Nov 17, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M

Since arriving in College Station, Kevin Sumlin has made Texas A&M the top college football program in Texas both by maximizing the talent of the players he inherited as well as recruiting and getting big contributions from young players early.  Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy last year as a redshirt freshman, but he was not the only freshman sensation on the Texas A&M offense.  Manziel and the rest of the team benefited from the significant contributions from their big time wide receiver, Mike Evans.  The Galveston native brought in 82 catches for 1,105 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Evans has the height, weight, and speed that would be attractive to the NFL, but the areas that allowed him to be so successful in his second year of college were his hands and his body control.  Already a tantalizing prospect as he enters the first year he will be eligible of the NFL Draft, it would hardly be surprising if he was a fringe first round pick now, but he can still get stronger and become a more effective route runner which could make him a first round pick and be in the mix to be one of the top receivers picked in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Vitals & Build

Evans is listed at 6’5” 218lbs and there is little to suggest he is tapped out in terms of how much bigger and stronger he can get, especially in his upper body.  Because of his ability to add weight, it would hardly be surprising if he can get around the 225lb mark sometime this year without losing anything athletically.  Evans has good quickness and effective long speed, but what makes him stand out the most is body control.  He is an incredibly fluid player for anyone, let alone someone of his size.  The sky appears to be the limit on where Evans can go physically, so it will be interesting to see how he and his coaches decide to go about his training regimen.

Route Running & Technique

Evans has a good stance and a great first step that allows him to immediately put opponents off balance.  He uses his hands to win at the line of scrimmage as teams will try to press him to avoid having him beat them with raw speed.

As a route runner, Evans is somewhat inconsistent and it is hardly surprising at his age.  There are times when he does a great job of putting his foot in the ground and creating separation but too often, defensive backs are able to close the distance and contest passes coming into his area.  Some of this is due to the fact that everyone in the stadium knows what is coming in a jump ball situation in certain areas of the field.  Nevertheless, Evans needs to work and improve at selling routes and setting up opponents so they have a more difficult time mirroring him and he can have more space to operate making the catch and have more space after the catch.  Evans excels working down the field and the sideline as opposed to underneath and towards the middle of the field where he can be good, but is still working to improve.

Hands

Evans has natural hands and impressive body control that enables him to go up and contort his body to make difficult catches.  His catch radius is large but may get even bigger with more experience and reps as a receiver going forward.  Between his leaping ability and his size, as long as his quarterback throws the ball up, he is a threat to go get it.  He rarely allows the ball to get into his body and really trusts his hands when he goes to catch the football.

The one area that Evans needs to really improve is his hand strength and his ability to maintain possession all the way through the catch.  There are countless examples where Evans goes up for a ball and gets it in his hands before a defensive back is able to rip the ball out of his hands and break up the play.  Because of his size advantage, defenders are forced to go straight for the ball as he comes down with it in many situations or they will not have a chance to stop him.  If his hands are stronger and he has more of a vice grip on the football, he is virtually unstoppable in the red zone.

The other area that allows Evans to be so effective is how well he focuses on the football as it is in the air.  Whether bodies are flying around or he is working near the sideline, he uses his body control to put himself in great position while tracking the ball extremely well to go and make a play.  This is especially true near the sideline where Evans has made a number of impressive catches while staying in bounds.  Even the times where he ends up out of bounds, he is barely out of bounds and securing an incredible catch.

Run After Catch

Evans is able to make the adjustment from catching the ball to running with the ball in his hands really well.  He is able to make a move immediately and make an opponent miss after he catches the ball.  Between his acceleration and lateral agility, he is able to do more than a lot of bigger receivers because he is so fluid.  When he has a running lane, he has the speed to do some serious damage and is certainly a threat to take it to the house.  His speed is excellent for his size but if a fast opponent has an angle, they can bring him down.  Still, Evans is not someone who is caught from behind against college opponents.

