FAB 3. Evans Has Eyes On The Hall Of Fame
With Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans already owning a couple of significant Tampa Bay receiving records – most receiving touchdowns in a season (12) and career touchdowns (35) – and the career receiving record about to fall on Sunday in Atlanta, it appears as if he’s destined to make his second Pro Bowl this year if he keeps producing at a high level.
Evans has 29 receptions for 426 yards and three touchdowns this season and is on pace to finish the 2018 campaign with 116 catches for 1,704 yards and 12 touchdowns. If those numbers hold, that would represent five straight 1,000-yard seasons to start his NFL career, which would tie Cincinnati’s A.J. Green for second place with that distinction. Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss set an NFL record by posting six straight 1,000-yard seasons from 1998-2003 to start his pro career.
If he stays healthy this year and keeps producing, a second Pro Bowl berth becomes inevitable for Evans this year. So does an induction into the Bucs Ring of Honor once Evans’ surpasses James Wilder’s career receptions franchise record of 430, which will happen next year if he maintains good health and productivity. Evans is 93 catches away from toppling that mark.
A looming Bucs Ring of Honor induction seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, but what about the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
“Of course, of course, of course – yeah, I want to be in the Hall of Fame,” Evans said. “I want to go down as one of the best receivers to play the game. That’s why I play.”
So when Evans has amassed close to 400 career catches for 6,000 career yards by the end of the 2018 season, how much further will he have to go to have a Hall of Fame-type career? Well, there are five Hall of Fame receivers with less than 10,000 career yards that have made it to Canton.
5 Hall of Fame receivers have less than 10,000 career receiving yards
Lynn Swann (1974-82) – 336 receptions for 5,462 yards and 51 TDs
Paul Warfield (1964-77) – 427 receptions for 8,565 yards and 85 TDs
John Stallworth (1974-87) – 537 receptions for 8,723 yards and 63 TDs
Charley Taylor (1964-77) – 649 receptions for 9,110 yards and 79 TDs
Fred Biletnikoff (1965-78) – 589 receptions for 8,974 yards and 76 TDs
Evans could be in their class if he maintains his average of 1,200 yards per season for eight seasons. The Bucs’ former first-round pick would be 28 by then and have three years left on the six-year contract extension he signed this offseason that pays him an average of $16.5 million per season. Maintaining that average, Evans would have approximately 9,600 career receiving yards by then if he were to remain healthy and productive.
But those five receivers with less than 10,000 career receiving yards didn’t play in the modern era of football, and that’s what Evans will be measured against when it comes time for Hall of Fame consideration.
Since Jerry Rice’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, all seven of the latest Hall of Fame receivers – Rice, Cris Carter, Andre Reed, Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss – have had at least 13,000 career yards and played in the league at least 12 seasons, as was the case with Harrison (2016) and Moss (2018). Six of the seven have played in at least one Super Bowl (Carter is the exception), and all but one – Reed – had at least 100 career touchdown receptions. Reed had 87 career TDs.
Those are the types of numbers that Evans will need to hit in order to make the Hall of Fame – in addition to helping the Bucs get to a Super Bowl.
“I just want to be consistent as long as I’m playing,” Evans said. “I want to be at the top level as long as I’m playing. Whenever I feel like I’m slowing down consistently I’ll call it quits. I’m not that guy that’s going to steal checks. If I’m not playing at a high level I don’t want to play.”
“I’ll play as long as I can. I’m 25 now and God’s blessed me really well. I’ve never had any significant injury thus far. If I stay injury-free I can play pretty long and I’ll just have to take care of my body even better.”
To some of his younger teammates, Evans has already achieved legend status. In the eyes of tight end O.J. Howard, Evans is blazing a trail to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“That’s where he’s headed,” Howard said. “This guy’s a very productive, a very good player. And he’s different – he’s a big, fast receiver, the kind you don’t see that much. He can ball. He’s up there every year with the top five receivers. It’s just that national stage – with guys like Antonio Brown and other guys get known and stuff like that. But people know Mike and what he is, so when the time comes he’ll be mentioned with top receivers.
“And Mike is a guy that has done it the right way. He’s 25 years olds and he’s one catch away from being the all-time receiving yards leader in Bucs history, so he’s headed right there (to the Hall of Fame).”
Some of Evans’ performances against the Falcons have helped put him on the map nationally – much to the chagrin of Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.
“More than I care to see, that’s for sure,” Quinn said. “Here’s what I know, first things first. When he was coming out of college, he was very developed at Texas A&M. So coming into the NFL, he looked game-ready, much like on our team Calvin (Ridley) looks ready to play. That’s not always the case, but since that time, you see him go and get the contested catch as well as anybody can, and so it’s his size, yeah, and catching range, yes. But it’s really the will that he can make the plays down the field.
“When you play the X position, which Julio (Jones) plays here, you obviously got looks that are favorable at times and you’ve got to nail them. You’ve got to own them. Those are shots down the field, breaking routes, those are all the things that he does well, but I would say that the guy’s one hell of a competitor, too. And when you add the competitiveness with the talent, the size, and the range, he becomes a handful.”
For a franchise like Tampa Bay that has more losing seasons than winning seasons, it’s not surprising that the Bucs have only had a few sheer excellent first-round draft picks – including Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon (1976), left tackle Paul Gruber (1988), defensive tackle Warren Sapp (1995) and Derrick Brooks (1995) – in the team’s four decades’ worth of existence.
Add Evans’ name to that list.
And at the rate he’s going, he could be joining the likes of Selmon, Sapp and Brooks in Canton, too.