Just Draft Mike Evans in Fantasy Football and Don't Worry About It

Evans didn't live up to his draft cost last year. He might fall short again, but it doesn't matter.

It's not often that a wide receiver disappoints as much as Mike Evans did in 2015.

Last year, in 12-team PPR fantasy football leagues, Evans was drafted, on average, in the middle of the third round, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Only 13 other receivers had a higher ADP than Evans had. Fresh off of a 12-touchdown campaign as a rookie, Evans had a cost that really gave him no room for error.

With 74 catches and 1,206 receiving yards, Evans wound up the WR22 in PPR leagues last season, despite just 3 touchdown grabs. That's a pretty nice finish all things considered, though the investment was a losing one in the long run.

Problematically, Evans' failure to live up to his WR14 cost in 2015 hasn't scared off the fantasy football community. Rather, he's being drafted in the middle of the second round this year, on average, up a full round from last season.

Can he live up to the WR11 hype this season? And does it really even matter?

Projecting Evans

Our initial projections for Evans look similar to his 2015 year-end totals: 76.56 catches, 1,191.53 yards, and 7.86 touchdowns.

The catches and yards are nearly identical to his marks from last season (74 and 1,206), but Evans is a prime candidate for positive touchdown regression in 2016.

Based on his Reception Net Expected Points (NEP), he should have scored 7.63 touchdowns last season. That's pretty much right in line with what we project him for right now.

Now, 7 to 8 scores isn't up to par with his rookie season tally (12 scores), but in the same breath, entering 2015, he looked like a prime candidate to take a step back in the touchdown department.

He overperformed in the touchdown column in 2014 and underperformed in 2015.

And there's a good chance that his overall production isn't enough at his current price.

Falling Short

Our projections rank Evans as the WR20 in PPR formats this year, which is well off the mark of his current price of WR11. If this pans out, we'd be buying Evans at an even higher cost than in 2015 and seeing roughly the same finish that he provided last year in terms of ranking.

The catch is that he finished with 211.6 PPR points in 2015. If he did see his touchdown count bump up to 7 or 8, he would have notched another 24 or 30 fantasy points, good enough for the WR15 mark and just shy of his draft cost.

Maybe we wouldn't even be trying to dig into him to this extent if he had done that.

But the bottom line is that, if we retroactively baked in his expected touchdown total last year, he barely paid off his cost.

And now he's going even sooner in drafts?

Surpassing Expectations

Evans is projected to accrue 242.53 fantasy points in PPR formats -- again a WR20 finish, per our projections. However, our WR11 (his current cost) is projected for 254.20 PPR points.

With an extra two touchdowns on his tally from what's projected, he can live up to the price. In a clearer sense: if he scores 9 or 10 touchdowns, he's likely a top-10 PPR receiver.

We shouldn't be floored if he pushes for double-digit scores again in 2016.

Evans hauled in just 2 red zone catches in 2015 on 14 targets. The two catches is obviously bad, but the 19.4% target market share (the percentage of pass attempts that went to him) was a significant dip from his 25.0% share in 2014, when he caught 8 of his 13 targets from inside the 20.

Not only that, but Evans caught just two of seven targets from inside the 10 last season (both were touchdowns), meaning that he was 0 for 7 on targets from the 20 to the 10.

Conversely, in 2014, he caught four of five targets for four scores from inside the 10.

Even if his volume remains the same -- both inside the red zone and overall -- it's obvious how he can wind up with more fantasy points in 2016 than he had in 2015.

A Can't-Miss Pick?

Barring injury, Evans is about as locked into reliable volume as you'll find at the receiver position outside the few elite options, all of whom are being taken inside the first few picks of fantasy football drafts.

He's flashed elite touchdown upside in his career, and he's almost guaranteed to build on his underwhelming touchdown tally from 2014.

You have to look for reasons to expect him to underperform again, and on the low range of outcomes, he looks certain to be a useful WR2 in all formats.

With the chance to be a league-winner -- he had five top-12 PPR weeks in 2015 (tied for 8th-most at the position) -- and a usable floor based on his volume, Evans is a tough pick to knock even if his price is too high right now.