After ranking dead last in total offense last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers desperately needed to inject young talent on that side of the ball. With the addition of Mike Evans at pick No. 7, the Bucs got a guaranteed stud at the wide receiver position.
As a redshirt sophomore last season, Evans was a consensus All-American with 69 receptions for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns at Texas A&M.
In order for Evans to maximize his potential in the NFL, he must build a relationship with a solid quarterback. Evans and new quarterback Josh McCown are a perfect fit on paper for the new-look Bucs.
Last season, McCown stepped in for the injured Jay Cutler and was sensational for the Chicago Bears. He finished with 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and just one interception for a superb 109.0 quarterback rating in eight games and five starts.
Notably, Chicago had two tall and talented wide receivers to work with in 6’4” Brandon Marshall and 6’3” Alshon Jeffery.
According to McCown himself, tall receivers give him much more confidence in his game:
I'd be lying if I didn't say there was a comfort zone in that. It's very similar (to what I had in Chicago), at least on paper. There's still a lot of work to do. We have to get out there and (Evans) has to learn the offense and we have to start building together, but it was good.
As the article also details, McCown openly endorsed drafting a tall receiver like Evans to his coaches. Clearly, he is hungry to prove last season was no fluke.
In fact, McCown may be more confident this season than last season.
Aside from a potential No. 1 receiver in Evans (6’5”, 231 lbs), the Bucs also have Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson (6’5”, 230 lbs) and rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6’6”, 258 lbs). Even the bottom half of the depth chart has size, such as recent signing Tommy Streeter (6’5”) and Tim Wright (6’3”).
For a quarterback that prefers throwing to tall receivers, this is a dream come true for McCown. And as Evans' Sport Science video with No. 4 pick Sammy Watkins shows, Evans is a special talent.
McCown and Evans should quickly build a rapport, especially with defenses trying to stop the other impact players on offense.
Furthermore, Evans is a former Division-I basketball recruit who only played football for one season. In his senior year, Evans averaged 18.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. On the gridiron, Evans had 25 catches that lone season for an astonishing 648 yards (25.92 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns at Ball High School.
Some of the tidbits in Evans’ basketball profile, excerpted in a recent ESPN feature by Pat Yasinskas, are also a good indicator of how his abilities will translate smoothly to the NFL:
He has a strong motor, great athleticism and true toughness. … Mike is typically the first to jump in a crowd for a rebound. Offensively, Mike does the majority of his damage by attacking the rim… He will use his body to knock defenders off balance to score. Mike has good hands and can catch tough passes in traffic.
The skills he learned in basketball have made him exceptional at attacking the ball in the air. One of McCown’s bigger strengths is an ability to throw the ball where only his tall receivers can grab it.
Evans is not afraid of contact either. He thrives on physical play, a trait that can only help a young player trying to make an impact.
Above all, Evans is motivated to be the best. In Yasinskas' piece, Evans discusses the chip on his shoulder as he enters the league:
I’m going to do anything it takes to win, get involved in the run game, be physical. I’m going to go get the 50-50 balls. Be a great teammate and try to bring leadership. … People criticize me on speed and route running and that I’ve only been playing football for the last four years. I’m improving my game and am going to try to fight for a starting job right away. I’ve been working on my route running. Speed? I’ll let people see if I get caught.
Confidence is clearly not a problem for Evans. And why should it be?
Evans has a dangerous combination of skill, work ethic and desire. He will stop at nothing to become the best, which he has a good chance to accomplish.
It certainly helps his cause when he gets to work with a Hall of Famer:
All the signs point toward a monster season from Evans. While not a burner, Evans is still a breakaway receiver with a distinct size and skill advantage in the air.
Evans’ quarterback has thrived with tall receivers, too. Once McCown takes enough reps with Evans, the Bucs will soon have one of the top receivers in the league.