The New York Jets finally started to address their receiver situation in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, first with Jalen Saunders, then with Shaq Evans. While Saunders is a slot receiver, Evans is a much more traditional wideout who has the ability to play on the outside. With the Jets still lacking a clear cut starter opposite Eric Decker, Evans could make an impact early.
At 6’1″, 213 lbs with a 4.51 40, Evans has the measurables you look for on the outside. While not a special athlete, he is certainly a very good one, and he uses that athleticism to make plays over the middle and down the field. Evans had 9 touchdowns in his senior season, and his presence in the red zone and on deep balls could be a huge boost for the Jets.
Right now, Decker and Jeremy Kerley are clearly the Jets’ two best receivers, though Kerley is much better in the slot than on the outside. The Jets also figure to heavily use two tight ends sets that feature Jace Amaro lined up as a receiver. That means that the Jets may not necessarily use a typical No. 2 receiver in a traditional starting role. However, someone needs to establish themselves as the third option behind Decker and Kerley, and that could be Evans.
Evans is actually very similar to David Nelson, who was a pleasant surprise for the Jets last season and emerged as a very reliable target for Geno Smith, particularly on third downs. Evans offers a little more big play ability than Nelson, but without the polish on his routes. Given that Saunders figures to work as Kerley’s backup, Evans and Nelson should be the main competitors for the other “starting” role, with Jacoby Ford and Stephen Hill also challenging.
The wide receiver competition is wide open after Decker and Kerley, and the Jets are so desperate to improve their passing attack that they will find playing time for anyone who impresses in camp. With his size and physicality, there is a good chance that Evans could be that player, and reports have already trickled in that he has been the most impressive receiver in the Jets’ rookie minicamp.
There is still a long way to go before the season and the receiver competition will be fierce, but don’t be surprised if Evans makes the biggest impact of the reserves. He has the potential to present an upgrade on the outside and give the Jets another vertical weapon, and Marty Mornhinweg must find a way to take advantage of Evans’ skill set.