Bengals: Can one Michigan RB make us forget about another’s failures?
The University of Michigan has provided the Cincinnati Bengals with two excellent running backs. Can the second fill the unfilled promise of the first?
The Bengals drafted Chris Evans in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He has turned out to be everything that he was expected to be before the draft and after Giovanni Bernard’s exit. He showed a ton of potential on limited carries at Michigan. His talent was undeniable as he finished his collegiate career with 1,795 yards on 320 carries and 49 receptions for 479 yards.
Some of you already know this, but Evans was not the first running back named Chris out from the University of Michigan to dawn the orange and black stripes. That distinction belongs to Chris Perry.
The new Bengals tailback will certainly surpass the accomplishments of another.
Perry was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. As a member of the Wolverines, he ran for 3,657 yards on 794 carries and 39 touchdowns. He also hauled in 64 receptions for 569 yards and scored two receiving touchdowns. He was a threat who could score at any moment. Unfortunately, his career with the Bengals was full of injuries.
During his tenure in Cincy, he could never crack the starting lineup over Rudi Johnson or Cedric Benson. He had spot starts here and there, but those were due to injuries. Perry ended his Bengals career having played in just 35 of a possible 66 games. He finished his career with 177 rushing attempts for 606 yards and two touchdowns. Along with 83 receptions for 474 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
At this point, it is safe to say that Evans, if healthy (knock on wood), will far exceed those numbers within the lifetime of his rookie contract.
Evans and Perry are very similar in height and weight. Evans is listed at five-foot-eleven and 219 pounds. Perry was listed at six-foot-one, 220 pounds.
During the draft process, Perry only participated in the 40-yard dash and bench press. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and threw up 19 reps on the bench press. Evans pushed up 20 reps on the bench press and ran a 4.5-second 40 as well, nearly identical numbers as Perry.
Evans did a lot more during his pre-draft process than Perry. His explosion was on full display at Michigan’s pro day. He scored in the 95th and 92nd percentile in the vertical jump and broad jump, respectively.
Their skill sets coming out of college are very similar. Both were very explosive. They were also versatile with their ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
The major differences are draft status and expectations. Perry was a Heisman Trophy finalist and first-round selection. Meanwhile, Evans was a sixth-round pick, even though he should have been selected higher.
As one writer wrote back in April:
"The five-foot-eleven 211 pound Wolverine RB has a lot to prove. On the field, Evans showed that he has some of the same traits as Bernard. Evans runs hard with good explosiveness. Evans displayed good hands when catching the ball out of the backfield. Evans does not have the production of other RBs."
The lack of production is partly due to an off-field issue, but it is also because Evans was a part of a three-back rotation at Michigan. Evans is going to be a good addition to a team and will surely exceed expectations. Look for Evans to come off the board in the fourth round.
Hopes are high for Chris Evans, Cincinnati’s own version of Captain America. He has shown us some of the things we hoped to see from Chris Perry all those years ago. Now, can Evans provide the results that remained on the cutting room floor from Perry’s tenure? Time will tell. But Evans is off to a good start.