|David J. Phillip / Associated Press|
|Texas A&M WR Mike Evans dismantled the Alabama defense in the Aggies' loss last weekend.|
The college football world tuned in to watch AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel shoot it out when Alabama visited Texas A&M last weekend, but it was Aggies WR Mike Evans who stole the show.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt sophomore lit up the Crimson Tide defense for 279 receiving yards on seven catches, including a 95-yard score that sparked the Aggies in the second half. Although his effort wasn't good enough to help Texas A&M defeat the No. 1 team in the country, it certainly raised his profile in the NFL scouting community. Given a few days to dig into the coaches' tape to see if Evans is truly a premier playmaker, I thought I would share my thoughts on his game and pro potential. Here's my take:
Evans is a big, athletic playmaker with better movement skills than most expect from a big-bodied receiver. He is smooth and fluid getting out of his breaks, and flashes a burst separating from defenders out of cuts. As a long strider, however, Evans is at his best when running routes that keep him on the move. He displays build-up acceleration on vertical routes and those same traits help him get open on in-breaking routes like post-digs. Moreover, Evans' deceptive speed and burst make him a credible threat on deep routes, as evidenced by his 95-yard touchdown against Alabama on a go route. Although Evans must continue to make strides as an intermediate route runner, he is certainly capable of developing into a No. 1 receiver at the next level.
As a former high school hoops star, Evans shows superb ball skills and hand-eye coordination. He attacks the ball in a crowd aggressively, and utilizes his superior physical dimensions to overwhelm defenders on the perimeter. Most impressively, Evans has mastered the art of "posting up" defenders on curls and comebacks on the outside. With more teams searching for big-bodied receivers with the potential to develop into Andre Johnson- or Larry Fitzgerald-like playmakers, scouts are going to find Evans intriguing as a primary option on the outside.
Offensive coordinators covet receivers with the ability to turn short passes into big gains. Evans is not an explosive playmaker in the mold of USC's Marqise Lee or Clemson's Sammy Watkins, but he is a big-play artist with the ability to create chunk plays on the perimeter. He deceptively blows past defenders on vertical routes and has a knack for turning quick screens into first downs when given opportunities on the outside. Evans isn't going to strike NFL evaluators as a "blow the top of the coverage" receiver at the next level, but he is averaging an astonishing 25.9 yards per reception, which is a reflection of his underrated ability as a deep threat.
Evans is a big-bodied receiver with exceptional strength and power. Additionally, he plays with a nasty disposition, which makes him a dangerous runner on the perimeter. Evans' ability to run through arm tackles and minimal contact allows him to routinely turn quick screens and slants into first downs. Moreover, his punishing running style allows him to make an impact on the passing game when he is unable to run past defenders on vertical routes. With offensive coordinators looking for well-rounded players with the ability to contribute in a variety of ways, Evans' running skills makes him an ideal weapon in most offensive systems.
Scouts love to see prospects step up their games in key moments, which is why NFL evaluators are suddenly smitten with Evans. He tore up the No. 1 team in the country with a game that is far more explosive and dynamic than expected from a playmaker of his size. He blew past the Crimson Tide's defensive backs with ease, while also showing the physicality and toughness to overpower defenders in close proximity. Additionally, Evans made a number of plays when the game appeared to be out of reach, which revealed his competitive zeal and mental toughness. Now, skeptics will point out that Evans only posted three 100-yard games a season ago and failed to take over games in key moments. But I believe Evans' breakout performance against Alabama could provide him with the confidence to take his game to another level. If he continues to perform like a marquee player through a tough SEC schedule, Evans will squelch the criticisms about his ability to be a No. 1 option in a pro offense.
Evans is a terrific big-bodied receiver with intriguing potential. He has the size and physical dimensions that NFL coaches covet, with an emerging game that could make him a potential No. 1 receiver at the next level. Evans still must smooth out some of the rough spots in his game to earn a spot among the top-tier receivers in the college game, but his breakout performance against Alabama has certainly created a buzz in NFL circles.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.