By: Justin Goldberg
The title of this article might seem disrespectful to Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, but it’s not my intention as he’s a fantastic player and might go down as one of the best to ever play the position. However, the Hall of Fame standards for lots of NFL fans are way too low. Evans is a player who’s always been subject to the title “overrated,” which makes his career also very overrated. Again, this isn’t disrespectful to Evans because he’s a great player. Here, overrated means rated or valued too highly, not bad.
Ever since I’ve started ranking NFL players after the 2020 season, he’s never been ranked a top 10 or even a top 15 receiver, granted he was probably in the top 10 for a few seasons before that. The only individual seasons where I can see Evans ranked as a top 5 receiver are 2016 and 2018, but I wouldn’t put him top 5 in either. My biggest issues with him concern his base production (his base production in general is way too overvalued) and his talent, accolades, and lack of elite peak play isn’t up to standards with a Hall of Fame receiver.
Starting with talent, I fail to name more than two traits where he’s consistently been top 10 in the league. He possesses great size and strength which makes him a dominant contested catcher and red zone threat, but that’s about it. His hands are above average, not great, he’s not a great route runner, he makes lots of catches harder on himself than they should be, he isn’t great after the catch, he isn’t a good separator, he’s average after the catch, he isn’t explosive whatsoever, he tries to bully corners at the LOS in press man, thereby slowing his route down which hinders an offense with him being the X, and it also makes his release below average, which, in my opinion, is the most important trait a WR can have.
He also isn’t quick which limits his upside and fear-factor defenses have on him. I’ve always thought that Evans is a great floor raising WR. He’ll get you those 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he isn’t going to elevate an offense like some of the elite ones did in this generation such as Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, Devante Adams, Justin Jefferson, DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, Cooper Kupp, Ceedee Lamb, Michael Thomas, and AJ Brown. Those are guys who have peaked way higher than him all with better Hall of Fame cases than Evans despite whatever stages they are in his career.
My next point is that his base production is overvalued. Is it impressive that Evans has put together 10 straight 1,000 yard seasons? Yes, I will not take that away from him, but those one, don’t show how good of a player he actually is and two, aren’t as impressive when he has not put up multiple or arguably any top 3-5 caliber seasons for wide-out during those seasons.
Evans has had seasons where he finished with 1,051, 1,001, 1,006, and 1,035 receiving yards. If he had 1-2 less catches in those years, he would not have hit that 1,000 mark and most NFL fans don’t talk about him the same way they do now. Evans has achieved one 1,500 yard season , one 1,300 yard season , and one 1,200 yard season in his career with 17 games. The rest he’s posted below 1,200. In what world is that dominating the NFL like actual Hall of Fame WRs did? One or two more catches per year don’t make Evans a Hall of Famer. That’s how thin the ice is that the Evans Hall of Fame case is standing on.
The NFL is more pass-heavy than it’s ever been and it’s gotten easier and easier for receivers to put up those kinds of seasons. Evans finished top 10 in yards per game in three of his 10 seasons, cracked the top-five twice and was sixth in the other season. I consider 2016-2019 to be Evans’ peak and he was very good and probably a top 10 WR in most of those seasons. In every year since Evans entered the league, on average, 23.3 receivers have finished above 1,000 receiving yards. If he’s barely finishing above 1,000 in four of those seasons and not even exceeding 1,200 yards in seven of those seasons, why is this some Hall of Fame worthy accomplishment? Bring up how he’s had Fitzpatrick and Winston all you want, but those guys sling the ball around like there’s no tomorrow and force the ball to Evans all the time which inflated hiss base production and caused him and his entire offense to be inefficient during all of those seasons. Tampa Bay never cracked the top 10 offenses per DVOA and EPA/Play metrics in all the years
Evans was on the team before having Tom Brady as his QB. This season, , the Bucs didn’t crack the top 10 in EPA/Play and barely slid into the top 20 in offensive DVOA their first year without the GOAT under center. In 2020-2022 when Brady was the QB, we saw Evans have near career lows in base production, but the rest of the offense around him elevated in all efficiency metrics. They were top 5 in offensive DVOA and EPA/Play and they even finished first in 2021. Everyone else was better with Brady besides Evans? That’s not a surprise.
We learn a few things from this. First, you can’t use the lack of QB argument because he literally got a chance to play with the smartest and greatest QB of all time in Brady and produced near career lows in all those base metrics. Secondly, he was never some elite WR because with a QB that had a somewhat decent football IQ he wasn’t a top two receiver on his own team when Antonio Brown was there. Chris Godwin and Brown were both better than Evans on their Super Bowl run and in 2021. Third, those previously mentioned talent and trait concerns are real because those are the only consistent thing we can see in player evaluations. Production is situational, traits are individual. Fitzpatrick didn’t make Evans an average route runner, Mike Evans made Mike Evans an average route runner.
I’m not one to use accolades or base stats in my own personal evaluations because they have too many flaws and subjectivity, but the committee for the Hall of Fame does. So now that we’ve established how overrated that 10 straight 1,000 yard season accomplishment is, let’s talk about his lack of accolades. Evans has never been on a First-Team All Pro. He’s been on the second team twice, but I don’t think he deserved it this year, and he’s been to five pro bowls. Those are the only accolades he has which are good, but not Hall of Fame worthy.
I rest my case. Mike Evans is a very good football player who will be remembered throughout the Buccaneers organization, but, unfortunately for him, the Hall of Fame isn’t the Hall of Very Good and to me, being in the Hall of Fame means you should have multiple top 3-5 caliber seasons where you have completely dominated the league. Evans just doesn’t have that and his film or talent doesn’t stand out for me to think otherwise. Evans should not be a Hall of Famer.