2014 NFL Draft Prospects: Mike Evans locates the ball at a high level, helps limitations in route-running

Stacy Revere

Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans has excellent natural skills in terms of locating the ball and catching it at its highest point. How he'll translate those skills, as well as improve on mediocre route-running, in the NFL will make the difference between a high level receiver and a draft bust.

Big, is the only way to describe Texas A&M receiver Mike Evan and his play on the field for the Aggies over his career. Evans is a former high school basketball star who first played football in his senior year of high school. He measures in at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds which is gigantic for most receivers. The 20 year old redshirt sophomore elected to enter the 20 NFL Draft after an amazing two years at Texas A&M. After a redshirt year, Evan had 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 while earning freshman All-SEC honors. His sophomore campaign saw him become a big playmakers and his QB Johnny Manziel's favorite target amassing 69 receptions for 1394 yards and 12 TDs. Evans had his best games against some of the best opponents in the SEC. He abused Alabama's secondary, catching seven passes for a then career high 279 yards and a touchdown. He also torched secondary, catching 11 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns (both career highs).

Strengths

Mike Evans biggest strength is his size. He towers over every cornerback and the Aggies took advantage of this often. When Manziel was in trouble he would look to his monstrous receiver. Evans has large hands and an impressive ability to locate and go after the football. His tape is filled with throws that Evans is heavily contested but he comes down with it. He excels at catching the back shoulder throws. He has impressive body control able to maneuver himself between the ball and the defender and able to adjust in air to land in bounds. He is a deceptive route runner. He does a nice job of fooling defenders with head fakes and quick shimmies of the hip. Evans seems to understand how to find holes in zone coverage. His size also helps him fight through press coverage. He also understands well how to get open when the play breaks down which was a huge asset with a QB like Johnny Manziel.

On this play Evans showcases his amazing ability to high point the football. After a scramble Manziel tosses the football up for grabs to the big wide receiver. Evans uses his basketball skills to "box out" the corner and goes up to get the football. He literally gets the ball at its highest point and the corner has no chance at getting the football. This is only one of many catches Evans had that highlight his exception ability jump ball skills.

Evans size also makes him incredibly hard to tackle for many of the smaller corners. Texas A&M routinely got the ball to him on quick throws where he could bully the smaller defensive backs, break a tackle and have room to run. He has good balance through contact and a nice stiff arm. Physicality is something he seems to enjoy. With a great ability to get yards after contact it isn't hard to see why he averaged a superb 20.2 yards per reception.

The advantage of Evans' size is seen here. On a quick route Evans gets the ball in his hands. He has little to no room to make a move. As the CB comes flying in Evans throws out a stiff arm and throws him down to the ground. Unfortunately Evans steps out of bounds trying to step out of the CB hold on his left foot. While there were a few more successful examples of Evans physical play, this play shows clearly the advantage Evans has in the physicality department over many corners.

The final advantage of his size is as a blocker. Evans does an excellent at sealing the corner for outside run plays. He keeps his hands inside the defender to avoid holding penalty and just bullies the corners and safeties he is responsible for blocking.

Weakness

On tape Evans appears to have only average long speed for a big wide receiver. Evans as a prospect is hurt by his lack of explosiveness or lateral quickness and it shows. He doesn't appear to have a second gear to pull away from man coverage. He is also a poor route runner which might be the biggest concern. A "leggy" athlete he struggles breaking down to make his cut and it takes him far too long to stop his forward momentum. Evan needs quicker footwork in and out of his breaks. He has issues dropping his weight on his cuts which hurt his explosiveness out of his breaks as well. On fades he is too complacent on just heading down the sideline instead of using his size to give him space between his route and the sideline. Creating that space helps decrease the margin of error on the fade throws. These route running issues help explain why he seemingly can disappear in games. When facing a corner with some length he will be shut down as he no longer as the huge physical advantage and lacks an explosiveness to get away.

Though this play ends in a touchdown due to Evans exceptional ability to locate the football and adjust to its flight it also highlight Evans poor route running. Evans is one-on-one with the corner. He attempts to fake like he is running an inside route and then fade to the endzone. His stop in his fake is chopping and slow developing. He doesn't fool the corner and coming out of his stop he shows poor acceleration, allowing the corner to get on him with ease.

Overall

Mike Evans is a match up that most offenses will like. He is too tall for most CB, and too fast for most linebackers. He seems like a guy who could be an immediate upgrade to a team's redzone offense and a solid number two receiver. His lack of elite athleticism and precision route running may prevent him from being an elite player in this draft. Evans had some of his biggest plays when his QB began to scramble, not by beating anyone 1-on-1. He does have exceptional skills at locating the ball in flight and has great hands which help his prospects. In the right offense I believe Evans could be a solid player in the NFL for a while. That offense however has to be one that manufactures space between Evans and his defender so he can use his size to gain YAC. Relying on him to get separation in a 1-on-1 match-up would be a mistake. In the NFL he is going to need more than just great hands and great size to be a top caliber player. Regardless with only four years of football experience Evans still has a lot of growth potential as a football player.

Film from Draft Breakdown was used in creating the GIFs

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