Name: Mike Evans
Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Weight: 231 lbs.
School: Texas A&M
Strengths: Evans is an absolutely huge receiver in every sense of the word. A former basketball player who uses his size to box out defenders and can go up and highpoint the ball, Evans also makes big catches when the offense needs him to. When he goes up for a catch, his strong hands make it very hard for defensive backs to come down with the ball. All of that makes him a ridiculous red zone target.
After the catch, Evans is awfully hard to take down as his strength and body size allow him to plow through would-be tacklers, dismissing any attempts to arm tackle. Evans’ size and physicality also help him blocking, something he does effectively and aggressively.
Evans is not just physically tough, but mentally tough as well, having stepped up when his team needed him to in big moments throughout his college career. On top of that, he is the type of receiver with a big catch radius and was the recipient of more than a few Johnny Manziel throws where the quarterback put the ball up in the air knowing Evans would make a play.
Weakness: Evans’ speed is does not help him separate and he doesn’t quite have the explosion off the line to force a defender backwards or get past him quickly. A lot of his catches and routes and he needs to refine his route running. Because he gets very little separation, Evans has to rely on his physicality to win catches—sometimes that’s fine, but it often makes his job harder than it needs to be. Evans didn’t have to run a full route tree so there is some concern he might need to catch up at the NFL level.
Intangibles: Everything you see and hear about Evans tells you he is a tough player, emotional and fiery during the game and enthusiastic off the field. On occasion, that can get him into trouble and we’ve seen other receivers (the Chicago Bears Alshon Jeffery comes to mind) who struggled against savvy defensive backs who could get in their head. That’s a maturity thing and the best receivers get over it (Jeffery did) but might curtail his success early on. Still, you like a guy who is passionate about the game and if he can keep his emotions under control, that enthusiasm will be an asset to an NFL franchise.
Notes: An interesting though occurred to me about Evans while I was doing an article this week. Daniel Jeremiah and Curtis Conway of NFL Network were discussing Evans recently and the idea came up that, as good as Manziel was, Evans may have made him more than Manziel made Evans.
While we could debate that all day, it reminded me of the 2008 NFL draft, the first year I really covered the draft intently. Early on in the draft process, people were fawning all over Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson.
As I started to watch Kentucky games, I began to notice Steve Johnson and Keenan Burton making a tremendous amount of plays on balls that were not well thrown. After seeing Johnson work out with Travelle Gaines in Los Angeles, I remember discussing with the people I was with (ESPN Denver Radio’s Cecil Lammey and former BR writer and Footballguys co-owner Sigmund Bloom among them) about how we were getting the feeling that Johnson and Burton were the only reason anyone was talking about Woodson.
Now, this is not to compare Manziel and Woodson—Manziel is a ton more talented and will be a much better NFL player than Woodson ever was. Put that aside.
This is more about things which jumped out at me in terms of what Evans can do for an offense and a young quarterback. I think in our zeal to discuss Manziel, we’ve missed just how vital Evans was to that offense, much like we initially missed how critical Stevie Johnson was to Woodson.
And while Manziel is far more talented than Woodson, he certainly hauls the ball into the air with reckless abandon at times, knowing full well he has a receiver who can make the catch.
Consider that Evans’ 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns are far and away the best totals on the team. The next closest receiver was Derel Walker, who I don’t have ranked in my top 25, CBS Sports has ranked as their No. 54 receiver and Draftcountdown.com’s Scott Wright doesn’t even have ranked.
And Walker still falls short of Evans’ by 576 yards, 18 catches and seven touchdowns (though his 800 plus receiving yards are worthy of note). Evans accounted for just under a third of Manziel’s 37 touchdown passes and 33 percent of his 4114 passing yards.
Again, this isn’t to downplay what Manziel did, as if he couldn’t have without Evans (an interesting but off-topic discussion)m so much as to point out how important Evans was—and how important he could be for his new quarterback.