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Zach Evans Fantasy Football Profile - NFL Rookie Sleeper

The Los Angeles backfield has been unsettled and wide-open since Todd Gurley left town. Fantasy managers have grown through stints of Darrell Henderson Jr. and the return of Cam Akers. While Akers is undoubtedly the favorite to be the team's starter, how safe is his job? Just last year, he had requested a trade, and the Rams were said to be taking calls to try and accommodate his wishes. When no team proposed a reasonable offer, the Rams and Akers were forced to reconcile for the remainder of the season. Whether that was done to try to increase his trade value or because the team was truly going to move forward with the third-year running back is unknown.

What we do know is that Akers did enough with his second opportunity to have earned himself another chance as the team's lead rusher. However, 2023 marks the final season of his rookie contract, and there are plenty of questions regarding his future in Los Angeles. If the team does not have plans of re-signing Akers, could they turn to their sixth-round rookie Zach Evans to see if there's a future for him?

While investing in the Los Angeles backfield is not for the faint of heart, Evans does have some sleeper appeal largely due to a depressed cost that allows fantasy managers to invest essentially for free. The options behind Akers are not imposing, which could result in Evans working as a change-of-pace back behind Akers early. Could he be a second-half sleeper if the Rams' season goes south? Let’s dive in, and don't forget to use promo code "BOOM" for 10% off of any premium purchase!

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Zach Evans Prospect Profile

Evans was a five-star recruit who signed with TCU after an illustrious high school career that included nearly 5,000 yards and 76 rushing touchdowns. He appeared in nine games as a true freshman with the Horned Frogs and rushed for 415 yards on just 54 carries. He was able to find the end zone four times. Despite the limited number of touches, Evan wasted no time displaying his explosiveness.

Evans averaged 7.7 yards per carry, which ranked fifth among running backs with at least 50 carries, according to PFF. He also finished third with an impressive 5.76 yards after contact per attempt. 22.2% of his carries went for at least 10 yards, displaying his ability to hit big plays. This is a skillset Akers failed to display in his return to his starting role last season. Evans does things that Akers hasn't shown the ability to do with regularity.

The injury concerns began during his sophomore season when he missed six games due to a toe injury. Despite this, he still led TCU in rushing, ending his 2021 season with 648 yards on just 92 carries. Once again, he impressed with a seven-yard per-carry average. The same explosiveness he displayed as a freshman still popped in his second year. According to PFF, he finished with 4.30 yards after contact per attempt, which ranked 12th among running backs with 75 carries.

Following the 2021 season, Evans transferred to Ole Miss. He played in 12 games in 2022 but still missed time due to injuries. His final season was his most productive yet. He finished with 930 rushing yards on 144 carries. For the third straight season, Evans posted an excellent yard-per-carry average, ending with a 6.5 average. Among running backs with at least 100 carries, this was the 13th-best. He finished with 33 rushes of over 10 yards, which was the 25th-most, despite being just 89th in carries. Over three collegiate seasons, he rushed for 10 yards on 21.3% of his carries.

While Evans offers high home-run ability as a rusher, he was modestly used in the passing game over three seasons and two different universities. He ended his collegiate career with 43 targets, 30 receptions, 325 yards, and a 1.35-yard-per-route run average. Sports Info Solutions scout Matthew Kupec had this to say about his skillset in the passing game,

"Evans is a mediocre contributor to the passing game. He can be a serviceable pass catcher on basic screens and check down responsibilities, but he does not provide much value outside of that. While he has a solid frame with sufficient strength, he doesn't translate that to being a sufficient pass protector."


Zach Evans Fantasy Football Expectations

Last year, the Rams' running backs combined for 320 carries, 1,310 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, there's been very little work for the team's running backs when it comes to involvement in the passing game. In 2022, the Rams finished 30th in running back targets with just 63. They were 31st in 2021 with 76 targets, 30th in 2020 with 71, and 32nd in 2019 with 61. That means that if Evans is to be fantasy-relevant this season, he'll need to do so on the ground.

This will be difficult for Evans, especially with how Akers closed the 2022 season. He finished with three straight games with 100 yards or more. With him locked into the starter role, there likely will not be enough work for Evans to be a viable option for fantasy managers this season. With a depth chart of just Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers, it shouldn't be too difficult to work himself into the No. 2 role for the Rams.

His complementary skillset could lead to a role where Evans sees 6–8 touches per game, but Akers will likely remain the goal-line running back. As previously discussed, there's historically been little passing work dedicated to the running back position. This kind of workload will keep Evans solely in the handcuff category.

There is upside for him in the event that Akers misses time. There is also the possibility that if the Rams are eliminated from postseason contention, the coaching staff could decide to give Evans a bigger role in an attempt to see if he has the potential as their future starter. It's unlikely the team will re-sign Akers, which would give them the chance to see how Evans handles a bigger load.

If Akers were to struggle with his efficiency, it's also possible for Evans to earn a bigger touch share over time. Fantasy managers shouldn't be expecting much early from Evans, but he has the potential to be a flex-level player in the second half of the season. He's currently being drafted as the RB62 with an ADP of 204.3, roughly the beginning of the 17th round.

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