"Johnny Football" may have stolen all the headlines at Texas A&M's pro day with a workout that was equal parts athletics and theatrics, but Manziel wasn't the only first-round prospect on the field in College Station Thursday.
Manziel's top target was working out as well, and after another strong showing from Mike Evans, it isn't a question of whether he'll go in the first round.
It's just a matter of how high, because NFL teams have a soft spot for big wide receivers with speed that Chris Johnson could run through.
And I mean Johnson circa last year, not the good one.
At 6'5" and 231 pounds, Evans can run.
Granted, the 4.53-second 40-yard dash Evans ran at the NFL Scouting Combine isn't exactly awe-inspiring. That said, Evans certainly appeared fast enough on Manziel's last throw of the afternoon on Thursday:
Last pass of pro day. Deep ball to Mike Evans! TD. https://t.co/MWREAxgwnC— Coach Terry Price (@Coach_TPrice) March 27, 2014
Also, Evans' quickness becomes even more impressive when you consider just how big he really is:
Better shot of Mike Evans size. pic.twitter.com/7ptvEd26aS— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) March 27, 2014
That size, and Evans' 35.125" arm span (longest of any wideout in Indy) made him a matchup nightmare for defensive backs in college. There's a reason Evans tallied almost 1,400 receiving yards last year and hauled in 12 touchdown passes.
It's called a fade route.
However, it's not fair to Evans to say that his success was due strictly to being bigger than the guy guarding him—or even faster.
Evans also possesses "strong, reliable hands" according to Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com, and Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller wrote that Evans' total package is an enticing one for NFL teams:
Players like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and others have made the big, box-out-style wide receiver in vogue right now, and rightfully so. Each of the three played at an All-Pro level in 2013 with varying styles of play but one thing in common: They were able to outjump and outposition defenders for the ball.
Throw it up, and they're coming down with it. And usually in the end zone.
That sounds an awful lot like what Evans did at Texas A&M. The 6'5", 225-pound athlete has a knack for getting open without great open-field agility, and he uses his frame like a forward posting up in the paint. That works because he's strong, has great length and is crazy good at catching contested passes.
Miller wasn't the only expert who drew the lofty comparison between Evans and the NFL's top wide receiver:
Mike Evans has the best hands I've seen since Calvin Johnson.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 27, 2014
Now, for all this fawning over Evans, it's worth noting that on the majority of big boards (including Miller's) Evans isn't the top wideout. That would be Clemson's Sammy Watkins, he of the 4.33-second speed we last saw making the Ohio State Buckeyes cry.
However, according to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, the times they may be a-changin':
I think Watkins is top WR drafted but don't be surprised if it's Mike Evans. Several teams prefer the former Aggie WR. Had a great day— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 27, 2014
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com echoed a similar refrain. Yes, Jeremiah still has Watkins ranked higher than Evans, but even Jeremiah conceded to "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network (per NFL.com's Bryan Fischer) that it's Evans who could well make the bigger impact early on:
I do love Sammy Watkins, but I think Year 1 we're going to be talking more about Mike Evans just because the touchdown numbers will be higher. If you come into the NFL, you're going to have to learn an NFL offense, and he'll need to continue to develop as a route runner. But I think immediately he'll be a red zone presence, and you will see touchdowns.
That ability to make an early impact has generated interest from any number of NFL teams. Evans, who told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that he's been invited to and will attend the NFL draft in New York, will visit with the Eagles next week.
Of course, the Eagles would all but certainly have to trade up, as more than a few teams picking ahead of them have been sniffing around Evans.
As Josh Sanchez of Sports Illustrated reported last week, Evans is scheduled to visit the New York Jets as well. The Detroit Lions were well represented at Evans' pro day:
Both Martin Mayhew and Jim Caldwell plan on attending Texas A&M Pro Day to check out WR Mike Evans.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) March 26, 2014
Much as things have seemed to fall into place for Mike Evans this spring, it's that last spot that might just bode best for Evans' future. After all, not only would it be the earliest pick of that trio, but the latest "prototypical" wide receiver to enter the National Football League would be cutting his teeth alongside the gold standard at the position.
And that's a thought that should give NFC North defenses nightmares.