This one pains me deeply. Since he entered the NFL in 2014, Mike Evans has been my favorite receiver in the league, and in my redraft leagues, I make it a priority to have him on my roster. For the first time since 2014, I am no longer planning to roster Evans, as I see his value trending down this season thanks to Tampa Bay’s decision to replace the aggressive passer whom Evans had established a rapport with (Jameis Winston) with a checkdown-oriented passer who has tended to struggle with deep throws in recent years (Tom Brady). While that decision should increase the overall QB play, the likelihood that Evans will see an ADoT of 15.1 yards in conjunction with a high volume of targets from Brady is highly unlikely.
Not to be downplayed, the Bucs have seemingly begun transitioning away from Evans as the WR1 in the offense, as evidenced by the fact that Chris Godwin was all but force fed targets last season. In his third season, Godwin led the Bucs in every receiving category while working as a pseudo-slot receiver for Bruce Arians’ offense. While Jameis Winston’s high passing volume allowed the team to sustain a pair of WR1’s for fantasy, there are several factors that lead me to believe that Brady won’t be able to do so. As we’ve seen in the past, Brady has a tendency to pepper the receivers who run short and intermediate routes more often than boundary receivers like Evans.
With the additions of unretired TE Rob Gronkowski and rookie WR Tyler Johnson, the Bucs offense will have a lot more mouths to feed this season. Factoring in the targets that should also go to guys like O.J Howard, Cam Brate, and the team’s running backs (who Brady will love to target), it’s hard to imagine Evans seeing more than 6-8 targets per-game this season. There is a silver lining to this though, as the targets that Evans does see will likely come in single-coverage due to the depth of receiving talent that the Bucs are set to feature. Moreover, the precise accuracy that is the trademark of Brady’s game should allow for fewer uncatchable passes. Considering Evans tied for the league lead in incompletions that were the fault of the QB with 27 (seems like more of a Jameis Winston stat than a Mike Evans stat doesn’t it?), it’s possible that he has his most efficient year yet with Brady.
Now before we go any further, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate Mike Evans for everything that’s great about him. Let’s run through the list of reasons why “Big Mike” is the most underappreciated receiver in the NFL, shall we?
- 7th in the NFL in yards per-route run in 2019 (2.3)
- 15.7 ADoT in 2019 (fourth in the league)
- Leads league in receptions on “Go” routes since 2018 (14)
- Second-most receiving yards on 20+ yard downfield throws since 2018 (950)
- 0.29 PPR points per-snap (tied for 9th best mark in the league in 2019)
- Most receiving yards in the league on throws of 10+ yards since 2018 (2,186)
- Second most receptions of 15+ yards since 2018 (73)
- Last, but not least:
In NFL HISTORY just 2 WR have hit 1,000 rec yards in each of their first 6 seasons…
– Randy Moss
– Mike Evans pic.twitter.com/TrGxMFQ349
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) July 17, 2020
So no, I am not a Mike Evans hater, just to clear that up.
Let’s circle back to the point of this article. Evans is an outstanding player who does most of his damage on downfield throws, but he will be paired with a QB who’s notorious for throwing shorter passes while also fending for targets on an offense that features at least two other elite playmakers who thrive on routes that are catered to the aforementioned QB’s liking. I think that covers the gist of what we’ve gone through, right? So we’ll pick up from there, I guess. Since we’re on the topic of quarterbacks, we might as well do a quick comparison between Winston and Brady. Here are some relevant stats that I believe could apply to this situation:
Jameis Winston (2019):
- 8.2 YPA
- 7.1 air yards per-attempt
- 13.4 YPC
- 6,486 intended air yards
- 10.4 intended air yards per-attempt
- 3,249 completed air yards
- 8.6 air yards per-completion
Tom Brady (2019):
- 6.6 YPA
- 6.8 air yards per-attempt
- 10.9 YPC
- 4,638 intended air yards
- 7.6 intended air yards per-attempt
- 2,223 completed air yards
- 6.0 air yards per-completion
While Brady didn’t have the receiving talent around him that Winston did, the former starter was objectively more aggressive as a passer while also completing deeper passes on average. Considering the fact that 65% of Evans’ targets last season came with 10+ yards to go on downs, it’s apparent that his function in this offense will be reliant on Brady hitting him on first down throws. With Brady’s tendency to chip away with short throws to the slot (where Godwin will likely be lining up), a large number of Evans’ potential targets could dry up, leaving him to fend for scraps. The departures of Breshad Perriman and Peyton Barber will only be opening up 93 possible targets for the new additions to the team (Gronkowski, Johnson, Ke’Shawn Vaughn). Even if we assume that Brady will match Winston’s league-high 626 passing attempts from last season (unlikely), the redistribution of the remaining targets will almost surely cut into Evans’ share this season.
- 64 receptions (-4 from last season)
- 103 targets (-15 from last season)
- 1,024 receiving yards (-133 from last season)
- 7 receiving TDs (-1 from 2019)
- 208.4 fantasy points ~WR24 (-9 spots from 2019)
It’s possible that Evans’ days of being “elite” for fantasy purposes may come to an end, although the success of his team could offset the hit he may take statistically.