Sun. Jun 16th, 2024
Tennessee Titans v Tampa Bay Bucs
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Welcome to year 11 for Mike Evans.

The Tampa Bay Bucs do not have a dazzling history of star offensive talent. The franchise’s list of legends features far more defenders than quarterbacks, pass catchers, and runners. Tampa’s 2014 first-round pick set a new standard. Jason Licht’s debut draft pick as the Bucs’ general manager has gone on to become one of the best in team history.

The Bucs drafted Mike Evans in what was, at the time, considered a deep wide receiver class. Sammy Watkins was the first off the board when the Buffalo Bills took him with the fourth overall selection. Just three picks later, Tampa Bay drafted Mike Evans at seven. Jason Licht decided on Evans over Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, and even Odell Beckham Jr. It’s been a decade and Mike Evans has treated Bucs’ fans to one of the most spectacular careers of any receiver in modern National Football League history.

The casual NFL fan might not know much about Evans beyond his streak of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, which he has maintained every year since he’s been in the NFL. Evans hasn’t just amassed yardage though, he’s been a touchdown machine in red and pewter. Over his 10 seasons, Evans has hauled in 94 touchdowns receptions. That number is the best in Bucs’ history and good for a top-15 all-time ranking.

Last year, Mike Evans caught passes from his seventh different quarterback as a Buc. Despite the consistent turnover(s) at the position, Evans has thrived and with Baker Mayfield he thrived again. Evans posted one of his best statistical seasons as a professional— 79 catches, 1,255 yards, and 13 scores. With nearly every spectator, on-looker, and pundit predicting the post-Tom Brady Bucs would fall into an abyss, Tampa rescripted the narrative. The Bucs, behind Evans’ play, rode into the postseason for the fourth consecutive year. His performance and to a certain degree the team’s success made Jason Licht’s decision to pay Mike Evans this offseason a very easy one. Licht gladly signed the Bucs up for two more years of the team’s all-time leading receiver.

This season, Evans will retake his spot at the bottom of the mountain ready to climb back to his eleventh 1,000-yard season and another playoff appearance— He will be doing so, at 31. There will come a day when Tampa’s Mr. Consistency may feel the effects of being drafted while Peyton Manning was still in the league. How soon will that day come though?

Tampa Bay Bucs v Indianapolis Colts
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For a relatively objective and fair comparison, DeAndre Hopkins played last season at 31. Stylistically, Hopkins and Evans have definitive similarities in their games. Evans is a bit larger (height and weight), but both are physically imposing receivers with 4.5 speed, and each has spent a large portion of their careers putting up elite numbers without elite quarterbacks. In 2023, the Tennessee Titans had five different players throw passes, including one from Hopkins himself. Excluding Hopkins’ throw and Derrick Henry’s pass attempts, Tennessee had three different quarterbacks pass the ball last season. Those three passers had a combined 12 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and averaged less than 200 yards per game. Hopkins, at 31, with average–below average play at the quarterback position posted very respectable numbers. With 75 catches, 1,057 yards, and seven scores, he led the Titans in targets, catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns.

Could Mike Evans, with what should be steadier quarterback play— put up similar, if not better statistics than Hopkins’ numbers from a season ago?

What are your expectations for Evans’ 2024 campaign?

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