Mike Evans is good. He’s really good. That’s not news, but maybe we don’t quite appreciate how good he is. Pro Football Focus certainly does, though: they named him their 12th best player of all of 2016. Yes, among all positions.
Evans was also PFF’s second-best receiver overall, behind only the untouchable Julio Jones, who unfortunately is in the same division and has to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice a year. But Evans is giving him a really good run for his money, and might catch him given enough time.
His good play was not just that he was racking up yards, but how and when he was gaining them. Evans converted a whopping 83.3 percent of his 96 receptions into either first downs or touchdowns, the highest rate among wide receivers (min. 40 receptions). His 80 combined first-down and touchdown receptions were most in the regular season. Evans was just as clutch on third and fourth downs, with a league-high 29 receptions that went for first downs or touchdowns, four more than the next wide receiver.
Who doesn’t love a wide receiver like that?
The many, many highlight-reel catches were especially impressive about Evans’ play this season — as was the absence of drops, which were a bit of a problem for him in 2015.
If Evans can keep up his play and improve on it a little bit with experience, it might not be long before he’s the best receiver in all of football. He’s already a big help for Jameis Winston, though, and anything he adds to his quality of play would be a bonus.
There’s also one thing that would really help Evans’ production: Winston increasing his accuracy on deep throws. The Bucs got him behind the defense regularly, but Winston could connect with him only rarely. They did improve on that aspect from their first year together — some more offseason work, and they may just become unstoppable.