Let’s Not Bury Mike Evans Just Yet (Fantasy Football)
When looking into whether or not I should write this article one thing became very apparent: The Fantasy Footballers’ Writing Staff loves Mike Evans. This article will be the 4th we’ve written about the Tampa Bay wideout in the last five years, every one of them warning you not to doubt him. Coming into this season, the narrative and his ADP do not line up. He is currently going at the end of the 2nd round of fantasy drafts as the WR7, but all you hear about him is that he lost his team’s WR1 status and that Tom Brady can’t throw the deep ball. He’s being called “risky” and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A Brief History
If you want 1,000 yards, you call Mike Evans. In 2019, Evans became only the 2nd man to record 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons and has the opportunity to become the first to do it in seven straight. The other player accomplish this in six straight seasons was Randy Moss; didn’t he and Tom Brady play together for a year? While it is crazy to think that Evans will be able to duplicate that magical Moss year, dismissing him as a risky is just as foolish especially at his WR7 ADP.
In the six seasons that he has been in the NFL, Evans has never finished worse than WR24. Only once has he been drafted a WR1 and failed to meet that goal. Touchdowns typically make or break Evans’ WR1 prospects and the boom or bust nature of his game, being a deep-threat WR, has created this “risky” narrative, and 2019 didn’t do much to help his cause.
2019 in Review
Coming into 2019, with the addition of new head coach Bruce Arians, it was clear the tides were shifting in Tampa Bay. Arians had expressed major love for Chris Godwin and it seemed Evans was no longer the clear-cut WR1 for Jameis Winston. While that turned out to be true, it didn’t keep Evans from finishing as the WR12 while playing in just 13 games. If he had played in all 16, based on his fantasy point-per-game, he would’ve been the overall WR2.
The season started slower for Evans, recording just 6 receptions for 89 yards and 0 TDs in the first two weeks. Then Week 3 vs the Giants happened. Evans went off with an 8/190/3 stat line, giving us the 3rd best game by a fantasy WR in 2019. He had another solid game in Week 4 but Week 5 brought Marshon Lattimore and the Saints and this where things get ugly. Three targets, zero catches, and zero fantasy points. All the goodwill built over the last two weeks was GONE! Nevermind that Evans would go on to finish as a fantasy WR1 for the next three weeks, he was impossible to trust.
All in all, Evans gave us five WR1 weeks, three WR3 weeks, and five weeks as a WR4 or worse (plus three weeks of injury). He had become Amari Cooper. He was the fantasy WR12 but that was carried by five games. While I understand boom-or-bust is just about the most frustrating WR in fantasy football, it’s becoming more and more common. Cooper Kupp had six games outside of the WR3 ranks, DeAndre Hopkins had four, as did Kenny Golladay, DeVante Parker, Keenan Allen, Julian Edelman, and Allen Robinson. In other words, including Evans, eight of the top -12 WRs finished at least 25% of their games as a WR4 or worse. If Evans is risky based on his 2019, so is every WR not named Michael Thomas. Chris Godwin, or Julio Jones.
The Tom Brady Conundrum
“Tom Brady can’t throw the deep ball” If you’ve had a conversation about Mike Evans in the last three months, I’m willing to guarantee that this phrase was used at least once. According to FantasyData, Brady threw 60 passes over 20 yards in 2019. He completed 41.7% of those passes, 8th best in the league. Because of that accuracy, Brady completed the 9th most passes over 20 yards despite throwing just the 15th most. He ranked 10th in air yards, just behind Carson Wentz and ahead of Aaron Rodgers. Anybody claiming they can’t throw the deep ball? While Jameis Winston completed the most “deep balls”, he also threw the most and was ranked 15th in regards to accuracy. Brady will be asked to throw the ball deep more often in Arians’ offense and his accuracy should lead to far more positive results than what we saw from Jameis.
The real issue that Brady brings to the table is the fact that he won’t be throwing as many interceptions as Winston. Tampa Bay should be playing from behind far less in 2020 and that will lead to more positive game-scripts and fewer passes. Before we write Evans off due to a good thing, just note that five of last year’s WR1s came from teams that threw the ball fewer than 600 times. Arians is a great offensive mind and will use his weapons properly. They may still throw 600 times and Brady showed he can still handle it, as he threw the ball 620 times in New England last year.
Just say these words out loud “Mike Evans would be a better WR if he didn’t have Tom Brady at QB“. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? Possibly the best QB to ever play the game somehow makes one of the best statistical WRs to ever play worse? That does not make sense. The only way I’m avoiding Mike Evans is if I took Chris Godwin earlier in the draft. Too many eggs in one basket. Will he still be boom-or-bust? Probably, but so will half of the other WR1s and a more accurate QB should improve that for Evans. His ADP is far from a discount but you get what you pay for when you draft Mike Evans.