Don’t Drop the Ball on Mike Evans

From 5 Questions About Buccaneer’s Offense:

Evans is still learning a lot of the nuances of the wide receiver position, and it showed a year ago when he led the league with 11 dropped passes.

The stat was the only real blemish on an otherwise strong second season for Johnny Manziel’s college go-to, but it’s an ugly zit…

Evans knows he has to concentrate more when the ball’s coming his way, and he looked a little more sure-handed during offseason workouts, but we won’t know for sure if he’s cured himself of this malady until the pads go on, the lights come on, and the games start to matter.

What would you say if I told you those drops don’t really matter?

Earlier this offseason I took an in-depth look at drops, and found a few interesting takeaways. Key among them is that drops don’t have any relationship to usage in the following season. It’s also true that drops aren’t very sticky from year to year.

So what if he has exactly the same stat line in 2016, except he converts just 6 of those 11 drops? At a rate of 2.9 PPR points per catch, that’s an extra 17 points – just over one per game – for the season. Doesn’t seem like much but it would have moved him up about five spots, from WR22 to WR17, last year.

In dynasty leagues, he commands a robust 60 points of trade value. But compare that to Amari Cooper, at 66 points. We’re projecting them for almost identical scoring, and they’re both young, with young QBs. You could move from one to the other and maybe pick up something else. A different way of looking at it is that Evans was worth 70 points of value last year at this time, so his price has come down about 14 percent. This could be a low-water mark for his value, so if you’re interested, now might be the time to move.

Switching to redraft, our current staff composite ranks have Evans as the WR14; in my personal rankings I have him as WR12. Currently drafted as the WR10, he’s close to fairly valued. However, his ADP has been on a slight downward trend, perhaps for the reasons outlined by Mike Braude.

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Considering that you can often get him a handful of picks later than his current ADP, he’s someone I’ll be watching closely in redrafts. In fact, let’s do a per-game comparison of Evans and a few of the WRs currently drafted ahead of him.

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You’ll notice I put Dez Bryant in there twice. You don’t need me to tell you Bryant’s 2015 was abysmal. But assuming 2016 will be better requires believing both he and Tony Romo will return to form.1 Even if Bryant returns to his 2014 form, the only thing that separates him from Evans is a higher TD rate. I’m not too worried about that, as that metric can be quite variable as well. Look no further than Bryant himself – his 1 TD per game pace in 2014 cratered to 0.3 last year. Kinda like how Evans went from 0.8 to 0.2. We’re drafting Bryant like we expect his TD rate to improve; maybe we should expect Evans’ to as well.

Likewise, Evans’ 2015 was similar to Allen Robinson’s except for the TD rate – and lots of people are expecting Jacksonville’s offense to experience some TD regression this year. How about A.J. Green? Another similar season last year, but this year we expect a big increase in targets. Seems fair. But couldn’t Evans also experience an uptick in targets? There’s no guarantee Vincent Jackson returns to form, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins is trending the wrong way. After that is a handful of maybes: Louis Murphy, Cameron Brate, and Kenny Bell. None of them stick out as obvious candidates to command targets.

My point here isn’t that I think Evans will be better than any of these guys. I just think he deserves to be in the same tier, and I’d happily “settle” for him if they were gone when I was on the clock. Evans’ “drops problem” doesn’t deter me at all.

  1. And that Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t cut into his TDs too much.  (back)

Charles Kleinheksel

Editor and contributor since 2013. Director of Special Projects August 2017. Occasionally found at numberFire, Rotoballer, and FantasyPros.

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RotoViz provides advice on players to target and fade on your fantasy football waiver wire.

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