The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some pretty good receiving talent to help out Jameis Winston as he transitions to the NFL. Veteran Vincent Jackson has put up over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his three seasons with the Buccaneers, while Mike Evans jumped onto the scene as a rookie with 68 catches for 1,051 yards. But despite that pretty impressive production, Evans didn't get much official recognition -- no Pro Bowl, no All-Pro, no Offensive Rookie of the Year, mostly because others outshone him.
Evans' excellence has now been recognized, though, by Pro Football Focus. They listed him as the 94th-best player in their Top 100 of 2014.
Took the seventh overall pick a while to get going but really spiked midseason with a trio of extremely impressive outings (most notably the 209 yard effort against Washington). Looked more and more comfortable as the season went on and defensive backs struggled to adjust with his size, helping him to an extremely impressive 12 touchdowns.
Best Performance: Week 11, TB @ WAS, +3.4
Key Stat: 18 receptions on balls thrown 20 yards or more in the air were the most of any offensive player.
The most impressive part of Evans' season may have been the fact that he did all of that while battling a few injuries, including one that cost him a game. Or the fact that he did while being thrown balls by Josh McCown and Mike Glennon behind the worst offensive line in the league. I'm not sure which one's better.
Of course, we're all familiar with impressive rookie receivers. The Bucs have had quite a few of them. Unfortunately, they tend to stop being impressive after their rookie season. Michael Clayton's decline was particularly impressive, going from 1,193 yards as a rookie to never putting up more than 500 yards again. But Mike Williams' 964 rookie yards were followed by a disappointing sophomore campaign, and he's now not signed to any team after just five years of play. Not quite what the Bucs were expecting out of him.
Will Evans be different? I don't know. I think so, given that he's certainly more talented than either Clayton or Williams -- his draft status in one of the best receiver classes in recent history is proof enough of that. But I made the same argument about Williams back in 2011, and look how that turned out.