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May 8, 2014 @ 6:41 pm
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Bucs Add Offensive Weapon, Select Texas A&M WR Evans

Written by Scott
Reynolds
Scott Reynolds

Scott
Reynolds

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The Buccaneers drafted Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans with their seventh overall selection in the first round, bypassing Evans' teammate, quarterback Johnny Manziel. The addition of Evans gives the Bucs two 6-foot-5 wide receivers with Vincent Jackson being the other.
With Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins off of the board, Tampa Bay decided that adding Evans to replace the recently traded Mike Williams would be in the team’s best interest, selecting him with their seventh overall selection in the first round. The Bucs bypassed Evans' teammate, quarterback Johnny Manziel, to take the 6-foot-5 target for Josh McCown.

There’s a lot to like about Evans, who is generally regarded as the second-best receiver in the draft, although there are some talent evaluators within NFL teams and the media that have him rated higher than Watkins. For example, Gil Brandt of NFL.com tweeted about Evans’ hands after his pro day:

“Mike Evans has the best hands I’ve seen since Calvin Johnson.”

Evans is so highly thought of by some NFL scouts that those scouts have even downgraded Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel because so many of his throws were jump balls to the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans.

“In my opinion, he made Johnny Manziel, not the other way around,” an unnamed scout told NJ.com. “A lot of times, Manziel just ran around and threw it up for grabs, and (Evans) came down with it.”

After a redshirt season in 2011, Evans caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. He then caught 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns, including seven catches for a school-record 279 yards against Alabama as a redshirt sophomore. Against Auburn last year, he beat his own records by catching 11 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns against the SEC champions before foregoing his junior season and declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Here is a highlight video of some of Evans’ spectacular catches over the past two years for the Aggies.

There are many reasons why the Buccaneers could have a strong interest in Evans, but at the top of the list is the fact that Smith likes big wide receivers, evidenced by his track record in Chicago. Smith has received criticism for having sub-par offenses and going through multiples quarterbacks – the likes of Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Rex Grossman – before settling on Jay Cutler after trading for him in 2009.

But it wasn’t just the quarterbacks that were holding back the Bears offense under Smith. It was also the wide receiver position, which lacked a big-time playmaker until the Bears acquired Brandon Marshall in a trade with Miami in 2012. Marshall, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver was a two-time Pro Bowler in Denver where he played with Cutler from 2006-09 and a Pro Bowler in Miami in 2011. He would go on to earn Pro Bowl berths in Chicago in 2012, which was Smith’s last season as the Bears head coach and a year in which Marshall set a new franchise record with 1,508 receiving yards, and 2013.

But Smith didn’t stop with the acquisition of Marshall. He and new general manager Phil Emery selected South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound Jeffery developed during an injury-filled rookie season into a Pro Bowler in 2013 catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns.

“A quarterback doesn’t have to have that ball right in the perfect spot every time if you have a big body to throw to,” Smith told the Chicago Tribune at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011. “Most guys would tell you they would like to have big receivers, but as much as anything you would like to have good receivers that can do something with the ball.

“Most of our guys ... they are smaller receivers, so to have a little bit of a different flavor wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

After years of playing against big receivers that were 6-foot-4 or taller, such as Randy Moss (Minnesota) and Calvin Johnson (Detroit), Smith finally conceded that his smallish Bears receiving corps of Johnny Knox (5-11), Earl Bennett (5-11) and Devin Hester (5-10) just couldn’t match up in a day and age in which bigger cornerbacks were entering the NFL to contend with the growing trend of larger receivers.

Having Jackson line up opposite his clone in Evans would give the Bucs a towering tandem like Smith had in Chicago with Marshall and Jeffery.

The trend in the NFL is bigger wide receivers. Out of the eight receivers originally selected for the Pro Bowl last year, only one – Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown – was under 6-foot-2. He is 5-foot-10 and weighs 186 pounds. The next smallest receiver was Dallas’ Dez Bryant, who at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds is hardly small.

The other six Pro Bowl receivers – Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, Houston’s Andre Johnson, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas, Johnson and Marshall – are all 6-foot-3 or taller. And when it came time for an injury replacement in the Pro Bowl for Calvin Johnson, it was the 6-foot-3 Jeffery that filled in.

The NFL is a big man’s game, and Evans is the biggest receiver and one of this draft’s most talented, too. And who does Evans thinks his game resembles?

“Growing up I was a big fan of Randy Moss,” Evans said. “As a player I think my game is similar to Brandon Marshall. I like to be an aggressive, physical type of player.”

