had a rotation going in the backfield. We had a lot of talented guys in our running back room. I made the most of my opportunities.
JM: You absolutely did that. I thought you did some good things against Penn State and Rutgers specifically. What’s your favorite part of playing the running back position?
CE: My favorite part of playing the running back position is how dynamic you can be in everything that you do. You have to be able to do three different things in order to play this position at a high level. You have to be able to block in pass protection, run the ball and catch it coming out of the backfield. If you want to go to the NFL, you better do those three things.
You’ve probably been running the ball since you were in diapers, but you better do more than that (laughs). You have to perfect your techniques as a pass-catcher. You have to protect your quarterback on passing downs and things of that nature.
JM: That’s a great way to look at it. When I turn the tape on, I see a running back that plays with great contact balance. You’re also a dangerous one-cut runner. Your cutting ability is outstanding. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
CE: I work hard every single day. I’m always trying to add to my game while fine-tuning other areas of my skill-set. I love watching the best running backs and learning from them. I pay attention to how Alvin Kamara plays with contact balance. I do a lot of balance work because of him. I’m always trying to add to my resume. I attack this game at the highest level. When you get the ball in your hands, you have to be a natural. There are some things and situations you can’t train for. Everything changes when another human being is running full speed at you (laughs). The only way to get ready for that is by actually doing it. That’s how you build confidence.
JM: I love that. You’ve touched on the other aspects of playing the position. You’re a dangerous playmaker in the passing game. We’ve seen that on tape. How important is that versatility nowadays? The running back position has changed a lot over the years.
CE: Being able to add that wrinkle to an offense is huge. It’s something that I’ve always focused on. I actually played as a slot receiver back in high school. I had to transition to the running back position at Michigan. I’m a natural route runner. I’ve been doing it my entire life. I’ve always held that advantage in the passing game because I have a background of doing it. It adds another element to my game.
JM: It’s easy to see on film. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams on Zoom. What’s that process been like for you?
CE: It’s going great. I’ve had a lot of conversations with many different teams. I’m keeping the information on which teams I’ve spoken with private at this time out of respect to the teams. We’re going over some of my tape on Zoom. We’re talking football. They’re asking me about our play calls and whatnot. They want me to explain how we blocked specific plays while combing through the film. We’re breaking it down.
Some teams have also called me to do an install. They’re showing me videos and teaching me a play and asking me to turn around and teach the playback to them at the end of our meeting. It’s about retaining information and whatnot. In between the play, we’re talking about my family and my background. I guess they’re trying to throw you off course (laughs). I thought that was really cool.
JM: That’s very interesting. If you could sit down and learn from any running back in today’s game, who would you choose and why?
CE: I would love to sit down and talk ball with Christian McCaffrey. I feel like we play the game in a similar manner. He’s a very smart player. We’ve seen the massive impact he makes in the passing game. He takes care of his body. It would be an honor to pick his brain. That would be really cool.
JM: That’s a great choice. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should a team use one of its draft picks on Chris Evans?
CE: An NFL team should use a draft pick on Chris Evans because I’m a “by any means” type of player. I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help the team be successful. I can play in every phase of the game. I’m gonna do whatever’s asked of me. I have a ton of confidence in myself. Every time I step on the field, I believe I’m the best player out there. I can change a game at any given moment. You’re getting a team-first guy that’s going to make a lot of big plays.
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