The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Chad Parsons
First off, Mike Evans has high NFL Draft pedigree and one of the few receivers in the ‘big and tall' sub-category who moves well. Through two NFL seasons Evans is on a historic production track with seasons of 16 and 14 PPR points-per-game. This is at 21 and 22 years of age. The recent examples of multiple strong seasons at such a young age include receivers like Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Keenan Allen, Hakeem Nicks, and Josh Gordon. Outside of injury or off-the-field factors, nothing has stopped this group from churning out quality seasons at age 23 and beyond.
Evans logged 14 PPG in 2015 as a 22-year-old despite a significant drop-off in touchdown rate. After a gaudy 17.6% touchdown rate as a rookie, Evans regressed to three scores (4%) in 2015. As a supersized target with red zone and jump ball prowess, Evans projects as an above-average touchdown rate performer over the long haul. Evans was force fed targets for large chunks of 2015 with Vincent Jackson missing significant time and the tight end position lacking clarity. A return to even 8-to-10 touchdowns puts Evans in the top-5 wide receiver discussion.
Finally, Jameis Winston was a rookie in 2015. While a successful season for the top-drafted quarterback, historically rookie quarterbacks are a limitation for their passing game compared to future seasons. While QB14 in pass attempts, Winston was QB29 in interception rate and QB21 in QBR (via profootballreference.com). Winston also did not have much beyond Evans in the passing game. From a historical context, Winston joined Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton as the only rookie quarterbacks to throw for at least 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. The future is bright for Winston and Evans is locked in as the top target. Spreading the coverage plus a full offseason to develop will only help Evans growing into the No.1 role in Tampa Bay.
Low Side by Mark Wimer
Mike Evans underwhelmed last season while enjoying a huge number of targets - 148 targets but only 74 receptions (50%) - and his touchdowns plummeted from 12 to just three. While some of the problems were due to having a rookie quarterback (Jameis Winston) under center, I am concerned that Evans doesn't have the work ethic to rise to the top ranks of his position. Evans referenced his problems concentrating on July 8, 2016, stating: "I wasn't focused in some games. I have to practice more. I have to get better in practice with it. It just comes with repetition."
The supporting cast of receivers around Evans in Tampa are also a source of concern for this offense. As the 2016 offseason/preseason has progressed, we've learned that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a locker-room cancer who is difficult to coach; on June 9, he was kicked off the practice field by head coach Dirk Koetter - Koetter said afterward he sent Seferian-Jenkins off for not "knowing what he was doing.". Subsequent reports out of Tampa have indicated that Seferian-Jenkins has great talent, but an Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh-like .10 head - he often clashes with his coaches. No. 2 wide receiver Vincent Jackson's decline is clearly evident over the past two seasons, leaving Evans spotlighted as the clear-cut #1 wide receiver - and Evans didn't overcome the extra coverage that #1 role entails last year, as noted above.
I'm cool on Evan's prospects as the lead receiver for the Buccaneers despite the likelihood that he'll receive a huge number of targets again this year. Evans showed us last season that targets don't necessarily translate into top-flight fantasy production. The other talents surrounding Evans are not cohesive, increasing the pressure on Evans to carry the load, and he has not shown a Julio-Jones-like ability to be the anchor to this passing offense. This is a player that I am passing on in my redraft leagues this season, especially at his current ADP.
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