In addition to having quickness and speed, Evans has a ton of power and is not afraid to use it.  He will lower his shoulder and power into an opponent and drive forward to pick up additional yardage as well as sending a message.  Because of his willingness to use power, it makes his agility and speed moves that much more viable as options.  If a defender is not prepared, Evans can simply run them over and if they brace for impact, he has the chance to beat them with speed and run right by them.  As Evans is able to catch passes with more separation, he should only have more opportunities to make plays after the catch, but the early results are impressive.

Blocking

Evans has the size and strength to be a terrific blocker as a receiver and he will bring effort and look to dominate opponents.  He does a good job of locking on to the opponent and then driving them off of the ball and there are a few situations where if a whistle did not stop him, he would have been able to put a defensive back in the team’s bench.

His technique is solid and he does a good job of working to secure blocks and then switching to strength rather than trying to de-cleat opponents with the first shot.  Evans has had several examples where he was effectively the lead blocker for a run by the Aggies or just dominated his opponent which gave the ball carrier a huge alley to run in and allowed them to make a big play or score.  Evans needs to work on making sure he does not fall off of blocks too early and just simply work on his consistency as a blocker, but he can be quite impressive in that respect.

System Fit

Evans is athletic enough and talented enough where he can play in any offense, but Evans has shown to be more comfortable and more effective going down the field.  Between that and his ability to be a great run blocker, he is well suited for a power running game that likes to go down the field off of play action.  An offense along the lines of Cleveland, San Francisco or Pittsburgh would love to have a player like Evans in it because of everything he can bring.  They can shrink the offense down, isolate him on a side and allow him to work one on one or force a team to take additional resources to cover him and give teams an advantage up the middle and on the other side.

Schedule

Sat, Aug 31                                                         vs. Rice
Sat, Sep 07                                                         vs. Sam Houston State
Sat, Sep 14                                                         vs. Alabama
Sat, Sep 21                                                         vs. SMU
Sat, Sep 28                                                         at Arkansas
Sat, Oct 12                                                         at Ole Miss
Sat, Oct 19                                                         vs. Auburn
Sat, Oct 26                                                         vs. Vanderbilt
Sat, Nov 02                                                         vs. UTEP
Sat, Nov 09                                                         vs. Mississippi State
Sat, Nov 23                                                         at LSU
Sat, Nov 30                                                         at Missouri

Notable Games

There is an overwhelming amount of attention on the game between A&M and Alabama in College Station on the 14th.  The Tide corners will have their hands full and Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, their free safety may be counted on to protect them over the top against Evans.  The combination of Andre Hal and Kenny Ladler could be an interesting matchup for Evans when they host Vanderbilt.  It is difficult to imagine they will not employ some sort of box coverage at points in the game and those could be among the players called upon to accomplish it.  A few weeks later, the Aggies go on the road to play against LSU and while the Bayou Bengals have lost a lot of talent from their defense last year, they have players like Jalen Saunders and Craig Loston that could be focused on stopping Evans at different times.

NFL Comparison

Although he is not quite the size at this point, Evans’ game is similar to that of Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Coming out of Northern Colorado, Jackson was a prospect that stole the show at the NFL combine with his size, strength, and speed.  Evans still has time to continue adding weight and he may end up similar in terms of his build to Jackson.  Both players are able to go up and get the football down the field, excel in a vertical offense, and go up and get the ball extremely well.

Draft Projection

On his athletic talents alone, Mike Evans will in the conversation to go extremely early in the draft.  Stephen Hill and Josh Gordon were of similar sizes and speeds without nearly the polish and both went in the second round, so when Evans declares, he will immediately be talked about in that area with the expectation he will go much higher because of his polish.  Evans has good hands and tremendous concentration to go up and get the ball, so if he just continues improving as a route runner and strengthens his hands and grip to come down with the ball more consistently in contested plays, he will likely be a first round pick and the question will be just how high he goes, when he ultimately enters the NFL Draft.  Evans has the potential to be a game changer and really shift the balance of power in a division with all he can bring to a team and just how much stress he can put on a defense.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Mike Evans Texas A&M Aggies Football Wide Receivers

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