Earlier today, Zach Links looked at the consensus top receiver in the upcoming draft, but Sammy Watkins might not be the only playmaking pass catcher selected in the top ten. Texas A&M standout Mike Evans might not have the pedigree of Watkins, but after two seasons with the Aggies he has jumped to the top of draft boards across the league.
Evans has a strength that makes him extremely valuable in the current NFL. Standing tall at 6’5″, even if he cannot separate with cornerbacks running down the field, Evans has the ability to separate with anyone vertically. Time and time again during his two seasons at College Station, Johnny Manziel was able to throw the ball up and watch Evans go up and over smaller defenders to come down with the football.
Where Watkins is considered the more polished receiver with the highest upside, he surrenders four inches or more when compared to Evans. While Zach writes that Watkins could have a similar impact to A.J. Green or Julio Jones did during their first two seasons, both those players are 6’3″ or taller. Other notable receivers that are 6’3″ or taller include Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Jordy Nelson, Vincent Jackson, and Jimmy Graham to name a few.
If that list of names does not include all of the best receivers in the modern NFL, it includes nearly all of them. The gives Evans a huge upside that could rival even Watkins. While taller receivers sometimes do not possess the top end speed required, Evans eased the minds of scouts when he ran a surprisingly fast 40-yard dash, posting a time of 4.53 seconds.
More importantly than his combine performance, Evans produced on the field. As a redshirt freshman, Evans caught 82 passes for over 1,100 yards and added five touchdowns. He only got better as a sophomore, catching 69 passes for 1,394 yards, for an incredible 20.2 yards per catch. His 12 touchdowns were tied for most in the SEC, as he torched some of the best defenses in the country. The Aggies lost to Alabama, but Evans caught 7 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown in that game. Texas A&M went on to beat the eventual SEC champion Auburn Tigers, behind Evans’ 287 yards on 11 catches, with four of those catches ending in the endzone.
Evans still will most likely have to wait for Watkins to come off the board ahead of him, but both players are looking at being selected in the top ten. The Buccaneers (No. 7) are rumored to be interested in Evans, and the Lions (No. 10) have been interested as well. The Bills (No. 9) could be a possibility, and it would be a surprise if he is passed on by both the Giants (No. 12) and the Rams (No. 13), assuming the Rams do not take Watkins with their earlier pick.