Until an NFL rookie steps onto the field and puts up some real-game numbers, it’s impossible to accurately predict how he’ll fit into a system and produce. At this point, comparisons have to be considered.
Prior to being drafted, Evans, with his 6’5” frame, was commonly compared to Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Evans heard it all the time, Chase Goodbread of NFL.com reported.
I get a lot of Vincent Jackson comparisons, and that's a great comparison. But I think 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.
Had he been writing fiction, Evans’ statement would have been an interesting bit of foreshadowing—in more than one way. Not only was Evans selected by the Buccaneers weeks after his statement but because he will be working side-by-side with Jackson, a comparison can be made to the Chicago Bears duo Marshall is a part of.
The 6’5” Evans along with the 6’5” Jackson, are very similar targets to the 6’4” Marshall playing with Alshon Jeffery, who is 6’4” as well.
It gets even more interesting when you consider new Bucs quarterback Josh McCown threw 13 touchdown passes last season while filling in for Bears passer Jay Cutler. Seven of those scoring strikes went to Jeffery (4) and Marshall (3).
So Evans and Jackson compare nicely to Marshall and Jeffrey, and McCown has experience tossing touchdowns to tree-tall receivers. This could work out well for the Bucs. How can Tampa Bay exploit opposing defenses with its new one-two strike force?
One of the first ways Tampa Bay will try to use Evans and Jackson will be to split them out wide and get them into one-on-one battles. Both receivers can thrive in these situations.
To get Evans and Jackson into single-coverage situations, the Bucs have to have some sort of threat in the middle of the field. That’s where two other draft picks come in.
Tampa Bay picked 6’5” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round of the 2014 draft, and they added Robert Herron in the sixth round. These two will play integral roles in the middle of the field to make sure Evans and Jackson get a large number of one-on-one situations on the outside.
When facing single coverage, Evans and Jackson should be able create long receptions, and they both have a history of just that. Evans ranked second in the nation last season with 28 receptions of 20 yards or more. No one had more than Evans’ 17 receptions of 30 yards or more. Jackson ranked ninth in the NFL last season with 19 receptions of 20 yards or more.
Tampa Bay will be able to stretch the field in 2014 with Evans and Jackson on the outside.
Other areas both Evans and Jackson should excel include jump-ball situations and grabbing receptions in traffic.
Compared with other receivers in the draft, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com called Evans’ ability to win contested balls unparalleled.
Evans is probably the best receiver in this draft at going up and getting those 50-50 balls. When I see him do that, and he did it often with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, it reminds me of Brandon Marshall's teammate, Alshon Jeffery, who had a breakout season last year. Evans is a little bigger, but both can go up and get the ball with the concentration at the point of attack needed to play big and haul it in.
Jackson has the skills to pull down those passes, too, as seen below against Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel.
The key for the Bucs is to get Evans and Jackson into as many one-on-one situations as possible. Seferian-Jenkins and Herron in the slot will help, so will a power running game that should be paced by Doug Martin and accentuated by Bobby Rainey and Mike James.
The more often Evans and Jackson are able to show off their speed, and to utilize the awesome catch radius both receivers possess, the better both will do in Tampa Bay’s revamped offense.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.
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