The Minnesota Vikings are pretty clear on how they feel about running back Dalvin Cook. They want him to be their centerpiece, and it seems that he feels the same way. He is in need of an extension and talks appear to be ongoing. However, the market for Cook has changed with the Carolina Panthers signing Christian McCafferey to a huge new deal.
McCaffrey’s deal reportedly is worth $64 million over four years. This is a huge contract for a running back in today’s NFL. McCafferey is a bit of a special case considering that he is not only the best running back in the NFL, but also the best receiving back making his value extra high. However, the deal will still dictate that Cook needs to be paid a good chunk of change to stay in Minnesota as, when healthy, Cook is on McCafferey’s level as a runner and probably top five in receiving for running backs.
So with the Vikings being as cash strapped as they are in the coming years, thanks to another huge contract extension for Kirk Cousins, they may need to get creative in finding the answer at running back. Cook is a “do it all” back and the Vikings don’t have a straight replacement on the roster at this time.
However, they do have a very good power back in Alexander Mattison. Mattison is also what I would consider a two down back who can catch a pass in a pinch. That means Mattison can be your workhorse, and Mike boone can be there to spell and do a bit of receiving. With this setup though, the Vikings lose some of the best juice in the NFL, so how do they replace that?
With Darrynton Evans, a running back out of Appalachian State University. Evans, a three year player for the Mountaineers, with a redshirt in 2017, racked up 2884 rushing yards, a 6.0 yard per carry average, 25 rushing touchdowns, 319 receiving yards, and six receiving touchdowns. Over half of his rushing yards, and 18 of his rushing touchdowns, came this season. Collected All-Sun Belt first team honors in 2019 and 2018, and Sun Belt Offensive Player of the year in 2019.
Evans returned 56 kicks over three years for 1439 yards, a 25.7 yard average, and a return touchdown in all three years. He also helped Appalachian state reach their first AP top 25 ranking in 2018, and a high ranking of 19 in 2019. The Mountaineers record in his three seasons played was 34-6 with three bowl wins and three conference championships.
At the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Evans measured in at 5’10” and 203 pounds. He was a top performer in multiple drills, running the second fastest 40-yard-dash for running backs with 4.41 seconds. He was also in the top ten in bench press, vertical jump, and broad jump. Evans did not run the three cone, 20 yard shuttle, or 60 yard shuttle.
Evans tape is a fun watch for a couple reasons. First is that Appalachian State’s offense changes formations constantly, and this makes it so that you don’t know where to look. Also, it means that Evans has experience doing a lot of different things. He takes hand-offs straight up the gut, he runs the read option, he plays a wingback, he splits out wide. A lot of things that NFL offenses are doing with their backs now.
He has blistering speed, and when he hits the secondary, he can really throw off angles for defenders. When given a hole, he has a great burst and can break away easily, something that the Vikings might lose if Cook leaves.
Although App. State does run a lot of different formations, most of their runs are out of the pistol and shotgun. They also run almost exclusively zone runs. This means that he should already know the principles of what the Vikings want to do and his transition to the NFL could be more seamless.
One of the things he is lacking is that he doesn’t read holes especially well. He doesn’t have a great feel for how and when to cut back. He does okay in one cut situations where he’s expecting to change directions, but he doesn’t know how to improvise and will often just get behind his blocker and hit the original hole, leaving yards on the table.
He also isn’t going to get you a few yards when you need it. What I mean by this is that he shies away from running into contact, and doesn’t use his power well. He’s smallish, but he could use his frame a little better if he learned to get low and keep driving. As it stands, he goes down quickly after one hit.
If the Vikings want to snag Evans, they will need to spend a fourth or fifth rounder on him. This is about the position I would expect them to take another back if they think they can’t get Cook’s deal done. I also think Evans would be an excellent get. He’s speedy, a good scheme fit, and would be able to cover what Alexander Mattison can’t at a very low price. This is all contingent on what happens with Cook though, and nobody knows how that will go.
Projected Draft Position: Fourth-Fifth round
Best Traits: Speed, Scheme fit
Biggest Drawbacks: Power, Vision