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Drafting Buccaneers: WR, Mike Evans

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Evans is one of the top receivers in the game, but where should he be drafted in your fantasy leagues?

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images

It’s pretty easy to argue the case for Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans to be considered among the game’s best at his position. In fantasy football terms, that would obviously mean very good things. And in 2018, Evans sure was one of the best fantasy receivers in the league. According to FantasyData.com, he was 6th-ranked player at his position last year in terms of overall points.

Evans’ 204.4 points in 2018 had him firmly ahead of 7th-ranked receiver Adam Thielen (194.3 points), but also firmly behind the 5th-ranked Julio Jones (212.9). For 2019 fantasy drafts, Jones is being selected an average of 12 picks ahead of Evans.

It’s not hard to believe Evans was one of the best fantasy options in the league last season considering he put together the best year of his young career. He totaled 1,524 yards and eight touchdowns on 86 catches. In five seasons, the Texas A&M product has yet to fall short of the 1,000-yard mark. Consistency is kind of his thing.

There isn’t any reason to believe Evans will take much of a step back in 2019. Even with the emergence of Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, plus the addition of Breshad Perriman, Evans is the clear-cut No. 1 guy for the Bucs. In Bruce Arians’ vertical offense, Evans should continue to thrive.

Before we evaluate his 2019 fantasy potential, let’s take a look back at his 2018 fantasy season.

MIKE EVANS’ 2018 FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON

Being that he was the 6th-best scoring receiver, Evans was a very good guy to have on your fantasy roster last year. He was likely a WR1 on a lot of teams, and if he was a WR2, then you were likely near the top of your league. What made up that strong 2018 season?

THE GOOD: OVERALL PRODUCTION/MAKING THE MOST OF HIS TARGETS

I mean, just look the numbers. Evans caught 86 passes for 1,524 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s solid no matter how you spin it. He was once again Tampa Bay’s No. 1 receiver, which meant he drew the attention of opposing defenses from the jump. A lot of the time, it didn’t matter.

Having a good supporting cast around him — Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries — has helped open things up quite a bit for him in the past. Having that group around him can come at a cost — which we’ll get to in a minute — but Evans was able to make the most of his targets. He had 17.7 yards per catch and a solid yards per target average of 11.

In 14 of his 16 games last year, he averaged 10-plus yards per catch. In six of those 14 games, he went over 20-plus yards per catch, and six other times he was between 15 and 20. He had eight 100-yard games in 2018, which of course is half of the Bucs’ games. The production was there, and even when the targets aren’t where fantasy owners would’ve liked them to be, he still made a way.

THE BAD: LACK OF USE IN THE RED ZONE

The abundance of options for Jameis Winston was an issue for Evans’ fantasy owners at times. Where it caused the most frustration was in the red zone. The Bucs had troubles in the red zone, which was bad enough for Evans’ fantasy prospects. But when the team was successful in the red zone, it often wasn’t Evans. He was targeted just 14 times in the red zone, and he only caught six of those. Four of his eight touchdowns did come inside the red zone, but he only got 15.9% of the Bucs’ overall targets inside the 20. That’s certainly not ideal.

For comparison’s sake, Davante Adams led receivers in red zone target percentage. He got 41.9% of Green Bay’s red zone targets last year, catching 16 passes on 31 targets for 149 yards and 12 touchdowns. Perhaps that’s a major reason why 2019 fantasy mocks have him going eighth overall on average. Evans, on average, is being selected 23rd overall.

Of the eight wide receivers/tight ends drafted ahead of or at Evans’ slot (23) in these mocks, all of them had a better target percentage in the red zone.

MIKE EVANS’ 2019 FANTASY FOOTBALL POTENTIAL

This offseason saw some change for the Buccaneers, most notably in the form of Bruce Arians coming on board. With Arians leading the way, the offense is expected to continue and improve upon its performances under Dirk Koetter.

Arians runs the same kind of vertical offense, which is good news for Evans. His size and dependability often distract from his speed. Despite his reputation and general role in recent years, Evans can and will be a deep threat for Tampa Bay in 2019. The depth of his targets and his resulting yards per catch average make him a very good option in your fantasy leagues.

Plus, if we’re being pessimistic (and maybe a little realistic), there’s a decent chance the Bucs are trailing in games a fair amount this season. Whether it’s a small deficit and the Bucs are looking at Evans to get them right back in the game or it’s a blowout and they’re looking for chunk plays, the opportunity is there for fantasy production. In 2018, Evans went for 790 yards and five touchdowns on 41 catches when Tampa Bay was trailing.

As good as Evans often is, a couple of things could hold him back from being an elite WR1 option this year. For one, even with a respectable eight touchdowns last year, the red zone targets just haven’t been there. As long as other receivers are getting more consistent looks inside the 20, Evans will linger behind the pack a bit.

Of course, without those touchdowns, fantasy general managers are left to rely on yardage and catches to make up for such production. The yardage typically isn’t an issue for Evans, but he isn’t a 100-catch guy. He came close in 2016, but that was the only time in his career that he broke 90. So, if you’re playing in a PPR league, Evans won’t give you that same reliability as some others would.

However, having a favorable fantasy schedule will be good for his production. Of the Bucs’ 16 games, FantasyPros classifies seven as “easy matchups” and just three as “tough matchups.”

Plus, what he lacks in overall receptions is made up for by his yards per catch average, which has never been below 13 (the lowest of his career was 13.8 in 2016, which was when he had his career high in receptions).

The pros outweigh the cons by a large margin when it comes to Evans as a fantasy football prospect in 2019. He maintains his status as a mid-tier WR1 or a very high-end WR2.

2019 PROJECTION: WR7; Draft in the *2nd round, if not late 1st

*Draft projection based on 12-Team Leagues