Everything You Need to Know: CB Akayleb Evans
The Minnesota Vikings were one of the most active teams in the 2022 NFL Draft, making a total of 10 selections. Many of the picks that Minnesota actually ended up selecting were a result of the six trades that were exercised over the course of the weekend. One prospect that ended up as a Viking directly resulting from these trades was CB Akayleb Evans out of Missouri. Minnesota took him with the 118th pick.
Evans played for four seasons with the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, and in those seasons appeared in a total of 27 games. Following the 2020 season, he transferred to the Missouri Tigers, whose defense continuously struggled throughout the year. The unit gave up 33.8 points per game, ranking 113th out of 130 teams in FBS. Evans was the one bright spot on the team and recorded a career-high six pass defenses.
The Vikings made a clear allocation of resources towards making their defense much faster and more athletic. Evans is certainly someone fitting that description. The new Vikings cornerback boasted a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine while also leaping 36 inches in the vertical.
Not only is Evans a terrific athlete, but he delivers in the physicality department as well. Missouri often used him as a run-stopper throughout his collegiate career. His frame of 6’2 and 200 pounds allows him to deliver punishing blows, and that not only helps against the run, but gives him the capability of knocking balls free at the point of the catch.
The most promising thing about this selection is the fact that Evans consistently showed improvement over the course of all five of his years with the Tigers. This bodes well for continued growth and good work ethic as he enters the NFL.
Continued development is something he will absolutely need if he hopes to have a lasting NFL career. Despite playing for five years in college, he is a raw prospect in terms of actual coverage instincts and ability. On top of that, injuries are a major concern as he has missed games every year of his collegiate career, including the majority of the 2019 season with a shoulder injury. However, the Vikings already have a trio of starting quality corners in Andrew Booth Jr., Cam Dantzler, and Patrick Peterson. Evans does not need to make a massive impact as he begins his career.
In terms of his actual role in 2022, I would gander a guess that Evans will be a majority special teamer in his rookie year. He may slide into a nickel role on a few snaps, but these will be few and far between. However, his explosive athleticism and hard-hitting mentality could prove extremely valuable on punt and kick coverage teams. We could see a highlight or two of him blowing up a return man as a gunner.