After cashing in big time during free agency with acquisitions of Alterraun Verner, Michael Johnson and Josh McCown, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned their attention to the wide receiver position with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. With this pick, the Buccaneers selected former Texas A&M standout Mike Evans.
Many analysts viewed Evans, the former No. 1 target of now Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, as the second best wide receiver in a very deep and talented draft class. In fact, some even went so far as to say Evans may actually be a better wide receiver prospect than the highly touted, and now Buffalo Bill, Sammy Watkins.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 231 pounds, Evans has an elite physical frame with deceptive quickness and speed. At the NFL combine, Evans recorded a solid 4.53 forty-yard dash time as well as an impressive 34.5-inch vertical leap. He has large hands and arm length that many scouts covet in a pass catcher.
On top of his physical traits, Evans possesses intangible qualities that many coaches drool over. He is a fiery competitor and a vocal leader. While Evans’ competitiveness has also proven to also be a drawback, as scouts have noted that there may be reason to worry about his immaturity and anger issues, chances are that he will learn to control his emotions better with time as he is only 20 years of age.
In Evans, the Buccaneers added another elite talent at wide receiver to complement veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson. This draft decision resembles what the division rival Atlanta Falcons did in 2011 when the team decided to select Julio Jones to complement veteran wide receiver Roddy White. The Buccaneers have had the misfortune of witnessing twice a season how well this decision has worked out for the Falcons thus far. While Evans is not the same type of receiver as Jones, he may very well produce at a similar rate assuming his quarterback, who could be either Mike Glennon or McCown, is able to get the ball in his hands.
Back in early April, the Buccaneers traded away their former No. 2 wide receiver Mike Williams to the Bills. This trade should allow Evans to start immediately this season. His competition for the wide receiver position opposite of Jackson, which includes Louis Murphy, Chris Owusu and Lavelle Hawkins, is rather weak, as each of these receivers’ level of talent pales in comparison to that of Evans.
Throughout OTAs Evans has been impressive. He made a highlight-reel, one-handed catch on the first day of camp that even his harshest critics were forced to marvel at. Despite his success, Evans did sustain a minor hamstring injury. While this injury will not keep him off the field, it may become a lingering issue as many of these types of injuries tend to do. This minor injury may be something to keep an eye on as it may hinder Evans’ development to some extent.
Due to Evans’ status as a near lock as a starter, many have picked him as the favorite to win the offensive rookie of the year award. This may very well be the case, given that there is no clear-cut favorite to win the award. However, the presence of the veteran Jackson and rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will take many targets away from Evans. Also, it is important to keep in mind that a wide receiver has not won the award since Percy Harvin in 2009.
Regardless of whether Evans ultimately is the recipient of the offensive rookie of the year award, he will almost certainly be a day-one starter in Tampa Bay, produce in his rookie season and, in the future, replace Jackson as the Buccaneers’ No. 1 receiver and target.