Texas A&M's Mike Evans is no stranger to being in the conversation as the No. 1 wideout in the 2014 class with the draft on the horizon.
Evans comes in at 6'5", 231 pounds after catching seemingly anything and everything thrown his way at the collegiate level by one Johnny Manziel. His size-speed combo presents quite the allure for NFL teams, although Evans will presumably have to duel Clemson's Sammy Watkins for the right to be the first receiver off the board.
The notion that Evans beats out Watkins is beginning to gain steam in the national media, as experts such as ESPN's Jeff Legwold, per Adam Schefter, have Evans ranked higher:
In his annual top 100 draft prospects, colleague @Jeff_Legwold ranks Mike Evans as his No. 5 player and Sammy Watkins as his No. 6.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 5, 2014
Much of the reason most experts see Evans first is due to the belief the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 have serious interest, as illustrated by CBS Sports' Dane Brugler:
Looks like more are catching on - WR Mike Evans is a real possibility at No. 4 to the #Browns— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) May 1, 2014
That's quite the scary thought for defensive backs everywhere, as Evans across from Josh Gordon would certainly cause some issues. But what about pairing him with Stevie Johnson in Buffalo? NFL.com's Marc Sessler makes the case:
Bills moving up for 6'5" Mike Evans makes sense. Whaley in April called him a 'dimension that we don't have,' saying: 'It would help EJ.'— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) May 6, 2014
It seems Evans' stock has been on a steady rise as the draft looms, but the most popular notion remains his landing in Tampa Bay at No. 7.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller makes the case in his latest mock, citing Evans' similarities to one Alshon Jeffery that may entice coach Lovie Smith:
Head coach Lovie Smith's last year in Chicago featured Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver. Could he look to build a new version of that duo in Tampa?
By adding a big body like Mike Evans to pair with Vincent Jackson, Smith would have his big, post-up wide receivers to run a vertical offense with. Like Jeffery, Evans is an exceptional box-out receiver with strong hands and an incredible vertical ability (37" jump at the combine). His body control, focus and upside mirror that of the former South Carolina star.
ESPN's Mel Kiper echoed these sentiments in his latest mock draft (subscription required):
Vincent Jackson is 31 years old and entering a season in which, without an addition at wide receiver, he could be facing a ton of attention from defenses. And as I noted previously, if you're drafting the best player available at this slot, Evans fits with that, too. Evans isn't a burner, but he dominates with the ball in the air and is a brutal matchup whether in the SEC or in the NFC South. He can take pressure off Jackson and eventually take his spot.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang, Pete Prisco and Pat Kirwan all agree in their latest mocks, while Will Brinson mocks him to Atlanta at No. 6, and Brugler predicts he winds up in Detroit with Calvin Johnson at No. 10.
It mostly sounds like an echo chamber in regards to Evans, and that's just fine. One dissenting voice is Greg A. Bedard of MMQB, who mocks the wideout to the New York Giants at No. 12:
"Not exactly a need, but with Ebron gone earlier, Evans is too good to pass up. He’ll give Eli Manning the kind of size matchup problem that Jerrell Jernigan hasn’t yet become."
At this point it seems Evans is destined to be a top-10 pick. It has been a long time in the making, as his combination of speed and size are difficult to find at any level. It creates the type of prospect who is both ready to contribute right away and still has an impressive ceiling yet to be discovered.
Unless the majority of experts in the know have bad info, expect to hear Evans' name early on Thursday. Whether it comes before Watkins is a different story entirely.