In my last article, I took a look at Sammy Watkins, who many believe is the top WR prospect at this point. Now, I'm going to look at another WR that deserves to be in that same discussion. On January 2nd of this year, Mike Evans decided to enter this years NFL Draft and forgo his final 2 years at Texas A&M. This decision was not surprising as Evans is projected to be drafted in the 1st round by most media outlets. Mike Evans is a very intriguing prospect because of his big frame and impressive athleticism. What's even more impressive, is Evans had only played one year of football in High School before committing to Texas A&M. Evans stopped playing football after the ninth grade to focus on basketball. As a senior at Ball High School in Galveston, Texas, Evans averaged 18.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Evans then decided to play football his senior year in HS and recorded 26 receptions for 750 yards and 7 TD's. At 6'5, 180 lbs, Evans was an unranked, 3 star recruit according to Rivals. He was recruited by Texas A&M, Colorado St. and Tulane before deciding to sign with the Aggies. Since then, Evans has bulked up and put on another 45 lbs.
After being redshirted his Freshman year, Evans put up some impressive numbers in 2012. He was 3rd in the SEC in receptions (82), and 3rd in receiving yards (1105). Evans became much more of a deep threat the following year and led the SEC in TD's (12), and was 2nd in yards per reception (20.2).
Against Alabama and Auburn this year, Evans combined for 18 catches for 566 yards and 5 TD's, becoming the first player in SEC history to have two games with at least 225 receiving yards.
It's pretty clear at this point that the Lions could use a deep threat #2 WR opposite of Calvin Johnson to take a little pressure off of him. When you think of a "deep threat" WR, normally you think of a guy who can blow by defenders and get behind defenses fairly easily, but Evans isn't much of a speedster. However, Evans happens to have the highest % of catches of 20 yards or more at 25.45%. That's 15% higher than Sammy Watkins, and 19% higher than Jordan Matthews. Granted, those guys are getting mostly screen passes and turning them into yards after the catch. But still, that's a pretty high number for a guy who doesn't outrun many defenders. He can do this because of his height and leaping ability. Evans wins a lot of jump balls and will most likely have the same success at the NFL level. It's almost impossible to stop, and when he gets near the redzone, you might need to double up on him.
Another interesting stat is the amount of comeback routes Evans runs. According to secondroundstats.com, 41.30% of the routes Evans runs are comeback routes. I feel like this number is pretty skewed however, because of the amount of plays Manziel ends up scrambling for a half hour every play. But that's 12% higher than the average. Evans also runs far less in/out routes than average with only 15.22% of his routes.
Being a former basketball player, Evans has a ridiculous catch radius. He apparently had a 39' vertical as a Freshman, and in this particular play you can see how high he can get off the ground when he needs to. Evans is extremely tough to bring down. As you can see here, he catches the ball on a slant and drags the defender for almost 10 yards. Evans averaged about 8.5 yards after the catch, and a lot of those had to do with his size and toughness, rather than speed. Just watch this whole video...seriously. Evans had two big catches in the first minute, a nice block on a Manziel run, and later gets a nice 90 yard TD catch. Then with 30 seconds left he catches a jump ball at the 5 yard line with ease. Bama could not stop this man. Another ridiculous game. This time against Auburn. Has a nice touchdown on a screen, and makes a couple key blocks in this game as well. Cannot stop the jump ball. Just so you know, there were about 20 of these jumpball catches to choose from. Just throw up the ball to him, and he's going to come down with it. Out of all the WR prospects in this draft, Evans may just be the best blocking WR. In this play you can see him engaged with the defender and push him away from the sideline, allowing for Molina to get to the outside and try to break free. Nice block on an LSU defender, leading to a 25 yard play.
Evans is known to drop a pass or two as well. Some are balls that are tough to get, but well in his range, and some are right in his hands like this one which happens to turn into an interception. In his bowl game this year, Evans didn't have the best game. On this play, he isn't able to bring in the TD catch. He may have a point on the defensive PI, but ends up throwing a tantrum and gets flagged for it. Not something you want to see our of your star WR. He also gets called for another personal foul about 2 minutes into the video, but it looked to be a bad call.
Why We Should Draft Mike Evans
Why We Shouldn't Draft Mike Evans
Evans is still pretty raw as a prospect. He only played one year in high school, and only 2 years at Texas A&M before declaring for the draft. He needs to work on his routes and make them a little more crisp. At A&M, most of Evans' routes were comeback routes on Manziel scrambles, and rarely did you see him run in/out routes. Evans' athletic ability alone will give him some big plays in the NFL, but eventually he'll need to work on fundamentals. He also needs to work on holding onto the ball. There were 3 plays in a row against Alabama in 2012 where he dropped a pass. Evans might have the highest upside of any WR in the draft, other than maybe Kelvin Benjamin or Davante Adams, and if the Lions decide to go the "safer" route, maybe they'll pick Watkins or Lee if they're available.
Previous Draft Prospect FanPosts: Sammy Watkins
If there are any specific players you guys want me to check out, let me know. I'm trying to decide on who to look at next. Was thinking about maybe looking at Marqise Lee next, or checking out Darqueze Dennard and some CB's. Let me know what you think.