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NFL Draft Profile: Akayleb Evans

From Tulsa to Columbia, Evans has had a unique journey in college football. Now, he looks ahead to the dream ending.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Tulsa at Texas
Evans going head-to-head with a current NFL player and former Texas Longhorn, Devin Duvernay.
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Profile:

Name: Akayleb Evans

Position: Defensive Back

Age: 21 (06/22/2000)

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 198 lbs.

Arm Length: 32”

Hand Length: 8 3/4”

Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

Drafted:


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 05 Reese’s Senior Bowl
Akayleb Evans at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pro Day Measurables:

40-Yard Dash: 4.46

Vertical Jump: 36”

Broad Jump: 129”

Player Comparison: Dane Cruikshank (TEN)


Missouri Tigers v Georgia Bulldogs Photo by Steven Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

College Statistics:

Games Played: 38 (11 at Mizzou, 27 at Tulsa)

Total Tackles: 110

Sacks: 1

Interceptions: 1

Passes Defended: 17

Forced Fumbles: 3


College Accolades:

  • 2020 Wuerffel Trophy Watch List (CFB’s Community Service Award)

Overview

Strengths: The wingspan, versatility, and football IQ remain the best attributes NFL scouts are excited about. You can’t teach his size, and he has developed into a guy that can line up all over the field. With so many unique offenses and players in the league now, being a versatile defender is almost a must.

Evans is also a guy who has played a lot of football in his time. He’s seen a lot of action in his five years of college ball, especially compared to some of the other top cornerback prospects (Derek Stingley, Andrew Booth, etc.). NFL coaches won’t have to worry about him being immature or inexperienced in situations.

Weaknesses: His straight-line speed and athleticism does not jump off the tape. He can run with most receivers, but when Evans steps into a higher league, he may find it tougher to keep pace with some of the top-end speed receivers showcased every Sunday.

His slender build could lead to him being bullied by some of the bigger receivers and tight ends as well. At 201 lbs., the weight is there, but adding more muscle to his frame appears to be priority #1 for Evans.

Added weight will also help with durability. Injuries are a concern with Evans, who only played two full seasons out of the five he was in college.

Outlook: From the start, Evans was one of the top dogs on the Tulsa defense. Through years of losing, he was consistent. Outside of a 2019 season that was derailed due to an early shoulder injury, Evans was a mainstay starter for the Tulsa defense. He was commonly known as one of the most gifted defenders on the Tulsa team, as his combination of length and physicality made him a nuisance for opposing wide receivers.

Going up against some of the fast-paced offenses of the American conference, Evans learned how to play both the field and boundary corner spots, as well as some slot. His coverage skills proved to be top-notch thanks to his reach and tracking ability, although he rarely was known for intercepting passes.

On top of all of that, Evans was regarded as an elite screen/run destroyer, as his size and quickness made him more than capable of taking down players in the open field.

It makes sense that in his final year with the Golden Hurricane, the team played the best around him. Evans was one of the leaders of a 2020 defense that allowed only 21 points-per-game, finished with a 6-3 record and made an American Conference Championship Game appearance.

After deciding to transfer, Evans trimmed his final list down to five teams. Jackson State, Mizzou, Texas Tech, Texas, and Notre Dame made the cut (Georgia came in late). However, the deciding factor appeared to be Tigers’ defensive backs coach Aaron Fletcher, who had just come over from Tulsa and had known Evans since his junior year of high school. Thus, Evans and fellow Tulsa starting corner Allie Green IV made their way to Columbia.

Cornerback was the concern for the Tiger defense entering the 2021 season. Evans and Green put those concerns to bed quickly.

Evans managed to record 28 total tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles, and six pass breakups in his lone season with the Tigers, putting together some impressive film against top-tier competition.

The season came to a close, and Evans became one of the first invitees for the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. One of two Tigers at the event (along with Tyler Badie), Evans impressed with his long arms and ability to break up passes, although he was only targeted once in the game itself.

If he can make the appropriate physical improvements, then Evans would seem to be poised for a successful professional career. His size is perfect for what most NFL defenses want to do at the corner spot right now, and he has proven to be a coachable player who wants to win.

With the right fit, Evans could start as a rotational guy but develop into a bona fide starter. As of now, Evans projects to be a late Day 2, early Day 3 pick in the NFL Draft.

Best of luck to Akayleb Evans as he begins his NFL journey. #MizzouMade


What scouts and analysts are saying about Evans:

From Lance Zierlien of NFL.com:

Depending on how he tests, Evans should profile as a height, weight, speed prospect for teams employing multiple zone coverages. He lacks the footwork and short-area agility to maintain man coverage against NFL receivers. Evans has the strength for release redirection and can use his length to swarm the catch from a side shuffle or short zone setting. The measurables are appealing but his injury history must be part of his evaluation as well.

From Kyle Crabbs of TheDraftNetwork.com

Missouri cornerback Akayleb Evans is going to check the boxes for NFL defenses looking for length and physicality on the perimeter. This is a player who came to Missouri in 2021 after a successful career with the Tulsa program—and the jump to SEC competition provided a bit better context as far as where Evans currently wins and loses and just how big of a jump he’s going to face in his transition to the pro level. Physically, he’s an imposing player who offers a good series of punishing strikes as a tackler and ample length to disrupt route releases when he’s implemented in press coverage. But Evans’ instincts in coverage, his tendency to get too physical down the field, and his irregular results as a tackler are going to temper expectations for him early on and will likely result in him being coveted in the middle rounds as more of a developmental player. I like the raw skill set that is present here both on and off the field—Evans has been involved in a number of projects aside from football that indicate he’s a high-character individual, including the Akayleb Evans Foundation in his hometown, which was established in 2017, and serving as the co-vice president of the Black Men’s Initiative while on campus at Tulsa and more. Evans fits the model of what is so often all the rage in the NFL right now with his physical play, length, and stature. As a result, I’d expect even with his developmental needs, he’ll get his name called by early on day three at the latest.

From NFLdrafbuzz.com

Akayleb Evans is an excellent athlete who currently looks a little raw but has elite measurables and if developed correctly may have top upside. He is an elite run defender as a corner who consistently wraps up the ball carrier, but is lacking as a cover corner and gives up too many big plays and penalties.While he has never played safety we think his skills in the box are more suited to the position and NFL teams really need to look at drafting him as a conversion prospect.

As a corner we look at Evans as a fifth-round developmental prospect in the 2022 NFL draft, although at safety he’s probably worth a flier in the fourth.