That should be music to Smith’s ears. Drafting Evans, who won’t turn 21 until August 21, gives the Bucs a big, young receiver to develop behind Jackson, whom he will eventually replace. What better player for Evans to learn from than another 6-foot-5, 230-pounder in Jackson?

Drafting Evans also gives Tampa Bay another talented receiver with speed to replace the troubled Mike Williams, who was traded to Buffalo. Evans ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and that’s a respectable time given his massive frame. It’s also a tick slower than the 4.52 time than USC’s Marquis Lee posted. Interestingly, Evans’ 20-yard shuttle time was timed at 4.26, while Watkins’ 20-yard shuttle was actually a bit slower at 4.34. Watkins, who is nearly five inches shorter than Evans and weighs 26 pounds less, ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.

The Galveston, Texas native is a no-nonsense, team player that is willing to block. That type of attitude aligns with the type of player that Smith wants to have in Tampa Bay. Evans is not a prima donna. He’s a hard worker with a big incentive to drive him towards success, as Evans became a father at the age of 19.

“It’s great. It changes your life,” Evans said. “I’m more mature now, and I have something to play for now. I have a high ceiling. I think I’m one of the best players in this draft and I think I can just keep getting better.”
Last modified on Thursday, 08 May 2014 20:55
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    I'm satisfied with the pick. You can't argue with production, size and speed in a tough conference. Welcome aboard Evans and go Bucs!
  • avatar


    Father Horse. Neither one of us was correct in our predictions since we didn't draft Aaron Donald or Zack Martin. I must say I was hoping for the excitement Johnny Manziel would bring, but at the same time tentative that his style of play would make him prone to injury. I always thought Mike Evans was being forecast by too many "experts" to be accurate. Plus, I thought if WR was the target we would wait until the 2nd round. I'm totally fine with taking the very mature 20 year old. Every time I watched him play I was impressed with the toughness and attitude with which he plays the position. He and Jackson are clones who will be difficult to defend with their wing spans and great hands.
  • avatar


    I don't have a problem with the pick. I think Evans will be a nice complement to Vincent Jackson and in time may eventually be his replacement. I am still trying to put Lovie's statement that Glennon is our QB of the future and the Manziel smokescreen in perspective. Who were we trying to fool and for what reason? Makes sense if they were trying to keep another team away from a QB they were interested in. If the Glennon statement is true, then they never intended to take a QB and tomorrow will not waste a 2nd round pick on Derek Carr either. What am I missing Scott/Mark? Somebody, anybody, explain the reason for the smokescreen and what it achieved? And while you're at it maybe you can also tell me why we worked out 7 QBs?
  • avatar


    Let us bow our heads: Thank you Lord for not listening to Scott Reynolds and listening to me to not draft Manziel or Carr in the first round because Mike Glennon is our back up quarterback.
  • avatar


    who is the best gauard?
  • avatar


    Okay with this. I hope they are not finished with the offense as we still need an OL and a WR who can stretch the field (unless they have someone who is emerging).
  • avatar


    Horse - Joel Bitonio in 2nd if available?
  • avatar


    Ya Ill take Mike Evans over Mike Williams....plus don't forget that this is a new offense. You cant roll coverage to double VJAX and we also have Jeff Demps now out of the slot (Watch his highlight film at UF). This Offense will be explosive, not to mention we also have Doug and Timmy Wright. Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    Was not a big fan of Manzel, but we need to trade up now and get him. He will have both Jackson and Evans to throw too. A good running game and a great defense, he will fit good here now.
  • avatar


    have or bookends go bucs
  • avatar


    I am fine with that and I don't think Glennon is going anywhere. We have two book ends and that is a big help for any QB. Now I hope we focus on a OG. We need a starter at that position.
  • avatar

    Double down with WR Benjamin in the second!
  • avatar


    BucWild02: Yeah, at least the Bucs would lead the league in the number of 6'5" wide receivers!!
  • avatar


    Nice.....go 'Bucs !!!
  • avatar


    I thought sure A. Donald would be the pick, but personally wanted Evans. Now, put one of our current 4.3 guys in the slot, & the offense looks awesome IF we can get some OL help later in the draft.
  • avatar


    Love the pic! Not sure why the browns would pass up on Sammy Watkins and then trade up one spot for a player that would've been there anyways. I would be pissed. Anyways so happy for this pick up. Nice work Li&Lo
  • avatar


    Good, solid pick. Go Bucs!!!!!
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