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Player Spotlight: Mike Evans

A detailed look at Mike Evans' fantasy prospects for 2016.

MIKE’S MIXED SEASONS

In 2014, Mike Evans exploded onto the scene as a rookie with 1,051 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He entered 2015 as a second-round pick in redraft leagues and a young dynasty asset valued second only to Odell Beckham Jr.

His sophomore season wasn’t exactly a bust, but it did bring disappointment. Though he did once again eclipse the 1,000 yard mark, his touchdowns plummeted to a lowly three. There are many reasons to cite for the down year. Evans dealt with minor injuries throughout the season. A hamstring injury caused him to miss the first game and be very ineffective in week two. He also revealed on a radio spot that he suffered a groin and oblique injury in week eight action. While this did not impact his availability for the following weeks, it seems like it continued to bother him.

Another reason Evans may have struggled has to do with a change in the quarterback situation. The Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Evans had been accustomed to playing with Mike Glennon and Josh McCown before Winston was brought in. It was evident when watching games that he and Winston sometimes struggled to get on the same page.

Losing focus at critical points was also a problem for Evans. He dropped 11 balls on the season, giving him a drop rate of 7.4%. Additionally, he drew six offensive pass interference calls (some of which were questionable in nature), several of which negated touchdown catches. He was the victim of several instances of defensive pass interference which were not called by officiating crews. Evans would often get into impassioned arguments with the referees after these calls. In week 17, Evans was finally ejected from the game after getting upset by what he perceived to be a missed call. Evans admitted that his focus was not what it should have been and vowed to improve. Should fantasy owners believe him or should they expect another discouraging campaign full of excuses and regrets?

EVANS TO THE HEAVENS

Metrically speaking, Evans is just about everything one could want in a wide receiver. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, he can be an absolute bully, especially when facing smaller defensive backs in the air. Physical corners have a hard time jamming him at the line because of his size. Though he struggled with drops in 2015, his catching ability was one of his standout traits coming out of Texas A&M.

It is often said that acknowledgement and recognition is the first step to true change. Evans seems to have taken two steps. Not only does he admit that he needs to do better this season, he has started the process. Evans and Winston have reportedly been spending time this offseason working on improving chemistry on pass routes and breaking down film together. Putting in the repetition and study together should help these two players grow together and be more simpatico in game situations.

Often, fantasy analysts talk about touchdown regression in fantasy as negatively affecting a player. In the case of Evans, he may be due for touchdown regression in the other direction, or as some refer to it, touchdown progression. It is unlikely that Evans will continue to have such foul luck with pass interference calls. His work with Winston should improve their connection and mean fewer drops for Evans. All of our projectors at Footballguys believe he will catch more than three touchdowns. All but one of our projectors believe that eight touchdown catches is the most likely outcome for Evans.

MIKE IN A MESS

Small nagging injuries have already been a concern with Evans in his young career. He has missed two games over the last two years. In a few of the games he played through with an existing injury, he was sometimes bothered by it and his production suffered.

Most remember back in March when former Bucanneers beat writer Roy Cummings shared Coach Koetter’s criticism of Evans:


We’ve heard positive things about him putting in the work since that time, but a failure to follow through would certainly put a cap on just how good he can be. We need to hear a steady offseason drumbeat of positive news about Evans’ approach to the game to feel secure about his upside this year.

Finally, Evans losing target volume is a concern that some have. With Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins missing significant time to injury last season and the defense being so poor, Evans had many extra looks in the passing game. With both receivers back and the team putting emphasis on defensive improvement in the Draft, it’s reasonable to expect that Evans may not see as many balls thrown his way in 2016. He will have to convert more of the targets that he does receive to catches and touchdowns to make up the difference. 

POSITIVES:

  • Evans is one of the finer metric specimens playing at wide receiver in today’s NFL.

  • He is spending time this offseason with Jameis Winston in an effort to improve.

  • Touchdown progression should bring Evans’ touchdown totals up.

NEGATIVES:

  • Evans needs to stay healthy to reach his ceiling.

  • Work ethic and preparation have been past problems for Evans. He needs to improve in these areas if he is to be great.

  • Evans may not have the high target volume he had last year.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If Evans continues to work at his craft through the offseason, we can be sure that he’ll rebound. He’s currently going in the mid-to-late third round of redraft leagues. This is a bargain for a receiver with over 1000 yard, 8-10 touchdown potential.

In dynasty leagues, Evans continues to be highly sought after. He is going in the mid-to-late first round of startups. The negative buzz on Evans at the end of last season may have created a small buy-low opportunity, but that window has closed with the approach of a new season.

2016 PROJECTIONS

MAURILE TREMBLAY'S PROJECTIONS

G

RSH

YD

Y/R

TD

REC

YD

Y/R

TD

FPT

16

0

0

0

0

93

1415

15.2

5

264.50

DAVID DODDS' PROJECTIONS

G

RSH

YD

Y/R

TD

REC

YD

Y/R

TD

FPT

16

0

0

0

0

75

1118

14.9

8

234.80

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Eric Tessin of iSportsweb believes Evans is worth his salt in redraft formats.:

“Despite his drop off last year, don’t be shy about drafting Evans in redraft leagues. His touchdown numbers are destined to improve this season, and he should be valued right around the 11th or 12th pick in standard and PPR leagues. He could also be a prime buy low candidate if he underperforms in his first couple games of the season.”

Brandon Gdula of Numberfire gives mixed news regarding Evans’ fantasy outlook this season:

“I think expecting him to be an elite receiver this season might be a bit much -- not all of the numbers from 2014 were optimistic -- but I certainly don't think there's enough to suggest a significant decline of any sort.”

In an audio interview with Matt Kelley, Mike Tagliere expressed his doubts that Evans is really a star caliber wideout:

“I think the problem is this kid is talented, I think the sky is the limit, but I think that he thinks he’s better than he is and it’s going to prevent him from becoming one of the best in the game.”