The Minnesota Vikings 2022 rookie class provides a lot to be excited about. From first-round pick Lewis Cine to Andrew Booth and Brian Asamoah, these players will, of course, hope to have an impact in Year 1.
Moving into the middle to late rounds, there is still plenty of potential, and one of those players has embraced his move to Minnesota more than any other. That man is cornerback Akayleb Evans.
Evans has been a breath of fresh air on social media with constant posts and fan engagement, especially when he challenged the Vikings fanbase to help him get to 20,000 Twitter followers. He promised to dye his hair purple once the target was reached, thus buying into the culture of the Vikings. With the goal quickly achieved and true to his word, the rookie cornerback now sports lovely purple hair — a sight that will be incredible to see on the field at US Bank Stadium this season.
As a result, his infectiously upbeat personality is winning the hearts of the Vikings fanbase. When someone actively encourages you to participate in their journey with them, it is impossible not to root for their success. When they get their pet rabbit involved, it’s even better.
All of this only gets you so far, though. Ultimately, it will be performances at practice and hopefully on game day that matter the most. Evans has already caught the eye with strong spring practices, enough for some to suggest he could even be an outside candidate for a starting role.
Drafted by the Vikings in the 4th round with the 118th pick, the former Missouri Tiger comes into a packed cornerback room. However, there aren’t any nailed-on starters at cornerback for the Vikings. Patrick Peterson will be the veteran leader of the group. Cameron Dantzler comes into his third year and has had an up and down couple of years. Second-round rookie Andrew Booth makes up the three favorites to compete for a starting role.
After those three, Evans will be competing with Nate Hairston, Chandon Sullivan, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand, Parry Nickerson, and Tye Smith for a roster spot and, ultimately, game time. The fact that he is a draft pick of the new regime probably gives him an advantage — so long as he performs well in pre-season. So far, he has done just that, and with training camp now starting, it’s down to him to continue to show what he can do.
He has the length and physicality to be a success on the perimeter, as you would expect from a Day 3 draft pick. The view was that he had areas of his game that needed developing, notably getting “too physical” down the field and inconsistent results as a tackler. The raw skill set is there, and with good coaching, there is the potential for a starting caliber player. I fully expect him to make the 53-man roster as a minimum.
Outside of football, Evans has been involved in several projects that indicate he’s a man of high character, including the Akayleb Evans Foundation in his hometown, which was established in 2017, and serving as the co-vice president of the Black Men’s Initiative while on campus at Tulsa and more.
Evans checks just about every box you want from a player on your team. He is already making an impact as a person. Similarly, he now needs to make an impact as a player. He is a player to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.
Expect big things from Akayleb Evans. It’s just a matter of when.