Spotlight: Lee Evans

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 31st


Jason Wood's thoughts

Lee Evans gets a lot more credit than he probably deserves. In six seasons, Evans has one great year -- 2006 -- and five very forgettable seasons. It's unusual for someone with one Top 20 season in six years to get more than a passing glance from fickle fantasy owners. Yet somehow Evans is perennially viewed as a guy that would be dominant if only his situation were better.

Year Tgts Recs Catch% Yards YPR TDs FPTs Rank
2004 68 48 70.6% 843 17.6 9 147 24
2005 92 48 52.2% 743 15.5 7 120 29
2006 137 82 59.9% 1,292 15.8 8 177 7
2007 113 55 48.7% 849 15.4 5 115 32
2008 102 63 61.8% 1,017 16.1 3 122 27
2009 96 44 45.8% 612 13.9 7 103 36

Here's the thing, even if you think Evans is a special player hamstrung by his situation...his situation hasn't changed. Oh sure, new head coach Chan Gailey might add some wrinkles to the offense and turn it slightly more productive, but this is an organization that appears to be going in the wrong direction. A revolving door at quarterback (you know the old adage -- when you have three quarterbacks you have none). Arguably the worst offensive line in football. And no one else in the receiving corps to command defenses' attention. The truth is, unless you think the Bills are going to handily outperform consensus expectations, Evans is going to have trouble breaking out from the mediocre realm he's made for himself.

As I looked over the discussion thread for this Spotlight, I was stunned at some of the lofty expectations for him. A lot of people thought 1,000 yards was his floor! I just don't see it.

  • Evans generated just 2.3 yards after the catch last season, ranking 100th! at his position
  • He played 98.1% of the team's snaps, so it's not as though he can benefit from being on the field more under a new offensive coach
  • Evans has no 100-yard games last season
  • He set a career low catch %, and ranked just 83rd at his position

Positives

  • Evans is blazing fast and can get under any deep ball a QB can throw accurately downfield
  • Evans will assuredly be the Bills top target, and could set a career high in looks this year
  • New HC Chan Gailey has been known to create productive passing offenses from subpar talent in the past; so perhaps the Bills situation isn't as dire as it seems

Negatives

  • Evans has failed to be a Top 20 fantasy receiver in five of six seasons
  • The quarterback situation leaves a lot to be desired
  • Opposing defenses will be able to key on Evans given the lack of complementary receivers

Final thoughts

Evans came into the league with a ton of promise, and certainly teased fantasy owners with the prospect of greatness. But entering his seventh season, it's time to stop making excuses for Evans and start recognizing that he's been helpful once in six years. That's an abysmal hit rate. When you then consider how uncertain the Bills outlook is this year, and there's a recipe for disaster. Would it shock me if Evans had a mild bounce back under the tutelage of Chan Gailey? No, but it also isn't enough to have me take him as anything more than a 4th or 5th receiver. At his current ADP (WR39), I would much rather have Malcom Floyd (WR38) or Derrick Mason (WR40). Draft accordingly.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Thorpe said:

Lee Evans has really struggled when he is the #1 guy. Plus, the Bills don't have a QB on the roster that can throw a deep ball (or has the guts to throw it) which is Evans specialty. And if you can double-team Evans, you can shut him down. Also, you can write off the two games vs the Jets where Revis will shut him down. But on the positive side for Evans, the Bills don't have any other decent options to throw to, so Evans should get a large percentage of the passing offense thrown his way.

travdogg said:

I get this feeling that now that almost everyone has given up on him, that this will be the year he lives up to his talent. I think he's worth a look, especially since he is currently being drafted as a WR4 in many leagues. Say what you want about Chan Gailey, but he does have a history of getting the ball to his playmakers, and frankly any offensive mind would have been an upgrade over Jauron for Buffalo.

MrTwo94 said:

When Chan Gailey was announced as the Bills new HC it got a lot of groans from Bills fans. I feel like the guy is being terribly underrated. He's made the most out of what he's been given in several different scenarios. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of how his WRs have done in his systems, but he made Bowe relevant his rookie year so I'm not going to write Evans off. Every year someone comes out of nowhere and produces, well, nowhere just might be the Buffalo passing game this year and Evans has to be the favorite to be the most likely beneficiary.

az_prof said:

The claim that Evans "has never lived up to WR1" expectations is false. He did it in 2006 with J.P. Losman as his QB no less! He had 82 receptions and almost 1300 yards. That's pretty elite. Since then he has not lived up to that standard but in his defense he has suffered through some of the worst QBs who have played in recent years and a constant turnover at OC. This past season he had to compete for looks with TO. The main thing holding him back is quarterback play.

That being said, I am not convinced that Buffalo's QB play will improve in 2010. Chan Gailey is an improvement at HC. TO is gone. It is hard not to imagine him at least returning to the reception and yardage of 2008 as a FLOOR: that year he was 63 for 1017 yards. He had a career low in TDs that year, and I prefer to take his career average for TDs, which is 6.5 Tds/year.


Lee Evans projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Jason Wood61855600
Message board consensus63970600