The majority of the offseason discussion thus far has been about how to rebuild the New York Giants and their offensive line. It doesn’t take an NFL expert to recognize that pressure was the main culprit for the demise of the Giants’ offense in 2013. Looking into it more specifically, pressure coming through the interior of the offensive line was the biggest culprit. Eli Manning is the type of quarterback who can step up into the pocket and deliver throws with pressure from the outside. He struggles, however, when pressure comes through the “a gap” and up the middle. This should lead us to the accepted conclusion that the Giants need to provide Manning with two new guards and a center.
Historically, guards and centers don’t tend to make great value picks in at No. 12 overall. Both positions can be filled in free agency and many teams have found reasonably priced solutions there in the past. Evan Mathis has become one of the best guards in the NFL, and it took the Philadelphia Eagles less than $2 million to originally sign him away from the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
There has been something else missing for the Giants on offense ever since they reached their peak in the 2011 regular season and 2011 postseason run, and that something is the presence of a big and strong wide receiver that can play both outside spots, the “X” and the “Y.” An outside threat will draw attention away from Victor Cruz and open up the middle of the field.
This is how the Giants’ passing offense and Manning have always thrived, dating back to the days of Plaxico Burress and after that, Hakeem Nicks, before injuries derailed his time with the Giants. The Giants have last seen this production in the 2011 postseason when Nicks racked up 28 catches for 444 yards and four touchdowns in four postseason games.
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Mike Evans is the perfect example of a big outside threat at wide receiver. Aside from his measurables alone, Evans is a complete wide receiver. I have him graded out as the best prospect at his position; Sammy Watkins comes in just a hair behind. Both will be franchise wide receivers if given the right opportunity.
I have watched more game film on Evans than any other wide receiver outside of Watkins and Jared Abbrederis. Here is my scouting report:
Evans posseses strong hands and consistently displayed the ability to secure the ball at the catch point, even when draped over by a defender. He has underrated quickness, speed and football IQ that allows him to run all of the routes. His overall strength allows him to avoid getting redirected on any of his routes. He has great ability to adjust to ball in the air on back shoulder fades and under-thrown passes and a willingness to use his body to shield the defender from the ball. Evans also has experience and success playing in the slot.
By far, the biggest pro of his game that I noticed was his ability to read the defensive coverage and adjust his route accordingly. As you often saw when watching Texas A&M, Evans would seamlessly work his way back to the ball. He always looked like he was on the same page with Johnny Manziel. Evans’ ability to read coverage works perfectly with Manning, as he has been known to put a lot of faith in his receiver’s ability to read the defensive coverage. Formerly, the Giants’ system would require the quarterback and wide receiver to read the defensive coverage on the fly in the same way. Although they are undergoing an offensive scheme change, Manning is a cerebral quarterback, and having a No. 1 target that can successfully read multiple coverages is a major plus.
The only negative takeaway that I have from watching Evans is his straight-line speed; he will most likely not register the top time in the 40-yard dash. He does, however, have enough speed, quickness and strength to successfully burn a defense deep.
Evans reminds me a lot of Vincent Jackson. Manning needs a new No. 1 outside receiver, and the Giants would be smart to use their first round pick on Evans. It won’t take him very long at all to evolve into Manning’s best weapon.