A multitude of words, in a myriad of fanzines, have been written extolling the amazing exploits of Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Abbott and Costello, Batman and Robin, Cookies and Milk! They are linked!
This article will contrast Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins in detail, emphasizing how each player would fit in with the Rams. The Rams have a stable of second and third tier wide receivers. The Rams don't need a another third tier wide receiver ! If the Rams draft a wide receiver in 2014, Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins make the most sense. We got to give Sam Bradford more weapons. If Sam Bradford is going to be our James Bond we got to give Sam "The Man" the weapons!
I watched every game Mike Evans played in 2012 and 2013. I scouted every game Sammy Watkins played in 2013. Let's look at Sammy Watkins first.
Sammy Watkins (20 years old) 6'1" 211 , 4.43 40 and 34 inch vertical. Arm length 32 inches.
History- Sammy Watkins had an amazing freshman year, followed by a two game suspension and a disappointing sophomore year, and finally a fantastic junior year. Sammy Watkins caught 101 passes, for 1464 yards, and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
Sammy caught over 50 percent of his passes within 6 yards of the line of scrimmage! Clemson utilized the ever elusive Sammy Watkins on reverses, bubble screens, and many quick hitters. Watkins averaged about 8.5 yards after the catch! Watkins is not as elusive or fast as Tavon Austin, yet Watkins has better hands than Tavon Austin, and is harder to bring down after contact. Sammy has fantastic body bend, allowing him to curve his body around defenders to make the catch. If Sammy Watkins were 6'5 270, he would make a great pass rushing DE, because of his Mighty Quinn like body bend. Can you dig it? Watch Sammy's last game!
Although Clemson used Watkins extensively in the short passing game, Watkins can run the entire route tree well, and Sammy is very dangerous over the top and along the sideline. Watkins weakness is catching passes 8-16 yard passes over the middle. I wouldn't describe Sammy Watkins as a possession receiver. Yet, Sammy Watkins maximizes his 6'1" height, caching many passes at their apex, utilizing his hands perfectly. Ironically Sammy needs to learn to hold on to the ball after the catch. Solid hits after the catch can dislodge the pigskin from Sammy Watkins possession.
Initial Sammy Watkins vs Mike Evans comparisions- Evan's has slighty better hands than Watkins. Both receivers are fantastic at catching the ball at it's Apex. Yet, because of Mike Evans 4 inch height advantage, 3 inch arm length, and 3 inch vertical leap advantage it would appear that Evans can catch the ball at least 10 inches higher than Sammy Watkins. Mike Evans is hands down the best receiver in the draft at catching jump balls. More on that later.
Watkins excels in the short pass game, where Evans excels further down the field. Watkins is more a more polished route runner than Evans, yet I believe Mike Evans is smarter, more inexperienced, (very quick learner) and he will learn the entire NFL route tree. Watkins can bend his body better than Evans, yet Evans has a superior field awareness, and has a bigger body for defenders to get around. Watkins' superior body bend helps him catch passes near the ground better than Mike Evans. Mike Evans is better at fending off defenders hands than Watkins on contested passes.
Sammy Watkins has a very quick release, thus he can beat press coverage, but if a Cornerback like Richard Sherman gets his hands on Sammy, then Watkins can be stifled and taken out of his pass pattern. Mike Evans is a tenth of a second slower than Sammy Watkins,, but Evans is very physical and aggressive punching cornerbacks and pushing off to gain separation. Mike Evans will get the occasional pushing off penalty called on him.
Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins gain separation in totally different ways. Watkins gains separation via his burst of speed, cutting ability and body bending around defenders. Evans gains separation by positioning his body between the defender and the receiver. Evans will have more contested catches than Watkins, where as Watkins will get open more often. Yet, Evans is the best player in the draft at catching contested passes. Johnny Manziel depended on it! More on that later.
Intelligence- NFL wide receivers traditionally have the lowest Wonderlic scores of any position. I don't know Watkins or Evans scores, but I know Mike Evans has more brain power than Sammy Watkins. Does that matter? Yes, because Evans can find the open areas on broken plays and he understands the strategy of getting into an opponents head. Although less experienced than Watkins, Evans learns faster.
Knocks and predictions on Sammy Watkins- Sammy Watkins needs to improve on catching contested passes, and it would be nice he worked on catching passes, coming across over the middle. Although Sammy is a decent blocker, he is no where near as great a blocker as Mike Evans. Other than that, Sammy doesn't have very many weakness.
Sammy at his best, reminds me of a shorter version of AG Green. Equal to Julio Jones. I believe Sammy Watkins will catch more passes and have more total yards than Mike Evans in his rookie year. Yet, Mike Evans will score more TD's and have an higher average yardage per catch. Sammy Watkins is a true #1 WR and I would be fine with the Rams drafting him at #2.
If you are still 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. What did I see?
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Height: 6-5. Weight: 231 , 35 1/8 inch arms
40 Time: 4. 47...Vertical leap 37 inches
Mike is a big WR. He has the frame to add another 8 pounds, topping off at 239 lbs. Mike is very strong, and doesn't fold under press coverage. ( Can't wait to see Richard Sherman on Mike Evans). Mike Evans has a 37 inch vertical leap! Mike likes to use his hands to block and ward off defenders on routes.
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. 20 year old Mike Evans has played organized football for only 3 years. In 2013 Evans only dropped 4.29% of balls thrown his direction. Compare that to Marquis Lee's 12.31%. Ouch! Very fast learner!
