+Great height at 6’5
+Ideal bulk at 231lbs
+Insanely long arms
+Natural hands catcher
+Great body control in the air
+Knows how to use his size to shield his body with the ball in the air
+Excellent long speed
-Below average route runner
-Below average sideline awareness
-Average after the catch
There are 4 elements crucial to a successful jump ball receiver; height/length, strength, leaping ability, and hands. The importance of height/length (long arms) is obvious, as is the vertical jump. Hands are very important because your typical jump ball receiver not only has to avoid drops but also be a natural hands catcher. The jump ball receiver must go up and get the football, and he can’t trap it against his frame. To make sure the pass isn’t deflected, he must catch the ball with his arms extended. Strength is the most underrated aspect of a jump ball receiver, as I have seen plenty of long, skinny receivers who just don’t have the strength to fight for position and get the football, guys who get ragdolled in midair (Justin Hunter). The only good jump ball receiver in the NFL who qualifies as skinny in my mind is A.J. Green, but 210lbs isn’t even that bad. Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans is one of the easiest prospects in this draft to scout, as he is exceptional in all of those respects. He isn’t the best receiver in this draft class, but he is the safest pick.
Evans has very good measurables. He has ideal height at 6’5, ideal bulk at 231lbs, and solid speed with a 4.53 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. The 40 is nice, but, as often as announcers describe undersized receivers with mediocre 40s as “more quick than fast”, Mike Evans is just the opposite. He’s more fast than quick. This is most obvious when watching him after the catch; if he has a ton of open space, he is very valuable after the catch, as very few players can catch him from behind thanks to his long speed. However, if there are people in front of him, he is quite useless after the catch, as he lacks the quickness to make defenders miss open field tackles. Evans has insanely long arms at 35 1/8 inches. For the sake of context, that would be the 5th longest at the NFL combine if he was an offensive lineman. I don’t need to tell you it was best among receivers. He also had a 37 inch vertical leap, which is excellent for a player his size.
Evans has exceptional ball skills. He’s an incredibly smooth and natural hands catcher, which is crucial for a player of his ilk. I can’t emphasize this enough; the whole point of being a 6’5 receiver is that you can reach the ball before the opposing corner. If you are that tall and you are trapping passes against your frame (Allen Robinson), your height advantage means nothing, because no matter how tall you are, any corner in the NFL, nay, in high school, can reach your pads. To make good use of your height, you better feel comfortable making catches with your arms outstretched. Mike Evans is just a natural in this respect. He has great body control in the air and never traps passes against his frame. He doesn’t have great sideline awareness, but he does a good job of using his bulky frame to fight for good position to get the football and shield defenders from deflecting passes. He does an outstanding job of making catches in traffic and does a very good job of tracking the football. His hands are reliable, and, combined with his physical gifts, he is a great red zone target.
Evans is a below average route runner, even for his size. However, it doesn’t matter that much. In general, 6’5 receivers just aren’t quick. They are long striders that don’t accelerate quickly or change directions smoothly. They really don’t create much separation, but they don’t really need to, because their size allows them to catch passes even when they are well covered. A receiver anywhere near as big as Evans who actually is quick enough to create separation from NFL corners would be a mythical superhuman capable of godlike play on the football field. Actually, he would be Calvin Johnson. Vincent Jackson almost fits this mold, a 6’5 receiver who doesn’t really do a great job of tracking the ball in the air but is much faster than people realize. Evans really will struggle to create much separation from NFL corners. I think one of the most underrated aspects of scouting wide receivers is their ability to get yards after the catch, as the ability to get yards after the catch is a great forecaster of route running potential. The same footwork used to deceive create distance between yourself and defenders when you have the ball in your hands can be used to create separation from corners in routes. Frankly, if Cordarrelle Patterson transferred the same footwork and head fakes he uses to avoid tackles to his route running, he could become the best receiver in the NFL. Look at A.J. Green’s film after the catch in college, and look at his route running with the Bengals, and tell me I’m wrong. With that in mind, Mike Evans has almost no potential as a route runner. He doesn’t have the elusiveness or quickness to make defenders miss in the open field (although he does a pretty good job of using his size), and consequently, he doesn’t have the quickness to create separation in his routes. He also doesn’t do a good job of finding holes in zone coverage, but he is a sophomore and he has time to improve in this respect. The one area he may see the most improvement in as a route runner is in his physicality. NFL receivers (Anquan Boldin) are pretty good at using techniques such as the push-him-by technique to create some separation when they are at a quickness disadvantage. The technical term for these techniques is “offensive pass interference,” but the best receivers know how to hide it. Evans is usually pretty extreme in this respect, either refusing to touch his man or just destroying him. He needs to consistently find the middle ground, but if he can, he has unlimited potential in this respect with his size and length.
Evans is a mediocre blocker. His effort is average, but he lacks the lateral quickness to get good initial position as a blocker and he doesn’t do a great job of using his size to overwhelm corners when he engages in a block. He also can get really lazy with his routes when is on the backside, getting a very casual release, although he doesn’t do it often.
I think Evans is a great prospect. I love his size, leaping ability, and hands. Barring injury, he’s a safe bet to get at least 75 touchdowns in his NFL career. A great red zone target for years to come.
NFL Comparison: Marques Colston. Evans is actually a bit bigger and faster, but Colston is a little bit more polished and a little bit quicker.
Grade: 97 (worthy of a top 10 pick)
Projection: 96 (will be a mid to early first round pick)