Usually, players who have eclipsed 1,000 yards every season they have played in the NFL don’t get talked about as a fade. If someone were to provide an argument to fade a player like that, you’d want it to be rock solid. This goes beyond preference for me, and this goes beyond my preferred archetype at wide receiver. Mike Evans is one of the most prestigious boom-bust wideouts; he is also a fade or trade, depending on your format.
I am going to break down each of my concerns and then discuss when I feel he becomes a value and what I would be willing to trade him for.
Mike Evans is currently 27.9 years old, which means he is now entering the stage of his career where athletically, he begins diminishing. Passing his apex in his 2020 season, it is reasonable to assume a slow and steady deterioration. This plays no role in his seasonal value but does offer a time to sell at a point in his career where you can recuperate the maximum amount of value.
Mike Evans is currently accompanied in the wide receiver room by Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Justin Watson, and Scottie Miller. He is also currently tied to the greatest quarterback of all time. His three-year situation is in heavy flux right now for numerous reasons. Evans is signed through 2023, with Brady signed through 2022. Currently, he is the only wide receiver that isn’t a rookie extended through 2023, which usually is a good thing. In this instance, I beg to differ. Mike Evans was an alpha. As he begins progressing in his career, he will need the impact of another complimentary wide receiver to help draw away the focus of coverage. Evans is also going to be tied to Tom Brady, which for now is an advantage but at any moment could be catastrophic. We have not seen any quarterback do what Brady has done, which means that fall off figures to be as spectacular as the ascent. Waiting in the wings is Kyle Trask, a quarterback who fell in the draft but had a promising collegiate profile.
This is where I found the initial inception of why I have been off Mike Evans for a year now; his metrics are not promising. When looking at metrics, I take into account opportunity, production, and efficiency. I am not really taking into account his 2019 season since he only played 13 games, so I will focus on his 2020 season numbers and let you know what they are telling me. All of these numbers are sourced from PlayerProfiler.com.
Mike Evans benefited from a few things that prop up his seasonal numbers. Tampa Bay ranked No.10 in team pass plays per game, No.24 in targets, No.16 in air yards, and No.4 in red-zone targets. You can see why Evans has been so successful and consistent, and it lies right there in those numbers above. Looking at this opportunity from the last three years, there has been a subtle decline in all categories. A decline of 136 to 109 targets, 27.5-percent to 21.6-percent in red zone target share, 40.6 to 40.5 team pass plays per game. The reason his numbers aren’t showing a decline can be attributed to the high volume of Buccaneers passing attack.
Mike Evans has also seen a productivity dip aside from two specific categories; he saw a bump to an 18.7-percent touchdown rate and air yards jumping to No.16 with 1,324 yards, which is what I would say ‘saved’ his fantasy season last year. Had he seen his average number of touchdowns (8), he would have finished wide receiver 20. An aberration of four touchdowns leveraged Evans from a low end wide receiver two to a low wide receiver one. Some look at this as his ceiling, which it absolutely is. Still, looking at his trend over the last three years, the deterioration of his overall production is correlated to his relative opportunity. A decline in completed air yards per target and overall can be stressful. Evans did show a slight increase in yards after the catch to 2.4 but saw a reduction in fantasy points per game down to 15.5. A reduction in production makes sense given Evans reduction in opportunity.
As the opportunity continues to decline or even plateaus at his new ‘normal,’ Evans is going to need to lean on his efficiency to deliver finishes similar to his past. Let’s take a look into how Evans did from a target and reception perspective. First, it feels necessary to establish how his targets were graded out. He has seen an average of 72.8-percent catchable target rate, reaching 74.3-percent last year. Evans did see a decline in his target quality rating, dropping from the average of 6.63 to 5.80 in 2020. Target quality has taken a hit, though, having plateaued the last two years with the catchable rate getting a small bump. Once again, from the previous three years, Evans has seen a decline in yards per target of 11 to 9.1, yards per reception 17.7 to 14.1, and ranked No.48 in yards per route run. Evans did see a boost in fantasy per target of 2.09 to 2.27 and ranked No. 25 in fantasy points per route run with 0.45. That improvement I attribute to his 137-percent increase in touchdowns this year from his average the last three years. Another decline that does not bode well for Evans and his long-term fantasy success.
Looking from a median points per game compared to an average points per game. His last three years, he only saw a median over average once. That coincided with the year he saw a huge touchdown improvement. The other two years, he had the same median and average or a much lower median to average. Which if you aren’t familiar with that method, it means that Mike Evans, from a career standpoint the last three years, has not seen his weekly numbers exceed his average points per game.
Mike Evans has the window tidings of an elite and prestigious fantasy asset. Unfortunately, a look beyond the window reveals a completely different story. I find it fitting that Evans has found fantasy success as a compiler, and as I have compiled the background on Evans, the picture is clear as a glacier lake. A declining asset that is going to need to lean more on touchdown variance as his career continues to progress. Players like Mike Evans are always the most difficult not to get ‘take lock’ with. Having given managers years of consistent and high-end fantasy output, managers are always hesitant to move on from a player like that. Mainly because they fear ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out) of a year or two more of fantasy production, so let’s quickly explore some trades that have centered around Mike Evans in a 12 team point per reception superflex league. Some noticeable ones are:
Mike Evans for Sheanult and two first
Mike Evans and John Brown for Tyler Lockett and Jaylen Waddle
Mike Evans for Tee Higgins
Mike Evans and Damien Harris for 2021 1.05
Mike Evans and 2021 2.05 for Austin Ekeler
It is worth noting that Mike Evans isn’t everyone’s ideal target, so it will take a little more effort than usual to find the ideal trade suitor. In a seasonal league, Mike Evans is currently being drafted at the 4.05 position, according to fantasycalculator.com. Ahead of players like Robert Woods, Amari Cooper, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp. Mike Evans is going to offer seasonal value, but the upside is not something I would be banking on, making him a boom-bust player, which knocks him off my draft board. If you are set on drafting Mike Evans, I would suggest waiting until around 5.10, where wide receivers like Tyler Lockett, Ja’Marr Chase, Kenny Golladay go. Mike Evans can be rostered, but expectations are needing readjustments, and based on the information above, the adjustments aren’t going to be favorable long-term for Evans.