When Tom Brady signed with the Bucs in 2020, one of the accompanying benefits was more exposure. That didn’t just mean a brighter spotlight for the Tampa Bay area and the Bucs organization, but also increased attention for some of the team’s more overlooked players.
Super Bowl rings are ultimately what every player is after, and the addition of Brady ultimately resulted in every player getting one. But notoriety matters too, doesn’t it? Great players want to be recognized as greats. On that front, a multitude of players have certainly benefitted from the future Hall of Famer’s arrival. That’s what makes any discussion about the most underrated Buc so interesting.
Last week, Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson picked out the most underrated player on every team in the NFL. Interestingly enough, his pick for Tampa Bay was none other than Mike Evans.
“Somehow, despite a record-setting pace of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to open his NFL career, Evans remains underrated when it comes to the best receivers in the game,” Monson wrote.
At first glance, this pick came as a shock. Evans has gone over 1,000 receiving yards in eight straight seasons to start his career, as Monson said. He is Brady’s No. 1 target. His 2021 season netted him his fourth Pro Bowl selection. It’s not off base to suggest that mostly everyone in the NFL world knows who Evans is.
So, can the 28-year-old really still be underrated? Well, actually, yes.
Evans Belongs In The Conversation Of Elite Receivers
The most important piece of Monson’s explanation is the very end.
“Evans remains underrated when it comes to the best receivers in the game,” he said.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Despite all of the franchise records, the Pro Bowls and the Super Bowl ring, Evans isn’t regularly talked about when a discussion about the NFL’s most elite receivers comes up. Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Cooper Kupp and Tyreek Hill are among those talked about at that level, but why isn’t Evans? Even PFF’s list of top 25 wide receivers from the 2021 regular season had Evans at No. 21. This was after a regular season that saw the Bucs’ star man catch 74 passes for 1,035 yards (14.0 avg) and 14 touchdowns.
So, yes, it’s still plausible that Evans could be considered underrated. You can’t argue with the volume stats he’s compiled, which give him a strong case to be a future Hall of Famer. Maybe he isn’t racking up All-Pro selections, but that’s due to the sheer number of deserving receivers relative to the small number of spots. Whatever the case may be, until he’s being talked about as one of the game’s most elite players at his position, he probably isn’t getting his proper due.
Is Evans Really The Bucs’ Most Underrated Player?
While we can acknowledge that Evans may still deserve the “underrated” tag, it might be hard to call him the Bucs’ most underrated player. There are a number of guys who could be in the running for that title instead. Carlton Davis III has developed into the team’s No. 1 corner and is a true lockdown guy, but he doesn’t get a lot of love nationally. Given the way he’s played in the last couple of seasons, Donovan Smith could be in the conversation. Even Chris Godwin, who shares the receivers room with Evans, might be on the underrated side of things. But there’s one player on the Bucs’ roster whose name is synonymous with the word “underrated.” That, of course, is Lavonte David.
David Isn’t Properly Rated Nationally, But He’s Loved Locally
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
David deserves to be lauded as one of the NFL’s best linebackers. That was true from early in his career and it continues to be true now. On the broadcast of almost every Bucs game, you’ll hear the veteran referred to as a underrated. But how long does he have to be one of the most underrated players in the NFL before he gets the recognition he deserves?
He made the PFWA All-Rookie Team in 2012, then earned an All-Pro nod in 2013. Since then, he received just one Pro Bowl selection, and that came in 2015. Every year, he feels worthy of a spot on the Pro Bowl roster, yet it just doesn’t come. He did earn a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s, but he simply hasn’t gotten enough love over the years. Now, at 32, he might start to decline. That makes it all the more frustrating that he was never properly rated during his prime.
If there’s anything to cling to, it’s that David isn’t underrated among Bucs fans and media. He always gets his props from the fan base and anyone who watches him on a weekly basis. One day, he’ll retire and have his name placed in the Bucs Ring of Honor inside Raymond James Stadium. He’ll also always have that Super Bowl LV ring. And he’ll absolutely have the adoration from the fan base that watched him go from 2012 second-round pick to the best player on a bad defense to, eventually, a champion and Bucs legend.