If you are reading this article, take a deep breath, and think Basketball. Why? Because Mike Evans plays football like a basketball player. Mike majored in basketball at Galveston Ball High School, and is relatively new to football. Oh yeah, Evans caught 25 receptions for 648 yards and 7 TDs as a High School senior, and averaged 18.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, his senior basketball year. He often plays pickup games with Johnny Manziel! They are the Dwyane Wade and Lebron James of College Station rec centers. Enough backstory for now.
I watched a bunch of tape from 2012 and 2013. I specifically paid attention to Evan's stat weak games, such as the Missouri game Where Evans caught just 4 catches for 8 yards. Yet, Evans wasn't anemic as you might think against Missouri. What did I see?
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Height: 6-5. Weight: 225.
Projected 40 Time: 4.55.
Mikes a big WR. He has the frame to add another 10 pounds, topping off at 235. Mike is very strong, and doesn't fold under press coverage. ( Can't wait to see Sherman on Mike Evans). I'll guess Mike Evans has a 39 inch vertical leap. Mike likes to use his hands to block and ward off defenders on routes. Let's move to the tape. Let's start with Mikes shittiest game. And I watched the entire game. Every offensive snap. Texas A&M vs Missouri.
The Setting- By the end of the season, opposing defenses were playing safeties and cornerbacks deep against A&M. Why? To stop big plays, and force long multi play drives. Another thing. Johnny Football had an injured thumb on his throwing hand for the last 3-4 games of the regular season. The last thing you must know is, A&M ran the ball a lot against Missouri, and A&M had 4 other receivers who can catch the ball well. Anyway, Evans didn't drop any passes. Evans was overthrown on a bomb that would have been a TD. All 4 of the passes Evans caught were very short, and he was swarmed immediately. Think Seahawks vs Denver
Let's get down to the Nitti Gritty. Evans is the best blocking wide receiver I have ever seen at the college level! I never saw Evan's man make tackle on the running back or Manziel! Evans blocks out cornerbacks like a basketball player. Evan's pushes off with his extremely long arms, and screens the defender off with his wide body. It's not vicious. Contraire, Evans displays extreme court awareness. Evans will glace quickly over his shoulder at the running back, so that he can place his body in perfect blocking position. Very impressive blocker. And God knows the Rams could use receivers with downfield blocking skills.
Evans doesn't know the entire NFL route tree. Yet, all phases of Evan's game improved between 2012 and 2013. In 2013 Evans only dropped 4.29% of balls thrown his direction. Compare that to Marquis Lee's 12.31%. Ouch!
Mike Evans is very good at coming back to the QB and catching the ball at it's highest point. With a 39 inch leap tacked on to his 6'5" body, Evans will come back towards the QB and screen out the defender, with his large frame and jump ball! Evans gets open like a basketball player too. Evans cuts well for a big guy, and often lulls the defender to sleep. Like a small forward, he will suddenly cut, and turn of the speed and burn the defender for a lay up.
Evans is at his best, on extended plays, once the initial route is run! His basketball skills serve him well past the 3 second mark. Evans has a knack for finding the open spots in a zone. Again his basketball court awareness serves him well. Especially with a scrambling QB like Johnny Manziel. We don't want the 49'ers or the Seahawks to draft this guy!
Evans likes to use his hands to push off, or punch the defender. He's got a mean streak. If a defender tries to put his hands on Evans, Mike will slap the defender's hands away. Evans was more physical than any defender he faced at the college level. I think Evans will get some pushing off penalties called on him at the next level, but he will also draw a bunch of fouls ( defensive pass interference) penalties. Because he will bait defenders into crawling over his back, the way he screens them out with his body.
Speed- Evans has a projected 4.55 time. I wouldn't be surprised if he runs a 4.63. Evan's has long legs and so he looks slower than 4.60. Yet I didn't see many defenders catch Evans, once he was off to the races. Evans can out run faster 40 guys after the 25 yard mark. 30 yards downfield Mike Evans is still speeding up. He's got gliding speed. And so quick cornerbacks often find themselves chasing Evans's on long passes. Watch Evan's vs Alabama
Route Tree - Evans is a relative football newbie, and so his route tree is limited. James Lofton is training Evans. Evans runs solid post and corner patterns. Solid go patterns. He could work a little on the fade pattern. I noticed improvement in his sideline awareness from 2012-2013. I'm sure Evans is practicing his tip toe drill with James Lofton. His curl and comeback patterns are very good. Slants could use some work. Evans can cut well, but he rounds off many of his patterns.
