Johnny Manziel got away with quite a bit on the field during his two years at Texas A&M. He was able to scramble around and throw more 50-50 passes than most quarterbacks can afford. But it worked out, because of Mike Evans.
The 6'5 wide receiver is dominant at the catch point and has the physical tools to be a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. Manziel was one of the top quarterbacks in college football over the last two seasons, but Evans was a big part of the Aggies' offensive success this season.
Sammy Watkins is the clear top receiver in this class, but Evans will also hear his name called early in the first round. Big, physical receivers are starting to become even more valuable in the NFL. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall have shown that time and time again.
Body control: For a player his size, Evans displays excellent body control along the sideline. He's very aware of where he is on the field. More importantly, he does a fine job coming back to the football and getting proper body position on cornerbacks and presents a big target for his quarterback. Evans doesn't have any issues tracking the ball and adjusting his body to make catches over either shoulder.
Hands: Focus was hardly ever an issue for Evans, but he did drop a few passes in 2013. His hands are reliable and he has a knack for making spectacular plays. Like Alshon Jeffery, Evans has huge hands and uses proper technique to pluck passes out of the air. More importantly, Evans is an aggressive catcher of the football, meaning he is constantly winning the battle-contested passes. He's a very strong player and that translates into catching the ball. Winning at the catch point is something that is tough to teach and it's a vital element of a player's success in the NFL.
Release: While Evans often gets knocked for not being sudden or explosive, he consistently got a nice release off the line of scrimmage during his redshirt sophomore season. He uses his strength to keep defenders out of his body early in his routes and gets up to top speed quick enough to get open in all areas of the field. Evans isn't on the level of Sammy Watkins or even Marqise Lee when it comes to pure get off, but when combined with his other traits, Evans' explosiveness is enough to give him a strong release off the line of scrimmage.
Route running: Evans' best asset is his size and he uses it to his advantage when running routes. He consistently gets proper body position and keeps defenders away from the football with his physicality. Often it seemed Evans was toeing the line with his physicality, and he may end up getting flagged a bit early in his career as a result. But that physicality is part of what makes Evans as great a prospect as he is. When at his best, Evans is subtly using his body to get separation and win the battle for the football in the air.
One of Evans' best traits is his willingness to never give up on a route. He is always coming back to the football and finding a way to get open after the play seems over. That's why he and Manziel worked so well together. Evans always finds a way to get open when the play is breaking down and he's very aware of what's happening on the field. Those are good traits to have as a wide receiver.
Speed: Speed is probably the most underrated aspect of Evans' game. He's not a track star by any means, but he may surprise some people with his time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. While it takes him some time to get to top speed, Evans has enough straight line speed to make big plays. Additionally, Evans is difficult to bring down after the catch and has solid vision with the ball in his hands.
Blocking: Evans has the size and ability to block, he just doesn't always bring 100-percent effort to the table in this area. If he starts to give a bit more effort and develops a mean streak, there's no reason why Evans can't dominate as a blocker.
Pro comparison: Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears: Like Jeffery, Jackson does his best work at the catch point and wins on physicality. Evans and Jeffery have both been knocked for their speed, but both have enough to get separation and make plays in the red zone.
Final word: Evans grades out as one of the ten best players in the draft on our latest big board. He's the type of receiver who instantly makes his quarterback better. The skills he used to make plays in college all translate to the NFL. He already learned how to win when he wasn't the fastest player on the field. That's only going to help him as he transitions to the NFL and learns how to use his physical tools to out-muscle defensive backs for passes.