Mike Evans was an incredible player in his two seasons as a wide receiver at Texas A&M. He and Johnny Manziel formed as powerful a duo as there was in the entire nation, which helped power Manziel to the Heisman trophy. Teams knew Evans was coming and could not really do anything to stop him. Evans was Manziel’s favorite target this past season and was able to make play after play for his quarterback.
Evans has the height, weight, and speed that would be attractive to the NFL, but his ability to find and catch the ball makes him truly special. His route running is a work in progress and his speed is solid but unspectacular, but he is such a difficult player to cover that he always appears to be open. He is also an impressive blocker who can be a weapon in the running game. Evans warrants as a first round pick and he could end up being the top receiver taken in the 2014 NFL Draft with more potential upside still to come.
Vitals & Build
Evans is listed at 6’5” 225lbs 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. Evans has good quickness and a great first step. His speed is solid but not overwhelming, 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. Evans is aggressive and can jolt opponents as they just have trouble getting to his body and slowing down his momentum.
In terms of pure route running, the Aggies seem to be fine with the fact that Evans does not run terribly precise routes for the most part. He just seems to have marks he hopes to hit and he just finds a way to get there in combination with a great chemistry with his quarterback.
As a result, for the most part, it is just a matter of focusing on the skills that Evans has when it comes to running routes. He has a great first step and covers a ton of ground, so he can show strength and gain distance after planting his foot into the ground, whether he is turning at a 90 degree angle or working back to the football. Evans is far more comfortable planting and cutting into those hard turns more than he is with dramatic changes in his direction.
This appears to be a matter of momentum and it is easier for him to steer that huge body than having to stop and redirect it. He can do it, plant his foot in the ground, and create separation, but as he gains more strength in his legs and more trust there, it should become cleaner.
Evans has some habits that seem to be unique to him in why they work. Because of his height and strength, Evans is never afraid to go outside when he goes up the field and seemingly give up real estate as he runs near the sideline. It works because he seems strong enough where he can come back and fight for space inside when he wants to do it. This could be more difficult against NFL defenders who are stronger and can potentially shove him out of bounds.
It is rare that he attacks inside of the opponent and should use that more to keep them guessing. There is a part of Evans’ game where he seems to feel like he can tell a defender where he is going and they are helpless to stop him.
When it comes to underneath routes, he really does show impressive strength when he plants his leg into the ground and explodes over the middle of the field as he turns and looks for the football.
The Aggie route tree is relatively limited in what they ask him to do and he plays exclusively on the right side in their system. He is not afraid to attack right at the defender and put pressure on them, using his hands to help create space when he makes a cut and giving him breathing room to make space.
Evans does respond well to plays breaking down and has shown a good sense of when and where he should attack the defense that gives his quarterback a place to throw the ball. Some of this is a matter of chemistry and would need to be developed with his quarterback in the NFL, but he has shown capable and has good instincts in that area.
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.
Evans really improved his hand strength over the past year and there were a number of passes last year he lost last year from catching the ball to trying to secure it. That has all but been erased this year and when he gets his hands on the ball, it is staying caught.
The other area that allows Evans to be so effective is how well he focuses on the football as it is in the air. It is remarkable how easily he is able to see find and track the football down the field. 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.
In terms of his ability to track the football and high point it, Evans is second to none. It is uncanny how safe a bet he was this season to come down with the football on 50/50 passes. Not only has this allowed Evans to be a safety blanket for his quarterback, but empowered him to make those type of risks and bet on Evans to make the plays, which have yielded incredible results.
Evans is unbelievably natural with his body positioning and how he is able to shield opponents out from the play. He has a great sense for when and how to box opponents out while being able to find and catch the football. Evans has also shown tremendous body control with knowing how to stay in bounds near the sideline or the end zone and this is an area that continues to improve.
The one area that will show up as a problem for Evans is passes that are low. He is a completely different player when passes are at the shoulder or above, but when he has to go down and make catches whether it be bending down to make them or trying to slide, he is not nearly as comfortable as there have been a number of missed opportunities there as a result.
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. His overall speed is above average but he is not winning many foot races when opponents have an angle. What allows him to win is that great first step after the catch. Evans seems to be able to get to his top speed in only a few steps.
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. Evans also has a devastating stiff arm and throws it at opponents like a punch, which has allowed him to break a number of tackles. 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.
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 has worked to make sure he does not fall off of blocks too early and just needs to work on his consistency as a blocker, but he can be quite impressive in that respect.
Occasionally, there are lapses in effort but they are not often. For the most part, Evans lands his blocks and shuts opponents down from the play, making it incredibly difficult for them to get past him. There have been some desperate attempts to create a problem for Evans as a blocker including a defender just throwing their body at him, but he was able to adjust and make the play.
Evans is perhaps best suited to play in a vertical passing offense, but he can play in any offense. He has played exclusively on the outside while at College Station, but he could be used as a joker type player as well. Evans can certainly stay outside, but he could be moved inside as a slot type tight end to create mismatches as well. He is too big for most defensive backs, but physical enough and more than fast enough to play on the inside as well. Evans will need to continue working on being a more refined route runner but he is ready to play instantly as a guy who can go up and get the football.
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.
Mike Evans has incredible size and physical development for someone who will not turn 21 until August. Combining that with his incredible ability to track the football and make plays, Evans is a weapon that can contribute immediately, but should only get better if he wants to really work to hone his craft. He has been so dominant that virtually no one has been able to cover him in college, so it can be easier not to focus on the little things. The hope is that in the NFL, that will push him to develop some of the nuances with running routes and getting open. Evans projects warrants a first round pick and he could end up going extremely, bordering on the top 10 with what he can do for a quarterback and an offense.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com