Yards before and after the Catch- Evans averaged a whopping 20.3 yards a catch in 2013. His best games were against Alabama (279 yards) and Auburn (287 yards) and 4 TD's. I know! Right? Mike averaged 7.63 yards after catching the ball in 2013! Mike's a big boy and he can break tackles! I repeat he can break tackles! He can also leap. Watch this 8 second video!
And the Alabama game, 3 min video- Watch for Mike out leaping Ha Ha Clinton Dix . Notice Mike's gliding speed, Jump ball skill, on field awareness, and his knack for coming back to the QB.
Pros- 6'5" 225 size, Fantastic Blocker, Low drop rate, Field Awareness- finds open spot on extended plays, catches ball with hands, Catches ball at highest point, Smart, Very physical, uses entire body to screen of defender, cut's like a basketball player, hard to tackle, very difficult to press cover, sneaky, hates losing, team player and he averaged over 20 yards a catch. Although a project, Mike improves quickly.
Cons- Not the fastest WR at 4.55-4.60 projected 40, Will get some pushing off penalties, occasional unsportsman like conduct penalties, rounds off routes, will have to adapt to two feet in bounds. Will have issues with separation.
Project Mike is a bit of a project. I know project leaves a bad taste in Rams fans mouths. Mike is already better than Quick, Pettis, and Givens. And Mike has a high trajectory. Mike learns fast. The next 13 minute video contains all of Mike's snaps from six 2012 games. You'll see great blocking. Some dropped passes. ( remember Mike dropped only 4% in 2013). You'll see some great plays. And if you compare 2012 to the 2013 film, you will see a high arc of improvement.
Personality- Mike Evans is a serious young man. Mike hates losing! At the post game press conference, Mike was obviously upset after the Alabama game, even though he scorched Bama for 279 yards receiving. I didn't see Mike smile much during any interview I saw. Mike's on the quiet side. Mike is more intelligent than the average NFL receiver, and I believe his Wonderlic test score will be relatively high for a WR. Mike appears to be focused on the art of self improvement, and that's a good thing. Mike knows what it takes to improve, and he will do it. Mike is a hard worker, yet selective with his effort. Mike is great on blocks, and will put out effort running pass patterns. But if the ball is going to the other side of the field, Mike will jog. Yet, Mike was on the field for every Aggie offensive play. I know. I watch 5 entire games this week. A&M ran 80 plays a game. Mike had to pick his spots. Yet he used his jog and trot down the field moments to lull the defenders to sleep. Like I said Mike plays football like a basketball player. Evans translates his court awareness to football field awareness, to find the open spots. Mike is a thinking mans receiver. Wes Welker in Waiting? I dunno, but maybe?
NFL Future- Evans has a high ceiling, and I think he will be a #1 WR by his 2nd pro year. 3rd at the very latest. Evan's has a low bust potential. In the NFL, Mike Evans will be a possession receiver who can occasionally take it to the house. He should catch a bunch of passes in the 10-25 yard range. Mike will be a huge surplus in the blocking game. Mike will be at his best married to a scrambling QB, although he can thrive with a pocket passer too.
Should the Rams draft Mike Evans? Yes and no. If we pick Sammy Watkins with our first pick, the answer is no. Sammy Watkins is more polished than Mike Evans. Watkins is better on screen passes than Evans. Evans breaks more tackles. Mike Evans has a higher ceiling.
The Rams would be wasting the pick on Evan's, if Sam Bradford is unwilling to throw the ball up for grabs. I haven't seen Sam do it yet. Not much. Can Sam Bradford trust Evans to go up for jump balls? As you may know, I have complained about Bradford's low YDS/A average. Evans can help change that. Mike Evan's gives the Rams the ability to attack down the field vertically. If you drafted Mike you wouldn't have to pick a QB this year. Why? Because Evans suits Clement's extend the play style. We could sure use that 3rd or 4th round pick on a safety or offensive lineman. If not Mike Evans, who at 13? I would consider Taylor Lewan or Justin Gilbert, or trade the pick back.