While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently in the process of finding their next head coach after firing Dirk Koetter Sunday evening, the team does have quite a few positives going for them.
One of those positives I talk about is the play and development of wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans, just finished his fifth season with the Buccaneers and ever since being drafted back in 2014, he has been everything the team hoped for and more.
It was evident that the Buccaneers needed a wide receiver badly heading into that draft and selecting Evans at 7th overall out of Texas A&M was no easy choice. The wide receiver class that year was stacked and to this day, many players selected that year have turned into excellent football players.
Some of the receivers in that draft class were Sammy Watkins (4th overall), Mike Evans (7th overall), Odell Beckham Jr (12th overall), Brandin Cooks (20th overall), Kelvin Benjamin (28th overall), Jordan Matthews (42nd overall), Davonte Adams (53rd overall), Allen Robinson (61st overall) and Jarvis Landry (63rd overall).
The only player that you can remotely argue is better than Evans out of that draft class is Odell Beckham Jr., but Evans has taken over that spot in the last two years. Often times, some of the best attributes a player can have is their availability and Evans has been as reliable as they come. He also isn’t as much of a headache off the field as OBJ is.
In his five seasons in Tampa Bay, Evans has played 15, 15, 16, 15 and 16 games. In comparison, OBJ has played 12, 15, 16, 4 and 12 games, but has been increasingly hurt over the last couple years and there are rumors of the Giants possibly looking to explore a trade for him this off season.
Through five seasons, Evans has 395 catches for 6,103 yards and 40 touchdowns. OBJ has 390 for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Now, you might look at those stats and say well if OBJ was healthy he’d be out performing Evans by a lot, but again, he hasn’t been healthy, so that argument is invalid. If you were to ask the 32 GM’s around the league what player they would rather have going forward, my money would be on over ¾ of them saying Evans for the reasons mentioned above. It’s just a fact.
Now, I think it’s pretty clear that Evans was absolutely snubbed from the Pro Bowl this season. He finished third in the league in receiving yards with 1,524 on only 86 catches. That comes out to an average of 17.7 YPC, also good for third best in the league. The one area that Evans didn’t dominate this season was touchdowns. He only finished with eight, but that is in large part due to the fact that the Buccaneers have so many weapons inside the redzone. Either way, it was a pro bowl snub for Evans.
With all that being said, that isn’t the main topic of this article. Mike Evans is a top five receiver in football and to be quite honest, it’s maddening the amount of people that don’t put him in that conversation.
Two of the most impressive feats on Evans resume are the fact that he is one of only three players in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards receiving in his first five seasons. He joined Randy Moss and A.J. Green as the only players to reach that goal. Also, he is the youngest player in NFL history to reach the 6,000 yard mark in his career.
Coming into this season, when people mention the top five receivers in football, you often heard the names Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Jr. and A.J. Green mentioned. As this season progressed, Mike Evans and Michael Thomas replaced OBJ and A.J. Green on that list.
Now don’t get me wrong, A.J. Green is still an incredible receiver, but two out of the last three years he has ran into some injury problems that have forced him to miss a lot of time and as he heads into his ninth NFL season, and that is cause for concern. He has only played 35 of 48 games in three years.
Over the last three seasons, Green still has 187 catches for 2,736 yards and 18 touchdowns. During that same span, Evans has 253 catches for 3,846 yards and 25 touchdowns. All in all, Evans has a huge advantage in both statistics and availability in the last three years.
We already discussed why I would take Evans over OBJ, but these are the stats over the last three years for OBJ. 203 catches for 2,721 yards and 19 touchdowns. Again, advantage Evans.
Here is my list of top five receivers in the NFL at this moment and their stats since Evans came into the league.
1. Antonio Brown: 576 catches for 7,646 yards and 59 touchdowns. Wow.
2. DeAndre Hopkins: 476 catches for 6,635 yards and 45 touchdowns. Extremely Impressive with some of the quarterbacks he’s been forced to play with.
3. Julio Jones: 524 catches for 7,994 yards and 31 touchdowns.
4. Michael Thomas (drafted in 2016): 321 catches for 3,787 yards and 23 touchdowns. He led the league in receptions this year and has established himself as a top five guy.
5. Mike Evans: 395 catches for 6,103 yards and 40 touchdowns.
The only area in which Evans lacks with the top three guys is catches, but that’s in large part due to the fact that the Buccaneers have many more options on the offensive side of the ball then all of those players respective teams. He likely won’t get mentioned going into next season as a top five guy, but he should be and the statistics prove it.