Halftime Sports

Manziel’s Secret Weapon: Analyzing Mike Evans

March 23, 2014

Just about every prolific college quarterback of the past decade has had a great wide receiver. Tim Tebow had Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez, Robert Griffin III had Josh Gordon, Brandon Weeden had Justin Blackmon, and Ken Dorsey had Andre Johnson just to name a few. This trend holds true in this year’s NFL draft.

Most sports fans know about the record setting and often controversial college career of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel is a former Heisman trophy winner and a probable top five pick in this year’s NFL draft. Because of his strong presence in today’s media, either on talk shows or constant ESPN updates, his teammates in the backfield, trenches, and out wide have not gotten much attention. One of these players has been Manziel’s “go to” wide receiver for the past two years. Over the past two seasons, this receiver has hauled 150 passes for almost 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. Just last year, he recorded 69 receptions for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns. This receiver is Mike Evans. Evans, like Manziel, is a Texas A&M sophomore who has entered this year’s NFL draft. Evans will likely be the first or second receiver drafted this May. It is often challenging for highly touted college wide receivers such as Evans to find success in the NFL. Take Darius Heyward-Bay, for example, who was the first receiver taken in the 2009 NFL draft. He could not live up to the high expectations set for him as a top ten pick and now finds himself an NFL free agent who would be lucky to find a place on a team’s third string.  Mike Evans will not be one of these receivers. Evans has all the intangibles to become a successful receiver in the league. His physical attributes, stellar college performance, and hard nosed playing style will make for a smooth transition onto the professional gridiron.

It seems to be a trend these days for players who are “athletes” and not particularly “football players” to be recruited by elite colleges. This was very much the case for Mike Evans. Evans, a Texas native, was a basketball star in high school. It was not until his senior season that he stepped foot on the gridiron. Evans’ brief football resume along with his obvious athletic ability was evidently enough to convince Texas A&M coach at the time, Mike Sherman, that he was Aggie material. A&M’s “gamble” on Mike Evans, who redshirted his first year (2011), undoubtedly paid off as Evans would go on to break the school’s single-season receiving record this past year along with a laundry list of additional individual records along the way.

During his freshman year (2012), Evans led the team with 82 catches for 1,105 yards, both freshman records. During his sophomore campaign, Evans hauled in 69 passes for, as previously noted, a record breaking 1,394 yards. It’s safe to say that Evans far exceeded his expectations in only his second and third years playing competitive football. Although the argument can be made that Johnny Manziel’s right arm may have had something to do with the success of Evans, the sheer athleticism and power of Johnny Football’s favorite target was what really led to Evans’ dominance.

Mike Evans is an intimidating 6’5’’, 255 pounds. Taller, and often times faster and stronger than most college cornerbacks, Evans was able to easily beat his opponent and find open space on the post or vertical. This became clearly evident this past year against Alabama as Evans recorded a 95 yard touchdown reception of a vertical route carrying the ball for over 50 yards. Even if he wasn’t able to “shake” the corner, Evans was an extremely reliable receiver in traffic as his strong hands seemed to haul just about everything down. This became extremely evident this past year against Arkansas when, in the red zone, Manziel through a ball to Evans in triple coverage. Somehow Evans managed to snatch the ball out of the air for the touchdown. Evans’ speed and power also helped him as a ball carrier. Once hauling in the ball, Evans was often able to run through, over, and around tacklers while showing off a signature stiff arm.

Overall, the college career of Mike Evans was nothing short of outstanding. In just two years, Evans elevated himself to elite status cementing himself in Texas A&M’s football history. Evans has NFL caliber size, speed, and strength that showed as he dominated SEC cornerbacks this past year.

When looking at today’s top NFL recievers, Mike Evans’ size, athleticism, and playing style most closely resemble those of Tampa Bay Buccaneer Vincent Jackson and Chicago Bear Brandon Marshall. First of all the size, senior year college statistics, and NFL combine results of these three receivers is extremely similar. These comparisons are laid out in the table below.

Player Name (College)






40 time


Mike Evans

(Texas A&M)


225 lbs




4.53 sec

37.0 in

Vincent Jackson

(Northern Colorado)


230 lbs




4.46 sec

39.0 in

Brandon Marshall



230 lbs




4.52 sec

37.0 in

Mike Evans shares very similar senior year statistics to these two players as well as a similar combine performance. The on field aggression and ball carrying ability of Evans is reminiscent of Brandon Marshall. Both receivers run with authority and don’t shy away from contact, in fact, they welcome it. Evan’s route running speed, especially on the vertical, establishes him as a deep threat much like the physically imposing, surprisingly elusive Vincent Jackson. Both have the hand strength to haul down a fly ball in the end zone and fight off traffic.

Thanks to Evans’ strong performance at the NFL combine, he has solidified himself as one of the top wide receivers in this year’s draft class. He had one of the best vertical jumps for wide receivers and, given his size, his 40 time was good enough to merit him as a first round talent. Teams will undoubtedly benefit from Evans’ size and ability to get open on the vertical or post. He will most likely prosper as a number 2 receiver on a team with an established number 1 (think Arizona’s Michael Floyd to Larry Fitzgerald). With this said, Evans lacks great route running and found most of his success in college by utilizing his size and strength. These attributes definitely give him the potential to develop into a dangerous NFL receiver, but, as previously noted, he will need to improve on his route running and “football IQ” in order to beat NFL cornerbacks and ultimately find success.

Mike Evans will most likely be drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. Either he or Clemson’s Sammy Watkins will be the first receiver off the board. Taking Evans’ speed and attributes under consideration, the best fit for Mike Evans is Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay has an established number one receiver in Vincent Jackson and no definitive number two. Evans would benefit from playing with Jackson and help establish a dangerous receiving core for second year quarterback Mike Glennon or the recently signed Josh McCown. With this said, Evans will likely go to a team looking for a number one receiver earlier in the draft. These landing spots will likely be the St. Lewis Rams at pick number thirteen to finally give quarterback Sam Bradford an acceptable target or the Pittsburg Steelers at number 15 due to the recent loss of Emmanuel Sanders and the fact that there is no longer a stand out receiver left on the roster. With this said, the NFL draft is always full of shocking and often controversial picks. It will be interesting to see who takes a chance on Mike Evans.

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