NASHVILLE – Jon Robinson says he prefers game film to measurables.
In Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans, the Tennessee Titans’ third-round pick (No. 93 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft, the fifth-year general manager got both. He also got a complementary piece to starting running back Derrick Henry.
“Right now, what you’re looking at is a guy we really liked from a character standpoint and a skillset,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “What his role will be and how we’ll use him will all be defined by the player and how much he can handle.”
At 5-foot-10, 203 pounds, Evans is not built like Henry, but his college stats are comparable to two guys who have put up big numbers in the NFL. He is one of three players in FBS history – Christian McCaffrey (2015, Stanford) and former Titans star Chris Johnson (2007, East Carolina) are the others – with at least 1,400 rushing yards, five touchdown receptions and a kickoff return for a touchdown in the same season. Evans did so last fall when he was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
His three career touchdowns on kickoff returns are a school record.
“It’s just really using my speed to my advantage, using my vision and just making people miss” Evans said. “It’s just something I’ve always worked on, always been able to do and I’m willing to do that. So, when it comes to special teams – whether it’s kick return, punt return, things like that – it’s just, once you get the ball, making a play.”
At the NFL’s scouting combine in February, he stood out among the running backs with a 4.41-second 40-yard dash that was second-fastest at the position and the fourth overall athleticism score among the running backs.
The Titans created an opening immediately behind Derrick Henry on the depth chart when they waived Dion Lewis just before the start of the free agency signing period. For two seasons, Lewis served as a chance of pace back and the primary running back option in pass sets.
Without Lewis, the next two in line are Dalyn Dawkins and Shaun Wilson, two players who spent the majority of 2019 on the practice squad. Between them, those two have combined for 17 carries for 55 yards and three receptions for five yards in their NFL careers.
Under different circumstances, those two would have been given the opportunity to battle for the Lewis’ old job during training camp and the preseason. Now, each will have to fight to earn a roster spot.
“I can change the pace of a game, whether you need something – 80 yards, a quick play or just any kind of explosive plays,” Evans said. “I feel I can get the job done and [Henry and I] can be a great combination.”