Mike Evans Completes a Scary Wide Receiver Duo in Tampa Bay
If you’ve paid any amount of attention to the 2014 NFL Draft, you’ve heard of Mike Evans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected the Texas A&M receiver with the seventh pick of the first round of this year's NFL Draft. Now that Evans is officially an NFL player, it’s time to look at how he can impact Tampa Bay in 2014 and beyond.
Mike Evans is, first and foremost, a physical freak. At 6’5”, he is as tall as Calvin Johnson and weighs approximately five pounds less. When compared to other big name receivers in this year's draft class, Evans is easily the biggest. However, Sammy Watkins and Jordan Matthews both recorded more receptions and receiving yards in 2013. While he has certainly has a size advantage over other draft prospects, his prior workload is lacking. Evans also only played two seasons at Texas A&M, while Sammy Watkins and Jordan Matthews played three seasons and four seasons, respectively.
Big Mike has proven to be a very physical player who can rack up yards and snag touchdowns along the way. Evans recorded consecutive seasons with over 1,100 receiving yards, and had five touchdowns in 2012. In 2013, his touchdown totals skyrocketed as he reached pay dirt 12 times (tied for the most receiving scores in the SEC). His 2013 performance is something to be optimistic about, as it does look similar to what teams expect from a top notch wide receiver. Overall, he has strong potential to be a big red zone threat, and is physical enough to overpower defensive backs.
However, we need to remember that Evans caught passes from Johnny Manziel, who was a prolific college quarterback. Evans does have great speed for a player his size (4.53 40-yard dash), but this isn't the only factor in the equation. We have to remember the importance of opportunity in the NFL.
And opportunity might just be what Evans gets in his new offense.
Impact with the Buccaneers
Tampa Bay made a smart move by taking Evans with their first-round pick. The Bucs' offense was horrid in 2013, as they ranked 27th in our Adjusted Passing and Rushing Net Expected Points metrics. The team's Passing NEP came in at -41.75, while their Rushing NEP came in at -16.46 (both figures are adjusted for strength of schedule). In other words, the team played about 63 total points - real points - below expectation compared to a replacement-level offense. Not good.
After parting ways with Mike Williams and Tiquan Underwood this offseason, what remained, outside of wideout Vincent Jackson, was a lot of nobodies. Have you heard of Skye Dawson? Neither have I, because he hasn't recorded an NFL snap. The absence of a true second option in the receiving game made Tampa Bay's final draft decision even more important.
According to Evans' combine numbers, dimensions and team (Tampa Bay), our READ tool can spit out similar, comparable players that have formerly been in similar situations as rookies in the league. Think of it as historical representations of what Evans could be during his rookie season with the Bucs. Three of the top six READ comparables for Evans - Kendall Wright, A.J. Green and Marques Colston - caught at least 64 passes during their rookie campaigns. Green and Colston are two of the most prolific rookie wide receivers the NFL has ever seen, too. That's good news for Evans.
What might not be is that, on Thursday night, Lovie Smith addressed the media and explained that Mike Glennon will be their "quarterback of the future." This was in response to questions about why Smith chose Evans over any of the quarterbacks that were available. Smith believes that the Bucs can use former Bears' quarterback, Josh McCown, as their starter now, but as Glennon develops, he could end up taking over.
When comparing the two quarterbacks, it's quickly evident that McCown is a superior option. Not strictly because of McCown's magical season in Chicago, but because it would be difficult for McCown to be worse than how Glennon performed in 2013. Glennon had a negative Passing NEP (-23.43), and was only better than eight other signal-callers who dropped back to pass 200 or more times last year. I would be shocked if we see much playing time from Glennon in 2014, unless McCown gets hurt or becomes the quarterback he was early on in his career.
If Tampa Bay believes that they can win with the quarterbacks that they already have, adding another huge weapon across from Vincent Jackson is the right move. Even if the Bucs' offensive scheme leans more towards running the ball, this rookie will be involved as a blocker. As long as Tampa Bay's coaching staff can find some consistency at quarterback, Evans will have an immediate impact in the NFL.
In short, Big Mike is here. And it's time to pay attention.