Draft Daily: Trade Up For Mike Evans?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Texas A&M

Greg Cosell of NFL Films was recently asked for his thoughts on Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

“You can make the argument that in some ways he’s a bigger and faster Anquan Boldin with his physicality and his hands, which is obviously a very good thing,” Cosell said while appearing on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast.

That’s a starting point sure to get Eagles fans excited.

At 6-5, 231 with 35 1/8-inch arms and 9 5/8-inch hands, Evans is one of the more physically imposing wide receivers in this year’s class. At the combine in February, he ran a 4.53 40:

You can see that Evans’ athleticism is not going to jump off the page, but he ran a decent 40 time (especially for someone his size) and has the vertical leap to add to his already monstrous frame.

Last season, Evans caught 69 balls for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards per reception. In 2012, he totaled 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five scores. It’s also worth noting that Evans is a relatively young prospect. He doesn’t turn 21 until August.

Playing with Johnny Manziel, Evans was a big-play machine last year. According to Rotoworld, 25.37 percent of his receptions came on throws 20 yards or more downfield.

From author Greg Peshek:

The most normalized reception chart belongs to Mike Evans, who was the closest to average among the top tier. Much will be made about Manziel and Evans’ connection and reliance on each other for deep balls. However, we still have to be impressed by the fact that at 6’5” Evans has caught the highest percentage of receptions past 20 yards amongst the top 15 WRs in this class.

Evans was a master of using his size and out-muscling defenders on 50/50 balls. He also did a great job of coming back to the football or improvising when Manziel bought time. As a result, the Rotoworld study showed that nearly 44 percent of Evans’ catches were on plays that had him coming back to the line of scrimmage.

He had great hands too, dropping only 4.29 percent of the catchable passes thrown his way.

Chip Kelly has talked about NFL receivers needing to beat man coverage above all else. Evans showed the ability to do that in college. Here’s an example against Alabama:

Evans beats the press off the line, separates and makes the grab before the safety closes.

Another example here:

Evans separates, makes the grab over his shoulder and then takes off. This seems like a pretty good example of what 4.53 speed looks like on the field. Evans doesn’t flat-out leave the defensive backs in the dust, but he’s fast enough. At 231 pounds, he’s not going to be easy to bring down in those situations once he gets behind defenders.

Earlier we mentioned Evans’ ability to go up and attack the football with defenders nearby. Here’s a play where he gets Alabama safety (and first-round prospect) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on his back while making the grab downfield:

Evans high-points the ball and comes down with it as three defenders close in.

And here’s a fantastic effort of him winning a jump-ball in traffic:

Evans and Manziel were a perfect match in terms of improvisation. When plays broke down, Manziel constantly bought time and scrambled behind the line of scrimmage. Evans, meanwhile, constantly worked to get open and help his quarterback out.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

What really stands out here is how Evans puts one-on-one defenders in difficult positions in the open field. The defensive back had about a 10-yard window in which to keep Evans out of the end zone, but he couldn’t do so.

Combine the speed, size and stiff-arm (Evans loves him some stiff-arm), and defensive backs are going to have trouble with Evans when he has the ball in the open field.

In terms of concepts that translate to the NFL, Evans really knows how to use his size. He should be good for a couple back-shoulder catches per game:

As you can see, there’s plenty to like. Evans has size, ball skills and big-play ability.

There have been rumors already that perhaps the Eagles would be willing to trade up to snag Evans, considering he’ll almost certainly be off the board by pick No. 22. After reviewing his skill set, the feeling here is that seems unlikely.

Given the depth at wide receiver in this class, the only way I would trade up is if I saw a prospect that had the following: plus size, great speed, college production, versatility and a clean bill from an off-the-field/chemistry perspective.

Evans checks some, but not all, of those boxes. He’s not a burner, and he’s not especially shifty or elusive. When the ball is in his hands, Evans’ go-to move is to try and stiff-arm defenders to the ground before running past them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the point is he’s not a “make-you-miss” guy.

In the games I watched, Evans almost never lined up inside, and a high percentage of his catches were outside the numbers. Evans certainly would be a mismatch against nickel corners, but I’m not sure he has the short-area quickness to consistently be productive in the slot.

Don’t get me wrong. Evans is a really good prospect, and chances are he goes in the top-15 (maybe even top-10). If I’m the Eagles and he’s somehow available at No. 22, I’d be ecstatic. But given that the team only has six picks and there are other needs to fill, I wouldn’t trade up for him.

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