The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have brought a new sense of optimism to their fanbase after a largely successful 2014 NFL Draft. There were needs on offense, and they were addressed early and often by Jason Licht, Lovie Smith and the front office in Tampa.
But what can fans actually expect from the prospects the Buccaneers selected? Any rookie has a very wide range of possible outcomes in their first season and in their career, and this article will be the first in a series in which I attempt to build a worst and best-case scenario for every player the Bucs added, along with providing the most likely outcome based on what I have seen from the player.
I'll use the "Good, Bad and Likely" format that I've used in the past, with the good and bad obviously representing best and worst-case scenarios, while likely is what I project. Feel free to leave your own good, bad and likely projections in the comments, as well.
So let's begin with wide receiver Mike Evans.
Mike Evans has every opportunity to be one of the truly dominant players in the NFL. His combination of speed and size don't quite put him on the Calvin Johnson tier, but physically he's so similar to A.J. Green that an All-Pro career like the one Green is set to have isn't out of the question for Evans.
From day one, Evans will possess the ability to out-muscle any defensive back. But what will set him apart will be the ability to run sharp, crisp routes and break free from defensive backs as well. If his offseason work and time spent in an NFL weight room and with NFL coaches can harness more of his physical ability onto the field, he could be a truly special player.
In fact, with any improvement as a route runner, Evans is almost certainly due for a career of Pro Bowl appearances as a number one receiver.
The best part about the Mike Evans selection is that his floor is pretty high. He's never going to stop being tall, he's never going to stop having huge arms and hands, and he's never going to stop having good leaping ability. However, he can and may fail to ever become a very good wide receiver in the NFL, instead remaining a good athlete with unrefined, wasted athleticism that doesn't translate to his position.
The floor for Evans is "a poor man's Vincent Jackson." Jackson is a physically imposing receiver who often runs sloppy, lazy routes but still manages to succeed at the NFL level. Just like Evans, Jackson came out of college with an incredible combination of size and speed. But Jackson never evolved into a true "tier one" receiver, instead always finding himself as an above average wideout with the potential to be more.
Jackson has been utilized better since he arrived in Tampa, but he's also lost a step and doesn't have the elite speed he had in his prime. Evans will eventually slow down, as well, but even when he does he'll still be able to get his big body in front of defenders like Jackson does now with the Buccaneers.
There's really not an awful outcome for Evans, but it's hard to not see him as a possible superstar in the making. He's young and raw, so there's risk that he'll never develop into a true technician at the receiver position. But his youth and inexperience also benefit him, as they make it statistically more likely that he has a breakout as he enters his athletic prime in a few years.
The outlook for Evans that I find most probable is a Pro Bowl-filled career as a productive but not completely dominant number one receiver. He'll be on the same level of wideout as Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, and Antonio Brown are now, just shy of the "elite" options (which are really just Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, with the possibility of Josh Gordon should he keep himself on the field), but well ahead of an average player at the position.
But the good news for Bucs' fans is that the best football is ahead of Evans, who is still very young, and is still learning the wide receiver position. If he "gets it" once he gets into NFL meeting rooms and hits the weights with NFL coaching, he could be something special.