Mike Evans is very good at coming back to the QB and catching the ball at it's highest point. With 35 inch long arms, big mitts, and a 37 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. Evans is deceptive and can get small like a running back. He keeps his body low, till he skies, and then like a small forward, Evans suddenly cuts, turns of the speed and burns 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 will draw a bunch of fouls ( defensive pass interference) penalties. How? Like a basketball player whose always shoot free throws, Evans baits defenders into crawling over his back at the last second, the way he screens them out with his body.
Speed- Evans ran a 4.47 40 time! He leaps 37 inches vertically. Evans is deceptively fast, and has long legs and so he looks slower than 4.47. 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. Evans knows how to get open and understands sticks and boundaries, solid at keeping his feet in bounds, pulling in 22-of-25 balls thrown to him along the sidelines. 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. Update- Evans demonstrated on his proday, that he's capable of running the entire NFL Route Tree, and his cuts were sharper. Fast Learner.
Yards before and after the Catch- Evans averaged a whopping 20.3 yards a catch in 2013. Mike Evans ran thru, over, or past at least one man on every TD pass he caught last year. 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. Evan's is always a threat over the top!
Pros- 6'5" 231 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. Mike Evans is only 21 years old!
Cons- Will get some pushing off penalties, occasional unsportsman like conduct penalties, rounds off routes.
Project Mike is a bit of a project. He just needs to learn the rest of the route tree and make sharper cuts. Yet, Evans cleaned up his cuts by his Pro Day. I know project leaves a bad taste in Rams fans mouths. Mike is already way better than Quick, Pettis, and Givens. And Mike has a high trajectory. Mike learns fast. ( remember Mike dropped only 4% in 2013).
Would Watkins or Evans add more to the Rams? Both Evans and Watkins are only 20 years old. Contrast with 23 year old Khalil Mack. The Rams have a history of drafting young players the Mighty Robert Quinn. Watkins and Evans are kids!
Sammy Watkins plus Tavon Austin would give the Rams two electrifying wide receivers. Watkins fits in with the Rams recent penchant for a short passing game. I could see Tavon Austin and Sammy Watkins lining up on opposite sides of the field, fake screen to Austin, screen to Watkins. Double reverses anyone? Watkins reminds me of Julio Jones, and that's a good thing. I like Sammy Watkins as much as Julio Jones coming out of college. Sammy's superior speed makes for a deadly deep threat. Watkins is very versatile and can be used all over the field. Watkins needs to get better at catching crossing passes over the middle, and catching contested balls.
Yet the Rams lack a superior big and tall wide receiver like Evans. For Mike Evans to be the better pick, Sam Bradford will have to be willing to throw the ball up for grabs to Mike Evans. Mike Evans lost out on only 6 of 37 jump balls last year! That is a truly impressive statistic, when it comes to contested catches, I would bet on Evans versus against Richard Sherman. Mike Evans reminds me of Calvin Johnson. Wait a moment Ewe! That's blasphemy! Hold your horses folks. I said reminds me of Calvin Johnson. Evans has better hands, but Evans isn't as fast, and can't jump as high as as Megatron. Mike reminds me more of Megatron than any other receiver in the NFL. Some scouts say Vincent Jackson, but I think Mike Evans is better than Vincent Jackson, but not as good as Calvin Johnson. Evans blocks better than most NFL Tight Ends.. Evans can get small after he catches the ball like a running back, so Evans is the hardest receiver in the draft to bring down after contact.
The downside. Since Bradford doesn't extend plays by scrambling very often, that automatically takes away Mike Evan's incredible ability to find the open spot on broken or extended plays. Mike Evans fits in better with Russell Wilson's style of extending play. Pray to God that the Seahawks don't get Evans. Yet Mike Evans could block downfield for Tavon Austin and other Ram threats..
Bottom Line: Because of Sam Bradford's style and quarterback play most Rams fans would place Sammy Watkins slightly a head of Mike Evans. Yet, Sam Bradford tends to dial in one receiver and throw multiple balls to that guy. Mike Evans would be far superior to Danny Amendola.
Watkins is a tenth of a second faster than Evans, more double re-versatile, polished, and runs a more complete route tree. Watkins gets more separation than Evans and is a bit more elusive. Sammy Watkins is better than Mike Evans at catching balls thrown at his feet. If the Rams want Watkins they can't move back any further than pick 4. The Rams could trade back to 7- 8 and get Evans.
For my draft dollar, I prefer Mike Evans by a nose over Sammy Watkins. Why? Evans is the best blocking WR I've ever seen. Evans can out jump, out smart, and catches contested balls better than Watkins. Evans breaks more tackles. Evan's has better field awareness. Mike Evans can out leap any NFL defensive back. Evans has better hands than Watkins Evans has the longest arms of any wide receiver in the draft. Evans gives the Rams a better chance against NFC West defenses. Evans averaged over 20 yards a catch, and because of his leaping ability, I think he's a deadlier deep threat than Watkins. Contested Ball Equation- Mike Evans> Richard Sherman> Sammy Watkins. And if the Rams trade down they can a obtain a valuable extra draft pick and still pick Evans.
With the Rams first pick I want either Jadeveon Clowney, Mike Evans, or Sammy Watikiins. I won't cry if we pick Greg Robinson or Khalil Mack.