Raise your hand if Mike Evans was one of your top wide receiver targets last year and you drafted him in nearly every league you were in…
I couldn’t have been the only person who was counting on Evans to lead my fantasy squad’s wide receiver unit as his final average draft position for the 2017 season was the eighth overall pick and the fourth receiver behind only Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.
Evans projects to bounce back nicely considering the fact he’s only 24 years old and is just one season removed from 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns; but let’s take a deeper dive into Evans and how he fits into the fantasy picture in 2018 with this fantasy football profile.
To be fair, 71 catches for 1,001 yards and five touchdowns is not a stat line to just glance over, but when it’s the stat line from the fourth fantasy receiver off the board, that’s where you start running into some issues.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that went wrong for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season…
1. Tampa Bay wasn’t even able to play its week one game due to Hurricane Irma. Not that it impacted the beginning of the season dramatically, but it took away the Buccaneers bye week, which was originally scheduled for week 11.
2. After a week nine brawl with Saints’ cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, Evans was suspended for the team’s week 10 game against the New York Jets, which was unfortunate for Evans’ fantasy owners as the Jets were just 21st against the pass last season.
3. Starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, battled injuries throughout the year and was never able to completely get into rhythm with Evans. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who filled in for the injured Winston, didn’t play terribly as he finished with over 1,000 passing yards and seven touchdowns after seeing action in six games last season, but the chemistry Winston and Evans have built over the last couple of years wasn’t matched by the limited skill set of Fitzpatrick.
After notching four games with over 100 receiving yards and three games with multiple touchdowns in 2016, Evans was unable to provide fantasy owners with a breakout week last season as he recorded just one game with over 100 yards and failed to tally a single multiple-touchdown performance.
Evans was also unable to perform down the final stretch of the season when you needed him the most, scoring just one touchdown over the team’s final nine games.
His WR19 finish in 2017 was the second worst of his four-year career as he finished third in 2016, 24th in 2015 and 12th in 2014.
Evans’ current average draft position is the 11th pick in the second round, which puts him as the ninth wide receiver off the board. If you possess one of the top picks in your fantasy draft, you may be able to go running back in both the first and second rounds and then come back with Evans early in the third. Making Evans your WR1 in the third round provides incredible value if he’s able to return to 2016 form.
A healthy Winston combined with another offseason of work between the two should also help the stock of Evans. There’s no doubt that Winston has tremendous confidence in Evans as he targeted him a league-high 175 times in 2016, the last time both players played a full 16-game season.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Buccaneers look to change up their offensive philosophy after drafting Ronald Jones II early in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Jones may be in line for a significant workload his rookie season if you consider how high he was selected and if you believe in the idea of the Bucs simplifying the offense for Winston and having him shoulder a little less of the load. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay running the ball less than it did in 2017 as the Buccaneers finished just 26th in the league last season in rush attempts.
As far as competition for targets goes, Evans should once again dominate the looks from Winston. The team did re-sign Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard should factor more into the pass game, and Chris Godwin is likely to see an increased role in his second season, but Evans is in the category of receivers with the likes of Jones, Brown, Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins – to name a few – who are going to dominate their team’s targets from the wide receiver position.
Evans and the Buccaneers sit near the middle of the league when it comes to fantasy football wide receiver strength of schedule for the 2018 season. The stat is based on how many fantasy points the player’s opposing team’s defenses allowed from the year before, so it’s not always the best measuring stick when trying to predict player’s individual statistics for the upcoming season since teams and their personnel change from year to year, but the Buccaneers’ receivers will face the 15th-hardest strength of schedule this year.
If Evans is on the board at his current average draft position, you should have no hesitation on pulling the trigger. In fact, moving Evans up your draft board and selecting him a few picks higher than his ADP may be in your best interest.
The 6’5”, 230-lb target is going to get plenty of looks and is a top candidate to bounce back from a low touchdown total in 2017 and could easily return to double-digit scores in ’18. Evans has notched 12 touchdowns twice so far in his career, and a third time would provide you incredible value if you’re able to land him in the mid-to-late second round of your fantasy draft.
Evans is currently my WR7 heading into 2018 as I see his ceiling as high as a top-three finish while his floor should be no lower than a mid-level WR2. Don’t let his performance from last season get in the way of making him your WR1 this season; Evans could very well return as a top-tier receiver that you can count on to pace your squad’s wide receiver unit each week.
Be sure to check out the latest episodes of the Loaded Box Podcast as the guys are joined by Andrew Erickson of Gridiron Experts (Running Backs) and Mitchell Renz of Chat Sports (Wide Receivers) to play the fantasy football version of “Would You Rather”