Wide receiver Mike Evans was instrumental in quarterback Johnny Manziel's success at Texas A&M, and he'll look to further his track record of making quarterbacks look good after being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 7 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora indicated the pick:
Tampa Bay selected Mike Evans http://t.co/YmbIDJqLAr— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) May 9, 2014
Most tabbed Clemson's Sammy Watkins as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect heading into the draft, but there is no question that Evans has the physical tools necessary to potentially usurp Watkins at the next level.
In fact, NFL.com's Gil Brandt believes that Evans may prove to be the best wideout in the entire class of 2014:
Sammy Watkins is great talent but Mike Evans might be best WR in this draft. #NFLDraft— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 8, 2014
Based on what Evans accomplished with the Aggies, that certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility. Although Evans spent just two seasons at Texas A&M, he made an indelible mark on the program that will be present forever.
Evans topped 1,100 yards receiving in each of his two campaigns, including nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. Most impressively, though, Evans averaged over 20 yards per catch last season.
At 6'5" and 231 pounds, Evans most definitely used his size to his advantage. He was able to out-jump and overpower much smaller defensive backs, and he almost always came down with the ball in 50-50 situations.
According to Howard Simon of WGR 550 sports radio in Buffalo, ESPN analyst Todd McShay revealed a stat that suggests Evans was arguably the best big-play receiver in college football last season:
Mcshay on Mike Evans: had highest % of downfield catches(25 yds or more)of any receiver in draft— howard (@hsimon62) April 12, 2014
No offense in the nation was able to make something out of nothing better than Texas A&M's. With Johnny Football running roughshod and buying himself time, Evans was often able to ad lib and get himself open in conflict situations.
There isn't quite as much conflict at the NFL level, but that is a quality that will continue to serve Evans well. Coverages are disrupted when there is pressure on a quarterback, and no receiver in the draft better understands how to handle those moments than Evans.
As a big, physical wideout, Evans has already drawn comparisons to several NFL counterparts. While Evans sees some of himself in multiple receivers, there is one whom he identifies with most, per Ron Musselman of TimesOnline.com (subscription required), via Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:
I get a lot of [Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver] Vincent Jackson comparisons, and that's a great comparison. But I think [Chicago Bears wide receiver] Brandon Marshall. He's vicious after the catch. A big, physical guy, can go up and get it, blocks real well. So I've modeled my game after him since high school.
Which 2014 NFL draft prospect will be the best NFL receiver?
If Evans is able to be as productive as either Jackson or Marshall, then there is no question that he will live up to his draft status and then some.
Evans is far from a guaranteed success at the next level, though.
He acquitted himself fairly well at the NFL Scouting Combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, per NFL.com, but it is clear from watching him that he doesn't have elite speed. That means that he will have to excel at making plays in traffic with defensive backs draped all over him.
He certainly has the ability to do that, but it will definitely make things more difficult since he isn't likely to run by cornerbacks too often.
From a physical standpoint, few players in the 2014 draft at any position are as impressive as Evans. He will most definitely create major matchup problems in the NFL, especially in the red zone. Teams are always looking for big targets who can excel inside the 20, and Evans clearly has that ability.
Although Watkins may be the better overall receiver right now due to his edge in terms of speed and route running, Evans could potentially surpass him with a bit of polish. Evans has all the makings of a superstar NFL receiver, but it will come down to whether or not his new team can mold him into one.
Now, Evans will be paired with Vincent Jackson in a Lovie Smith team looking to retake control of the NFC South. The Bucs elected to pass on Evans' teammate, Johnny Manziel, in a move that has shown a lot of faith in Mike Glennon.
The fact that Evans is somewhat raw makes him a bit of a risk, but he is unquestionably a prospect worth gambling on.
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